Audi is the obsessive compulsive car lover s last redoubt. The days when OCD enthusiasts could wile away the hours playing with a Mercedes, BMW or Volkswagen glovebox — watching the lid open like a time-lapse flower and thunk shut with the finality of a prison door — are long gone. (Lexus also satisfied these strange urges— before they started rebadging Toyotas.) Today, Ingolstadt makes the only vehicles hewn from a single clich (something to do with German build quality and lumps of metal). For that reason alone, the Audi A4 Avant is worth the price of admission.
Literally. Interior quality is the single best, if not the only reason to fork-out 40G s on a station wagon with rear seats so cramped they make passengers envy a dead fish in a sardine can; a car with such cliff face depreciation you lose money just looking at it. Hey, if aesthetic quintessence, soft touch nirvana and orgasmic olfaction floats your boat, I m not going to judge you for buying this vehicle on that basis. I promise I won t say anything that ll get in the way of your cabin fever. Oh wait, I already did. Did I mention questionable reliability? No? OK, then I won t.
The rest of you might be wondering how this A4 Avant thing drives. Well, it may look like all those wonderfully stodgy cars BMW made before that evil Mr. Bangle attacked them with his flame surfacer, but it ain t no BMW. For some reason, Audi has decided that all its products should appeal to elderly people whose muscles have withered with age. How else can you explain the fact that all the Avant's major controls feel lighter than Nicole Richie (born slightly heavier as Nicole Camilla Escovedo)? As drivers who've previously sampled sedans from Audi's four ring circus would expect, the Avant s steering is the worst offender. Scratch a mosquito bite and you ll be driving off-road before you can say ahhh.
With Audi s superb Quattro system underneath and a supernatural ESP handling Nanny proving the necessary tut-tutting, you can just keep on going. Fast. Our test car holstered Audi s direct injection, two-liter, four-cylinder turbo (a picture of which replaces steroidal sprinter Ben Johnson in Wikipedia s entry for peppy ). Below 3500rpm, you d think you were motoring along in a nice, normal, pleasant sort of car. When the 200hp powerplant s turbos kick in, your mind immediately turns to tuning chips, sports suspension, low-profile tires, performance exhausts and speeding tickets. Well, mine does.
Again, the A4 Avant lacks the haptic heft to make proper use of all that urge — other than when you re steaming up a highway onramp, passing slower traffic, heading for Starbucks, late for the school run, hanging the tail out in a snow covered parking lot, racing a Honda Accord for pinks or Cancel that. Let s just say driving an A4 Avant is a less visceral experience than a sporting driver would desire.
So where does that leave us, aside from hankering for a week in an Audi RS4, knowing that this review makes that a virtual impossibility? Let s just say that the Audi A4 is an elegantly designed, superbly constructed, perfectly comfortable, smooth riding, fast moving, dubiously pricey load lugger for small people with small children and small stuff. How tall is that Monk guy anyway? [by Robert Farago]