Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Broad range of petrol and diesels available
  • There’s no bad version in the range
  • Best models are in the middle of the line-up

A wide range of engines is available in the facelifted A4 Avant, with a familiar selection of petrol and diesel options to choose from, all barring the range-topping RS 4 with the availability of an S Tronic automatic transmission (a manual is standard on the lowest output models).

The petrol line-up consists of:

  • 35 TFSI – 1.5-litre turbo with 150hp and 270Nm of torque
  • 40 TFSI – 2.0-litre turbo with 190hp and 320Nm of torque
  • 45 TFSI – 2.0-litre turbo with 245hp and 370Nm of torque

The 45 TFSI – unsurprisingly – is the one to pick if you want performance from your petrol A4 Avant (at least on paper), but we found in everyday driving, the 40 TFSI provides more than enough grunt, and remains a very smooth and refined engine when paired with the automatic transmission.

The 35 TFSI is expected to be a popular choice, but we’ve found it can be a bit hit-and-miss in various VW Group models – in some cars it’s rough and unrefined, while others, it’s relaxed and economical. We’ll reserve full judgement until we’ve tried it specifically in the Avant.

2019 Audi S4 Avant rear

More A4 drivers are expected to opt for a diesel, of which there are several:

  • 30 TDI – 2.0-litre with 136hp and 320Nm of torque
  • 35 TDI – 2.0-litre with 163hp and 380Nm of torque
  • 40 TDI – 2.0-litre with 190hp and 400Nm of torque
  • 45 TDI (not yet available in the UK) – 3.0-litre with 231hp and 500Nm of torque
  • S4 TDI – 3.0-litre V6 with 347hp and 700Nm of torque

The engine in the 30 and 35 TDI models is a new unit, and replaces the older 150hp 2.0-litre TDI. We’ve tried the 35 TDI and it’s an excellent fit in the A4. It’s smooth and responsive enough for getting up to speed, and it’s very quiet in the process – rarely becoming too vocal. The torque on offer means it’s effortless at overtaking manoeuvres, and the front-wheel drive version we tried barely felt any slower than the more powerful 40 TDI fitted with Quattro.

Mighty petrol engine for the RS 4 Avant

Nestled behind the broader, mesh-filled grille of the performance range-topper, the RS 4 Avant, is a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine shared with the closely related RS 5 models. If you're concerned that the previous-generation RS 4 packed a V8 engine, then let us allay your concerns: this is an exceedingly rapid car.

Fitted with two turbochargers, its vital statistics are 450hp and 600Nm of torque available from 1,900rpm to 5,000rpm. That broad range of peak pulling power means that at virtually any speed the RS 4 responds with an immediate burst of acceleration whenever you prod the accelerator pedal.

Red 2020 Audi RS 4 Avant front three-quarter driving

It also means that it posts a 0-62mph acceleration time of 4.1 seconds, before reaching an electronically governed top speed of 155mph. However, opt for the RS 4 Vorpsrung and that leaps to 174mph.

Rather than the seven-speed twin-clutch S Tronic gearbox, the RS 4 has an eight-speed Tiptronic conventional automatic, better able to cope with the huge performance demands.

Engines no longer available

The cheapest diesel entry model was also the most efficient offering in the A4 Avant line-up, but that doesn’t mean performance was compromised. With 150hp and 320Nm of torque from a lowly 1,500rpm, the 2.0 TDI Ultra reached 130mph and completed the 0-62mph sprint in 9.2 seconds. Those figures relate to the standard six-speed manual but opt for the seven-speed S Tronic automatic for a 9.0-second 0-62mph time.

Audi claimed the 3.0 TDI with 218hp was the most efficient six-cylinder engine available and it was installed in the A4 Avant in both front-wheel drive and Quattro four-wheel drive formats. There’s 400Nm of torque from an ultra-low 1,250rpm.

Top speed was electronically limited to 155mph but the extra traction of the Quattro gave it a 6.4-second 0-62mph time compared with 6.7 seconds for the front-drive version.

Topping the diesel range was a 272hp edition of the V6 TDI, complete with a Tiptronic eight-speed automatic and Quattro drivetrain. With an enormous 600Nm of torque available from 1,500rpm the 0-62mph time was slashed to 5.4 seconds – top speed remained governed at 155mph.

At the lower-end of the petrol range was a 1.4 TFSI petrol with 150hp. From 1,500rpm there was 250Nm of torque available, enough to allow it to sprint from 0-62mph in nine seconds and onto a top speed of 130mph.

It wasn’t the quickest A4 in the estate range (that was the RS 4), but for a while the S4 Avant topped the bill courtesy of 354hp and 500Nm of torque from 1,370rpm, powered by a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine.

Top speed was again electronically restricted to 155mph but at 4.9 seconds for the 0-62mph blast, this was the quickest-accelerating S4 Avant yet.

How does it handle?

·         Four diesels and four petrols; all turbocharged

  • Improved steering feel over previous model
  • Drive Select allows different parameters to be chosen
  • Adaptive suspension a welcome option

A couple of the criticisms levelled at previous generations of the Audi A4 Avant related to its lacklustre handling and inert steering – pleasingly this is no longer the case.

While the steering may lack the ultimate finesse of the BMW 3 Series Touring it represents a huge improvement over the previous A4 Avant. You can adjust the weighting of the wheel via the Drive Select feature but we found Comfort to be the ideal setting across a variety of road conditions.

Not only that, it’s more communicative too, allowing the driver to feel more confident pushing the Audi through corners.

When you do tackle a bend at significant speed you’ll appreciate how little the A4 Avant rolls through corners, making it enjoyable to drive at pace, particularly with the added grip of Quattro versions, but it’s not as enthralling as its BMW rival.

Adjustable driving modes

2019 Audi A4 Avant S Tronic

As with its Saloon counterpart, the latest Audi A4 Avant comes with Drive Select as standard allowing you to vary parameters such as steering weight, accelerator responsiveness and automatic gearchange patterns between Comfort, Auto, Efficiency, Dynamic and Individual (a customisable setting).

All the A4 Avants we’ve tested so far have been fitted with adaptive suspension, the stiffness of which is also altered via Drive Select.

Particularly in Comfort mode they deliver a suppleness not normally associated with firmly-sprung Audis, yet it remains controlled, not feeling like it wants to pitch or wallow as you change direction at speed.

There’s an obvious increase in the firmness when you switch to Dynamic but it’s not so harsh that your passengers will complain, unless you're in the flagship RS 4 - with this car, we would recommend it as vital to spec the adaptive suspension option.

S4 Avant delivers extra sportiness

Uprating the performance of the Audi S4 Avant wasn’t enough – the firm’s made strides to ensure it’s more satisfying to drive, with a reasonably successful outcome.

Not only does it feature Quattro four-wheel drive, the suspension sits 23mm lower than it does on lesser A4 Avants. That minimises bodyroll when cornering, an aspect further enhanced by the Audi’s torque vectoring system which subtly brakes the ‘inside’ wheels through bends encouraging the car to maintain a tighter line in corners.

In an attempt to sate enthusiastic drivers further, 60 percent of the S4 Avant’s power is sent to the rear wheels, rather than split equally with the front pair. There’s a little more willingness from the Audi to let its tail slide, particularly with the traction control switched off, but specifying the optional sports differential enhances the handling further.

Even sportier RS 4 Avant

There's no denying that the RS 4 is a supremely effective way to cover a significant amount of ground very quickly - and comfortably when you pay extra for the adaptive suspension. It feels very secure at high speed, in large part thanks to its standard Quattro four-wheel drive.

Under ordinary driving it meters-out 60% of the engine's power and torque to the rear wheels, 40% to the front, with the aim of making it feel a little more lively to drive than a conventional four-wheel drive car. However, the power split can vary depending upon traction, sending up to 70% power to the front wheels and 85% to the back.

Additionally, it's also fitted with a mechanical device Audi calls a Sport differential, with various electronic changes the driver can make to adjust how much power is sent to the back wheels. In basic terms this means that you can get the rear tyres squealing as you powerslide out of bends.

It certainly makes the RS 4 Avant more engaging than its predecessors, but ultimately it's not quite as much fun to drive as a Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate. Arguably, that's not the type of customer Audi's hoping to attract - and this remains an accomplished high-performance estate that's very easy to live with.

Red 2020 Audi RS 4 Avant rear three-quarter driving