Audi has added a station wagon (Avant in Audi terms) to its A4 range. It joins the sedan that was launched in Australia in February this year. The latest Avant is slightly larger than the model it supersedes, sits on a longer wheelbase and wider. Most of the extra size has gone into significantly increasing legroom in the rear, there's also more elbowroom and headroom.

Yet, clever engineering means the new model weighs 70 kg less than the old. 

Styling follows the latest Audi theme of sharp lines and interesting geometric angles and the Avant's new rear has been neatly integrated into the front shape and profile. 

The Avant's luggage area has a volume of 505 litres with the rear seat backs in place, and 1510 litres with the 40/20/40 split-fold backrests down. Note that they don't fold flat.

As is common in wagons these days the stylish slope of the tail robs it of some carrying ability as large boxy items won't fit. For that sort of work you need one of the Audi ‘Q' SUVs. However, the overall cargo volume in the A4 Avant is almost as large as that in the Q5.

Two drivetrains are offered, both based around a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and a seven-speed Audi S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission. A front-wheel-drive model develops 140 kW of power and 320 Nm of torque from 1450 to 4200 rpm. The Avant quattro puts out 185 kW and 370 Nm between 1600 and 4500.

The 2WD model has a recommended list price of $63,900, the quattro $72,900. These are just $3000 over the cost of the equivalent sedans. On-road costs, both dealer and government, have to be added.

Audi's MMI infotainment system is very advanced. It is controlled through an 8.3-inch screen and has a DVD player than can also operate through optional rear-seat tablets, 10Gb of music storage, live traffic reports, and has five included map updates. 

Crash testing by ANCAP has seen the new A4 Avant awarded a five-star safety rating.

In two hours of night driving, some of it in heavy rain, we felt significantly more relaxed than normal thanks to the excellent visibility.

Unusually for a car launch a significant amount of our road testing was done after dark, in country areas behind the Gold Coast and in northern NSW. The idea was to let us test the new high-tech headlight system. This darkens the lights only in the area where it would dazzle other drivers, either in front or ahead. The rest of the lights remain on high beam giving a much broader view. 

It worked exceptionally well in country areas, particularly in winding, hilly zones, providing almost the feeling of having daylight in front of the Avant. In two hours of night driving, some of it in heavy rain, we felt significantly more relaxed than normal thanks to the excellent visibility. Just as importantly, no oncoming driver flashed their lights to indicate they thought we were on high beam.

However, in the main street of Kyogle we were pulled over by the police and told we were driving high beam. After our explanation they were happy to let us continue without even a warning. We carried on, but went back to the old-fashioned way of manually dipping the lights to oncoming cars – which gave us less visibility than using the high-tech system.

Our feeling is that these new generation Audi lights are whiter and brighter than conventional ones and may give the impression they are on high beam. We will carry out further testing when we borrow an A4 for a week in our home territory and report back to you.

General driving impressions are positive, with both engines seemingly having endless amounts of torque. Handling is neutral until the cars are pushed really hard, when the front-driver exhibits some safe understeer. The quattro with its added grip and lower profile tyres can produce the sort of driving that really demands a track rather than public roads to push it to the max.

Smoothness and quietness are very good, all the more so when you consider the added difficulty of designing a station wagon body.