BMW 3 Series 2015 review
Peter Barnwell road tests and reviews the BMW 3 Series with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australia launch.
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I'm driving a boot. It's well dressed, deftly named, bigger than before ... but Audi's A4 Avant is really just a boot.
The good thing about this boot is it's attached to the back end of the classy new A4, which is a car loaded with gear that normally would have been seen first on the flagship A8, especially hi-tech functions, apps and safety kit.
Time and consumers won't wait now for a trickle-down supply of good things, so the A4 is loaded.
The basics are smoother and more refined, while the wagon package adds load space, a 40-20-40 split-folding rear seat and extra convenience items.
These include three lights for the load area, powered luggage cover, a "dog stopper" net to keep cargo out of the passenger compartment and a hi-tech kick-to-open — and, in this Audi, close — powered tailgate.
The Avant adds $3000 to the price of the equivalent A4 sedan. There are just two versions of the load carrier, with 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines in different states of tune — the sedan has four choices, including diesel power. Starting price is $63,900 for the front-driver , while the quattro with more go begins at $72,900.
Audi knows SUVs are the wagon stars in Australia but still sees genuine growth potential in the Avant.
Having two engine options makes it easier for buyers to choose a wagon to suit.
Audi Australia MD Andrew Doyle says: "There is a growing appetite for wagons. I think there is a market for us." He cites the new Avant's greater luggage capacity and superior driving dynamics compared to an SUV as examples of its "liveability".
"It doesn't always have to be SUV. If you want something different, this is great."
Audi anticipates 70-80 sales a month for the Avant, virtually doubling the outgoing variant's sales, which last year tallied just under 500 deliveries.
Doyle also says having two engine options — 140kW in the front-driver, 185kW in all-wheel drive — makes it easier for buyers to choose a wagon to suit.
The Avant will be followed by hotter A4 variants, including the S4 Avant in October.
For now, it's presented as a compact luxury car for young families for whom design and active hobbies are key. The load area can take a bike, skis or a surfboard. Star surfer Mick Fanning, an Audi ambassador, has the Avant as his vehicle.
The cargo space is 80L up on the outgoing Avant, or 15L more with the rear seats up. The only significant downside is those seats don't fold completely flat.
The multi-split rear seat is handy, the cover for the spare wheel can be lifted out and is strong enough to be a picnic table. Luggage rails — a $350 option — help to secure items.
In keeping with changes to the new A4 sedan, the Avant is slightly lower and longer than the outgoing model. Its longer wheelbase endows 23mm of additional legroom and 13mm extra headroom in front.
The quattro has noticeably more overtaking power and is a little more taut.
The Avant also gets the sedan's seven-speed auto gearbox and LED headlamps that adjust to the driving environment.
Ensuring its five-star ANCAP safety rating, the huge safety package includes eight airbags, rear camera and all-round parking radar plus several auto safety braking systems. "It's a car developed for a segment or two above," says Audi product planning chief Peter Strudwicke. "A lot of these technologies are only seen in much bigger and more expensive cars."
You would never know the Avant is a wagon. It drives like the A4 sedan, replicating the cornering ability as well as cabin quietness and comfort.
In a rugged one-day drive near Byron Bay, the Avant handled heavy rain, dusk driving and full-dark testing of the excellent LED lighting. It was calm and composed overall, except for one pothole that caused the front left suspension to crash through badly.
The basic front-drive car is more than good enough for the tasks but the quattro has noticeably more overtaking power and is a little more taut and responsive in corners thanks to its bigger wheels and lowered suspension.
The boot is impressive, fitting in an astonishing amount of cargo. The kick-to-open setup actually works well. I would much prefer a fully flat load space, however.
So the Avant looks, feels and drives like a car, it's not an SUV and that's a good thing. It's a reminder that family motoring does not have to mean legging up into a hulking truck.
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