Skoda Octavia 2016 review
Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the updated MY17 Skoda Octavia Ambition 110TSI wagon auto, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its Australian launch.
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Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Audi A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Quattro with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Audi's A4 Avant is one of those "if you don't know, you shouldn't ask" propositions – dearly beloved by a fiercely loyal fan base and something of a mystery to the rest of us. Don't try to talk to them if you're not on board the Audi wagon train, and particularly if you don't know what the word "Avant" means; you just won't understand.
The A4 Avant is upon us and unlike its big brother A6, you've got a choice of specification – two 2.0 litre turbo petrols – before a third, the high-ridin', dirt-chewin' Allroad, joins the line-up later in the year.
The new A4, as has been amply covered, looks fairly similar to the old one. Naysayers will tell you that this is a bad thing, but it doesn't seem to have bothered the buyers of the new sedan, which has enjoyed a solid start.
As with any new Audi, the car is peppered with cool details inside and out. From the ice-pick-shaped daytime running lights to the seamless wagon addition to the A4's operating-theatre-clean lines.
The electric sports front seats are excellent and good looking.
The Avant's interior is obviously identical to the sedan at least as far as the back seats, with almost nothing to pick between them for passenger comfort. The floating dashboard with its 8.3-inch screen is a massive improvement on the old car, as are the materials used. There are some clever uses of lightweight metals, such as magnesium in the frame of both the rear seat and the central screen.
The S-Line additions are fairly subtle, with kickplates, a logo here and there and Alcantara trim, which looks a bit 1980s but is fabulously comfortable. The electric sports front seats are excellent and good looking, and the driver's seat gets memory settings.
Unlike the A4 sedan, there are just two models in the Avant range (for the moment), the quattro and the front-wheel drive, both with 2.0-litre petrol engines. The top-of-the line quattro is $72,900, a jump of $9000 over the two-wheel drive and $3000 more than the corresponding sedan. Weirdly, there's no diesel option available.
The standard options list is just as lengthy as on the top-of-the range sedan, with 19-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors, 10-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, dual USB, DAB+ and CarPlay/Android Auto, cruise control, electric front seats, satnav, LED headlights, auto headlights and wipers, partial leather trim, keyless entry and start, electric tailgate with foot-wavey open option, sports suspension and wireless hotspot.
Our car also had metallic paint (a mildly outrageous $1420), the $1900 Assistance Package Tour with active cruise, high beam assist, efficiency advice and some safety gadgets (see below), parking assistance package with 360-degree cameras and auto parking ($950), S line Sport package with different wheels, styling bits, Alcantara seating ($3200), Technik package with virtual cockpit and head-up display ($2100), adaptive sport suspension ($1100), load area rails and securing kit ($350), 755 watt 19-speaker B&O with accent lighting ($1500), matrix LED headlights ($1700) and rear-seat entertainment system with two 10.1-inch tablets ($3600).
The touchscreen tablets are fitted to the rear of the front seats and run Android. If you've got a data SIM you can use streaming services through them, read the news or tune into DAB stations, maps and car functions. You can detach them and also connect them to your home wifi for updates or downloads.
With that little lot loaded on, you're looking at a hefty $95,324.
This isn't your big family wagon, it belongs firmly at the stylish end of the scale. At 505 litres, the boot is just 25 litres larger than the sedan's but with the rear seats folded down the space increases to 1510 litres. It's got a low-ish loading height of 63cm and a handy metal plate to stop scratching. The load area is a good shape, too, without anything to snag your gear on.
The 185kW engine is a very cheery performer with just a small amount of lag.
There are four cupholders, with a pair up front and a pair of retractable holders in the leading edge of the rear armrest. Each door has a bottle holder and the boot has a net to keep things from sliding around (ours had the optional load-securing kit). Your valuables can be hidden under the retractable electric cargo cover.
The quattro's 2.0 TFSI pumps out 185kW (45kW more than the front-wheel drive) and 370Nm. As the name suggests, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sends power to all four wheels and helps this 1615kg wagon to 100km/h in six seconds dead.
Audi claims a combined fuel average of 6.3L/100km, half a litre up on the front-wheel-drive 140kW version. We averaged 10.1L/100km in an almost even split of suburban commuting and a blast along the motorways up to the Blue Mountains.
The Avant is a cracker of a car to drive, just like its sedan counterpart. The 185kW engine is a very cheery performer with just a small amount of lag before a fairly solid wall of torque slings you down the road. The all-wheel-drive grip is extremely reassuring and leagues ahead of the old car's system, with a bit more bite from the rear wheels reducing the understeer at the front.
Our car was fitted with the sport adaptive damping (as opposed to the comfort one - and no, that's not sarcasm, they're two separate options), which lowers the ride height while adding a bit more bite in dynamic mode. Despite the combination of that lower height and whopping 19-inch alloys, the ride comfort is superb, even if the tyres aren't always as quiet as they could be.
On good surfaces, the only thing you'll hear at 110km/h is a light rustle from around the wing mirrors. Some of Sydney's worst surfaces create a rumble in the cabin, but it's not as intrusive as some cars with tyres as fat as these.
The traditional Audi vices of mild understeer and dead steering are now happily a thing of the past, and becoming more distant with every model change. The A4's tiller has just enough weight to connect you to the road and help you hustle it along with a smile.
Vision from the driver's seat is good, but with the entertainment tablets fitted, your view over your left shoulder is severely compromised as the screen's positioning wipes out most of the rear passenger window. Thankfully the standard blind-spot monitoring makes this less of a problem.
Every A4 comes with eight airbags, traction and stability controls, blind-spot sensors, brake assist, rear cross traffic alert, exit warning, active safety bonnet, driver-attention detection, autonomous emergency braking and brake force distribution. ANCAP awarded the maximum five stars in its local testing.
The warranty is solid rather than spectacular.
Exit warning is a clever feature on all A4s that warns you of an approaching bicyclist or car to stop you from opening the door into their path.
The Assistance Package Tour adds active lane assist to stop you drifting out of your lane, active cruise control with stop and go, distance indicator, front collision mitigation, collision and avoidance, turn assist (stops you turning across oncoming traffic).
Audi doesn't offer anything startling in the way of after-sales love – your A4 comes with a fairly standard three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and some posh dealers dotted around the major cities to make you feel like you're getting something for your money. Roadside assist is also included for the duration of the warranty, so it's solid rather than spectacular.
You can purchase a three year/45,000km service plan which is $1620, but Audi often throws this in during sales pushes.
The new Avant delivers in exactly the same way as the sedan. As long as you're not after a football field-sized load area, you'll get a sleek machine that will take a good-sized family dog in the back and do it all with absolutely zero effort. Best of all, there's no compromise when compared to the sedan.
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