David Motton

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

It's a stylish, prestige option, but what tow car ability does the Audi A4 Avant have? We hitch up this 268bhp, four-wheel-drive contender to find out

Overview

The new Audi A4 Avant is more economical, more refined and more practical than its predecessor. It’s quick, too, if you choose the range-topping 3.0 TDI that we tested.

As well as being powerful, this model has Audi’s Quattro four-wheel-drive system to make the most of that performance whatever the weather.

But what tow car ability does this Audi have? It’s fast, but there’s more to towing than loads of power. Is the A4 stable and practical enough to justify its price?

Towing

There are more sensible, more affordable versions of the Audi A4 Avant than this one, but the 3.0-litre diesel is a great engine for heavy-duty towing. It’s the same V6 used in the big Q7 SUV, so it has no trouble pulling any caravan sensibly matched to the A4.

The power output of 272PS (268bhp) is very high, but it’s the maximum torque figure of 443lb ft of torque that really counts. It is this that means that this Audi can tow a caravan up to speed with ridiculous ease.

We matched the A4 Avant to a Swift Expression 626 with a Mass in Running Order (MiRO) of 1413kg. The Audi A4 pulled this big twin-axle tourer from 30-60mph in just 6.7 seconds. Some cars would struggle to keep up without a caravan in tow!

The Audi stops just as well as it goes, with a 30-0mph stopping distance of just 9.9 metres. That’s one of the shortest emergency stops that we’ve recorded.

In the lane-change test, the A4 gripped well and stayed on course, even with the caravan starting to move around behind it.

However, when we performed the same test at a different track for the 2016 Tow Car Awards, the Audi A4 Avant couldn’t complete the manoeuvre on the third and fastest attempt, perhaps because of the different track surface.

At motorway speeds, the Audi feels secure. In strong crosswinds some slight steering corrections may be needed, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Aside from its difficulty with the lane-change test at the Tow Car Awards, the Avant has proven to be a very capable tow car.

Everyday driving

Our test car was fitted with Adaptive Sport Suspension with damping control, a £600 option. This works with the Audi Drive Select system to give drivers a choice of different suspension modes, as well as altering the throttle response, steering weight and gearbox settings.

‘Auto’ feels about right most of the time, with a compliant ride despite the car’s 19-inch alloys and low-profile tyres. The steering is rather light, but it weights up if the driver switches to ‘Dynamic’ mode.

Even with the suspension stiffened for sportier responses, the Audi A4 Avant still rides acceptably.

As you’d expect given how fast the car is when towing, it’s very quick indeed in solo driving. But driven with a restrained right foot this is a smooth, refined and comfortable car.

There’s some road noise at speed, particularly over coarse road surfaces, but otherwise the Audi A4 Avant’s cabin remains quiet.

Space

The Audi A4 Avant is more accommodating than some compact executive estates but, even so, most adults will be more comfortable in the front seat than in the back.

The driver and front-seat passenger have lots of legroom, although the panoramic sunroof (a £1250 option) does steal some headroom. It’s only an issue for very tall people who like to have the seat set high, though.

Rear legroom is reasonable by compact executive standards, but it’s some way off the space offered by mainstream family cars such as the Volkswagen Passat. There’s a very big transmission tunnel, too, which gets in the way if there are three rear-seat passengers.

The boot has a 505-litre capacity, giving the Audi a slight advantage over the BMW 3 Series Touring (495 litres) and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate (490 litres).

Running costs

You can buy bigger estate cars than the A4 Avant for a lot less, although few will be as stylish or well made as the Audi.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that What Car?’s Target Price team found discounts of more than £4000 available if you’re prepared to haggle.

Despite the 3.0-litre V6 engine’s power and performance, it’s also reasonably economical. The official combined figure is 53.3mpg, while we saw 43mpg on a solo motorway drive and 25.1mpg while towing.

The S line is well equipped and resale values are quite strong, with the A4 expected to retain 43% of its value after three years.

Technical specs

Engine size2967 cc
Kerbweight1770 kg
85% KW1505 kg
Towball limit80 kg
Maximum towing limit1900 kg
Power268.0 bhp
Torque443.0 lb ft
Official MPG53.3 mpg
CO2139 g/km
30-60mph6.7 seconds
30-0mph9.9 m

Verdict

With a budget of £40,000 or so you can buy more roomy and more practical cars than the Audi A4 Avant. But if you can live with modest space, then this is a quick and powerful tow car.

Conclusion

Pros

  • The 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 is powerful and torquey
  • It impressed in our braking test
  • It is stylish and well made

Cons

  • You can buy more practical new tow cars for less
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