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First drive: Audi's lightining load lugger

Best of both worlds: The S4 Avant has plenty of enjoyment on offer for those who like a little Jeckyl and Hyde in the garage.

The S4 Avant from Audi is a practical car with plenty of punch

2 Sep 2004

AUDI’S decision to put a 4.2-litre lightweight V8 in the A4 wagon has created a car for mums that dads will love.

And just in case that stereotype is too restricting, there are a heap of other people wanting to make their mark on the roads who can now get plenty of performance without being excluded by practicality.

Here is a car that provides the best of both worlds.

The news here is a V8 engine and a relatively compact family wagon. And, like the sedan that has already been selling here, the S4 Avant which went on sale last month goes like stink.

The 4.0-litre V8 puts out 253kW at 7000rpm, which is what you get from things like the BMW M3 or a Holden V8. So it is no slouch. The twisting power comes in at 410Nm of torque at 3500rpm, which is up in Mercedes S-class territory, without the weight penalty.

In fact, the power-to-weight ratio of 144kW per tonne is around the same as a BMW Z4 sports car, a 5.0-litre Falcon XR8, Porsche Cayenne or Nissan 350Z.

So there is plenty of enjoyment on offer for those who like a little Jeckyl and Hyde in the garage.

And this car delivers. The factory claim of 5.8 seconds from 0-100km/h is quite believable. That performance is delivered through a somewhat confusing six-speed manual or a six-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox transferred to the road through permanent four-wheel drive.

Just like its sedan stablemate, the Avant is not just a big power transplant into a small car. The all-wheel drive and a host of suspension ingenuity and back-up systems keep the wagon true and correct when driven in haste, and all that was said in our Audi S4 test in GoAuto Online applies to the wagon as well.

But there is a cost to this drivers’ largesse: price and fuel usage.

This is not for a family on a budget. The six-speed manual version costs $133,100 and the six-speed Tiptronic costs $136,100.

But this Avant is one sexy looking car and comes in some stunning colours, so the soccer mums will really have to weigh the price up against what they will look like turning up in the school carpark in one. The envy factor can be powerful.

Fuel consumption is also a factor with pump prices being what they are. The S4 Avant averages 12.4 litres/100km with the Tiptronic and 13.5L/100km with the manual.

That’s between 124 and 135 litres to cover 1000km – more than two tanks to cover the distance. The consumption is about the same as a Holden Adventra or a V8 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The Avant comes beautifully fitted. The cargo area folds completely flat and has a cargo cover for security and a safety barrier. And something strange: If you adjusted the steering wheel and seat height so that the rim did not obscure the speedo from about 80km/h to about 120km/h, a fairly important piece of speedo territory, then the driving position was awful. Curious.

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