An advanced front or four-wheel drive chassis; elegant, well-proportioned looks, superb build-quality and, so far, good reliability. The diesels are remarkably economical, the petrol 1.6s a bit on the slow side and the 1.8 turbos understated motorway flyers. These cars are an intelligent buy as well as a desirable one.
Equipment levels are relatively high (for a German vehicle at least) and you'll find that most cars have the superior SE spec. An A4 can be optioned even further though, so don't be surprised to find air-conditioning, leather trim, remote central locking and rear electric windows in many cars. Don't expect Volvo-sized lugging ability, but having said that, the Avants are a step above cars like the Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon when it comes to hauling the goods and their loading bay is a decent shape.
You'll do well to find anything notable here. Check the service books, especially with Quattros and/or diesels as repairs will be frighteningly expensive if there's major transmission or turbocharger trouble. Corrosion is simply not an issue with Audis and another reason why resale values are high. Tyre wear can be a problem on S4 and RS4 versions. Uneven wear on the tyres may mean that the suspension is out of alignment. This can be caused by enthusiastic track day kerb-hopping.
(approx based on an M-reg A4 1.8 Avant with air con) A clutch assembly kit will be around £185 and a exhaust system (without catalyst) could be about £225. An alternator should be close to £100 and a radiator around £130.
Front brake pads are around £70, rear brake pads will be £45, a replacement headlamp lens is close to £30 and a starter motor close to £145.
The chassis set up is biased towards security and control, and the ride is a good deal firmer than those who habitually buy estate cars may expect. Wet or dry, the chassis grips supremely well, inspiring confidence with its steering sensitivity and elastic ability to change direction even after you've committed yourself to another course. The quattro four wheel drive versions give an added level of traction which comes in handy if you're well loaded up. The diesel cars are well worth a look, with the 2.5TDi Avants being especially impressive.
It helps, too, that the driving position is also almost faultless, thanks to a low-set dashboard and a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel, banishing the feeling you got in previous Audis that you were sitting at the bottom of a pit.
Of course, if you're serious about driving, you'll want to check out the S4 and RS4 models. With 265 or 380bhp respectively and four-wheel drive with which to deploy it, these are consummate all-weather autobahn stormers. Capable of putting the wind up a Porsche 911, these truly are cars for all seasons.
The Audi A4 Avant has always made a sensible used buy. With a very mild depreciation curve, it's not a car you're going to lose your shirt on. With renowned engineering, a prestigious badge and a level of utility that's always in demand, the Avant is a very practical ownership proposition. The pick of the range are probably the 1.8T, 2.8 and 2.5TDi models but it genuinely is difficult to put a foot wrong.