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2009 Audi A4 Avant

Debauchery and family wagon couldn't be further removed. That's why it seemed odd that Audi launched its fifth-generation A4 Avant in this, the party capital of the world.

Published April 19, 2008
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Ibiza, Spain–Debauchery and family wagon couldn't be further removed. That's why it seemed odd that Audi launched its fifth-generation A4 Avant in this, the party capital of the world.

In the hottest months of the year, Ibiza pulses with young people from around the world who flock to the Mediterranean isle to soak up the sun, sand and sea, but mostly the all-night clubs where alcohol, drugs and sex flow as freely as the beats from the DJ's turntables.

But in the off-season – that is, everything on either side of June to September – Ibiza is home to humble locals, beautiful weather and empty, unblemished switchbacks that wind through olive and fig tree groves. A solid proving ground for testing Audi's latest offering.

The A4 is the bread-and-butter of the Ingolstadt automaker's fleet. And with the redesigned sedan comes the redone wagon, first unveiled at last month's Geneva Motor Show. In Canada, 20 per cent of A4 sales go to the Avant.

While Ibiza and Avant didn't go together at first glance, neither did wagon and sexy. The wagon and sedan share cues from the A-pillar forward, and though it's easier to design a sedan, and especially a coupe, oozing sex appeal, the task is tougher for a wagon.

In several design cues, the wagon comes across as sexy. Yes, sexy. The headlamps borrow the sleek, curved "wing" LEDs from the R8, and a "tornado line" runs along the side from the front to the rear.

Compared to its predecessor, the Avant grows by 12 cm in length and 6 cm in width. At the same time, the front overhang is shortened and the hood and the wheelbase are extended. The new body also uses lightweight steel, reducing weight by nearly 9 per cent and increasing fuel efficiency by about 10 per cent.

In Europe, buyers will be offered a selection of 10 engines (five gas-powered, five diesel), a range of transmissions and several options.

One model will initially be available when the mid-size A4 Avant hits dealer lots this September: a 2.0T FSI (Fuel Straight Injection) with 207 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That four-cylinder turbo engine is mated to a six-speed Tiptronic transmission with standard paddle shifters on the wheel, and Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system.

Like the current 2008 A4 Avant lineup, it's likely Audi will later bring a second engine to Canada, the 3.2 L V6 with 265 hp and 243 lb.-ft. of torque, though it's keeping mum on future plans.

The sweetheart of the lot, a 3.0 L TDI six-cylinder diesel, with 240 hp and 368 lb.-ft. of torque, would convert any diesel non-believer, but Audi's likely to test the reception of a diesel fitted in the Q7 crossover next year before popping a TDI in a Canadian-spec Avant.

Departing the north shore of Ibiza in the 2.0T with front-wheel-drive and six-speed manual transmission, we follow several routes across the 571 sq. km island.

Though roads are narrow, the Avant stays firmly planted around twists and turns. There's little-to-no-notice of body roll, and though the wagon is not fitted with quattro, it stays-put inside the lane boundaries.

In past models, quattro's power distribution was split 50/50. For the '09 model, that ratio shifts to 40/60, front to rear. This translates into the rear wheels having more power to hold the car through a turn, while the front wheels get more grip to point the car in the right direction.

The Avant's dynamic suspension is also redesigned – aluminum parts have been added to cut weight, the battery moves to the trunk, the differential moves up, the clutch moves back and the front axle moves 154 mm forward. Audi Drive Select, which lets the driver dial into preferred comfort or sport settings, is also available.

Inside, there's more cargo space – ranging from 490 L to 1430 L depending on whether the second 60/40-split bench is lowered. The trunk can accommodate two golf bags horizontally. A low load-in makes it easy to store and retrieve goods, while the door rises high enough for someone 6-foot-2 to stand under it. A reversible mat for wet items covers the cargo floor. A power button to close the lift gate is also available.

Seats are positioned low, and are coddling. All of the test cars featured manual seat adjustments, and the driver's seat travels all the way to the back of the track, ideal for tall pilots. Power adjustment buttons will be standard in Canada. Air-conditioned perforated leather seats are optional.

With the optional navigation screen occupying real estate on the centre stack, some familiar controls move to the centre console. The audio volume dial moves to the console – to the right of the shifter – as do the navigation buttons, making these useful controls hard to find without taking your eyes off the road. One splurge that should definitely top the list: the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system.

When the new A4 Avant arrives this fall, prices will likely be competitive with the '08 models (Audi is not releasing pricing until closer to the launch). The outgoing 2.0T FSI quattro Avant started at $42,350. The 3.2 FSI quattro Avant started at $50,950.

Travel was provided to freelance writer Angela Forgeron by the automaker. aforgeron@thestar.ca