Though you're the one that friends and neighbors come to with car advice, you don't drive what you tell them to buy. They don't understand wagons over SUVs, diesels over hybrids or tiny, but powerful turbo direct-injection gas engines over diesels. If they did, Audi would sell more than 4000 A4 Avants per year.
A gas turbo over a turbodiesel? Yep, it's time to get over that early-21st-century thinking. With diesel having breached $4 per gallon, who wants one of those? To sweeten the deal, Audi's latest four-cylinder gas direct-injection turbo engine is rated a turbodiesel-like 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine is called the 2.0 TFSI, with the T's slide to the right distinguishing it from the 200-hp, 207-lb-ft 2.0T FSI in the A3, TT and the outgoing A4. The new engine's torque even trumps the number for the naturally aspirated 265-hp, 3.2L FSI V-6 by 15 lb-ft. What's more, the new TFSI delivers that 258 lb-ft from 1500 to 4200 rpm, versus a range of 3000 to 5000 rpm for the V-6's 243. It's rated 211 hp, although it must be noted that torque and power for this engine are for the European model and each number could drop a bit before reaching the States.
And Audi expects a 15-percent increase in EPA fuel mileage, which would get the A4 Avant a 25-mpg combined average, up from 22 mpg for the 2008 A4 Avant quattro FSI automatic.
Audi calls the 2.0 TFSI all new, though certainly there are some parts left from the 2.0T FSI. The new engine has Audi's valvelift system added for variable control to the exhaust valves, plus new six-hole injectors and a new intercooler that Audi says combines high efficiency with low weight and small dimensions.
Sound good? It had better. While Audi will sell the A4 Avant with a choice of five gasoline and five TDIs in Europe, you and your fellow Americans can order it only with that 2.0 here. That's not all. You must buy it with quattro all-wheel drive and Audi's Tiptronic "fast-shift" six-speed automatic. Presumably, you still get to pick paint color. No need for import complexity with a wagon model that can't outsell Bentley here. Thus, the U.S. will see the tiny volume S4 and RS4 only as sedans.
Good news is that when the bigger A4 sedan arrives here, also in the fall, it'll be available with the 2.0 TFSI and choice of front drive or quattro and manual or automatic transmissions. It also gets the 3.2L V-6, with the Tiptronic six-speed automatic and quattro only. We won't get any DSG-equipped A4s. Audi hasn't announced U.S. pricing, of course, but you can expect it to be marginally higher than the 2008 Avant's $32,000 base.
Bad news is that while Audi had cars with a wide range of drivetrains available for test-driving at the Avant's press launch on the Spanish island of Ibiza, none was exactly what we'll get in the U.S. That's not unusual for German automaker press trips, though, especially when the car is a niche-market station wagon. The current Avant accounts for less than 10 percent of A4 sales in the United States, compared with about 80 percent in Sweden, Switzerland, and Italy, nearly 70 percent in Germany and about half in France, Great Britain, and Belgium. We like our station wagons to be SUVs.