- The Washington Times - Friday, July 5, 2002

Becoming excited about a station wagon is no easy chore. But think about it.
The handful of wagons left out there have managed to survive assaults by first minivans, then sport utility vehicles and now crossovers. All have elbowed their way onto wagon turf. Yet, wagons are still with us. That in and of itself should deserve some admiration.
For the most part, today's wagons are European, high-end vehicles with price tags comparable to SUVs. Other manufacturers like Ford and Subaru continue to produce wagons, but the bulk of the segment is in the hands of the European imports.
Wagons are still very popular in Europe and other parts of the world where narrow avenues and sky-high fuel prices hold in check demand for larger vehicles. Audi's A4 and A6 Avant wagons are typical of the Europeans.
Basically sporty in nature, they are simply reconfigured versions of like-modeled sedans.
Audi's A4 has been redesigned for 2002. It is somewhat larger inside and out. This update finally caught up to the Avant wagon as well as the sedan.
Despite some added inches, the rear seat remains skimpy on legroom, but overall interior volume is increased.
A4s enter this world with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (quattro). All A4 Avants are quattros. They are powered by either the seasoned 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo or the all-new 3-liter V-6. A five-speed manual transmission is standard in the Avant 1.8T, while a six-speed manual moves the power in the Avant 3.0. When an automatic is called for it is a five-speed manumatic regardless of the engine. Unless it's a FWD sedan and then it gets Audi's new continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Got all that? An Avant 3.0 quattro with automatic transmission was provided for this evaluation.
Among the improvements on the new A4s is its suspension. It's what Audi refers to as aluminum intensive (front) and consists of a four-link front suspension and a new trapezoid-link rear suspension. The ride already pretty good in the last A4 Avant is even better this time around.
Seventeen-inch alloy wheels and rubber make contact with the pavement.
Steering is quick and precise. An anti-lock system is standard, as is an electronic stabilization system.
The V-6 packs 220 horsepower and 221 pounds-feet of peak torque. This is more than sufficient to motivate the A4 Avant. Both powerful and quiet, this power plant moves the Avant along briskly. Reaching 60 miles per hour from a standing stop takes about nine seconds. Not bad for an AWD vehicle of this size. Fuel economy is about what you might expect. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates its miles per gallon in the city at 17, while highway driving adds about eight mpg.
Safety is a primary goal in the A4 Avant. In addition to the normal dual front air bags, it has front seat-mounted side-impact air bags. There is also a side-curtain air bag extending from the A-pillar to the C-pillar. A rear-seat, side-impact air-bag system is offered as an option. Automatic pretensioning three-point safety belts and head restraints are located at each of the five seating positions.
In addition to being roomier, the A4 Avant's cabin is comfortable and practical. There's not as much guesswork in operating key systems as in some German imports.
Everything is fairly easy to work. All the gauges and knobs are well within the driver's purview. The rear lift gate opens to generous cargo space and the 60/40 split rear seat folds down for extra carrying capacity.
Base price of the Audi A4 Avant 3.0 quattro AT5 is $34,140. There isn't much in the way of options, but you can add leather seating for $1,320 and an upgraded Bose audio system for another $650. The delivery charge adds $645 to the bottom line.

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