The Audi A4 Avant is the ideal companion for a thirtysomething middle-class lifestyle. You'd drive it to the rugby on Saturday afternoon, drop Harriet and Josh at their Montessori nursery each morning and let your blonde, graceful wife Julia take it to do the shopping at Waitrose.
I love this car. It appeals to the snob – and fantasist – in me. It has a wonderfully chunky body and is the best-looking estate car on the market by a country mile, while the interior has that solid, impenetrable feel that few other car makers can replicate.
Ours has come with heated leather seats, cruise control, a six CD player and parking sensors among other things, which has pushed the price up to more than £27,000.
The extras have also pushed the CO2 emissions up from 170g/km to 175g/km, which means an extra notch on the benefit-in-kind tax rung.
We supply figures for the base model in our fact file, but add in the extra 1% BIK tax for all the CO2-increasing goodies, it would cost another £7 a month – more than worth it.
It also arrived with exactly 100 miles on the clock and I have spent the last 600 miles or so cruising about very gently in an old-fashioned bid to run the engine in.
Barely even using half the rev counter, I looked forward to the first miles-per-gallon calculation to show how parsimonious its fancy low CO2 emission FSI engine can be. Imagine my disappointment when it recorded 27.3mpg, a full 10mpg below its official combined figure.
I'm going to put it down to a tight engine and (hopefully) watch with glee as it climbs towards a more respectable total. I've also learnt something about the 2.0-litre FSI engine. On its first fill-up I forgot you have to put low sulphur Shell Optimax unleaded fuel in it.
Ticking over outside my local curry house while my girlfriend nipped inside to pick up my chicken pathia and her rogan josh, the engine was vibrating like a diesel – and not a very good one – and a buzz was coming through the pedals and steering wheel. The next day, driving through heavy London traffic, it was running like the proverbial bag of spanners. At the next fill-up, a full tank of Optimax cured the roughness instantly and it is now running beautifully.
That's the last time I'll be forgetting to fill it with the more expensive stuff. Being the Sport version, OU53 KRD has a fairly stiff ride for this kind of car, which means that it's worth trying the more softly sprung SE model as well before signing on the dotted line.
The biggest problem with this car though, is that a dog should be for life and not just for a long-term road test, but 'Jonny' the chocolate labrador really only goes with the Avant.
So whoever gets the car after me could be in for a slobbery shock when they open the boot.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (40% tax-payer): £135 per month