Fortunately I had other means of getting to work (the joy of testing cars – having your own personal fleet) and I rang Audi Roadside Assistance once I arrived at Fleet Towers. A mechanic was called for and he picked me up from work and took me home 15 miles to the stricken car.
Topped up with fluid, we crawled to Peterborough Audi and the mechanic/taxi driver gave me a lift back to work. A courtesy car was offered while the A4 was off the road, but I didn't need it.
Later in the day the car returned, with a new outlet pipe from the heater matrix replaced under warranty – and it was sparkling clean inside and out. Now that's service. I was impressed...
Until three days later when exactly the same thing happened again. Cue exactly the same set of actions, except this time a split coolant hose was discovered and the car spent the night with the senior technician to check everything was ship-shape. Peterborough Audi didn't valet the inside this time though. Even I can't get a car that dirty in three days.
Following its blip, which caused just about as little inconvenience as could be expected in the circumstances thanks to the excellent service, the Avant has enjoyed a spotless period of running, and I'm hoping that the rogue hose will be the only gremlin to appear. I covered 1,700 miles over the Christmas and new year period and most of the time the car, with the rear seats folded down, was laden to the rafters with presents, clothes and all the other festive driftwood needed for two weeks on the move visiting family and friends.
As a result I'm not being too critical of the car's fuel economy. It's only doing 31.2mpg when its official combined figure is 37.7mpg. After running in, it hasn't had a decent period of just having the driver in it to get anywhere near the combined figure and the extra weight of the Christmas luggage will have had a big effect on the efficiency. I buy very heavy presents.
It is not exactly a high volume car when it comes to luggage though, so be warned. The boot opening is surprisingly narrow and accommodates less than you would think, but the trade-off is that the Avant looks very pretty for an estate.
I've also got used to the stiff suspension and I hadn't realised how reassuringly solid this car feels until I took a short trip in our Mazda6 estate recently, which felt softly sprung and rattly in comparison when it travelled over ridges. The Audi takes such bumps with a hefty all-in-one thump. We're back in love again.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (40% tax-payer): £151 per month