Let me explain…
My annual summer holiday this year took the form of a trip to southern Ireland to stay with an old mate who had just bought a farm at Ballymurry, near Roscommon, and the A4 was my chosen form of transport to take me there.
But it was not just a question of slinging a rucksack in the back and taking off – oh no. Joining me was a friend from California, who insisted on taking with her everything down to her heated eyelash curlers, and the farm owner himself, who wanted to take along five large boxes of assorted detritus for use at his new homestead.
Now, as we all know, the A4 in estate format is not exactly what you’d call a load lugger, but is more a lifestyle vehicle which might not be expected to carry anything bigger than an odd dog or two.
I was afraid that all this gear might not fit. But in the end with the larger of the two rear seat portions folded down and with a bit of pushing and shoving, everything was finally squashed in and even the back seat passenger had sufficient leg room.
The journey from Peterborough to Holyhead is a bit of a killer and took us the best part of five hours, what with queueing up on the M6 for a while and stopping to pick up a crate or two of wine on the way. In some cars, this might have been excruciating but the hard, supportive seats of the Audi with their extra sporty side panels ensured that we all had a comfortable trip.
After disembarking from the ferry at Dublin, the car made mincemeat of the remaining 100 miles and we arrived at our destination still fresh and with no aching backs in the evening.
Over the next few days, the Audi proved itself time and time again. Its smart alloy wheels and massive low profile 235/45 17-inch tyres might not look the ideal combination to tackle those rough Connemara back roads, but no matter where we went, through bog, mountain and rutted track, the car did not bat an eyelid.
We finally returned home five days later with nothing but praise for this vehicle. In fact none of us could think of any minus points at all – and that’s virtually unknown for a Fleet News test car.
In my last report, I mentioned that if I was choosing an A4 for a company car I would pick one of the excellent diesel variants on offer. This view remains, but I must admit I was dead chuffed to discover that, after a couple of thousand miles clocked up during my holiday, the A4 returned a creditable 37.5 miles per gallon.
This lower consumption figure I believe, was largely due to the fact that it is impossible to drive at more than about 50 miles per hour on most Irish roads. I treated the car to a good wash and brush-up as a reward and this admirable performer has now sadly been passed on to another tester.
Model: Audi A4 Avant 2.0 FSI Sport
Price (OTR): £23,030
CO2 emissions (g/km): 170
Company car tax bill 2004/05: (40% tax-payer) £152 per month
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 37.7
Test mpg: 37.5
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,625/38%
HSBC contract hire rate: £430 per month
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles