This car had been my loyal friend and companion during its three-month stint in my care and I had grown very fond of it.
As I prepared to relinquish the keys to news editor Mike Roberts, I felt rather like Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings when the time came for him to throw his charge into the fires of Mount Doom.
Roberts, I noticed, had meanwhile taken on a look not dissimilar to Gollum as he danced about in front of me waiting to pounce. He didn’t actually say: ‘At last, my precioussssss,’ but I reckon he wasn’t far off.
In the event, the parting wasn’t as sad as it might have been, for the car I received in the Legacy’s place was the Audi A4 Avant 2.0 FSI Sport. It’s a car that has been on the long term test fleet since last November and has been gaining an enormous amount of respect from the various testers who have driven it.
In fact the main problem I encountered was getting back behind the wheel of a manual car after being cossetted by an automatic gearbox for the past three months. It’s amazing what a fuss the whole operation of depressing the clutch pedal and changing gears can be after some time not doing it. Give me an auto every time.
This issue apart, I am getting on famously with the A4. I love driving any cars in the Audi range. They all have hard, flat seats just the way I like them, they all have hard suspension just the way I like it and they all have power steering weighted just on the heavy side, again just as I like it. An ideal combination. Personally, I wouldn’t choose this particular model if I was going to have an A4 as a company car. I would go for the 1.9 TDI, either with the 115bhp Euro IV-compliant engine or the 130bhp Euro III engine.
The 115 weighs in at £20,990 and has a benefit-in-kind tax loading of 16%, which means a 40% taxpayer would pay £112, some £40 a month less than the car on test.
That’s worth having in anyone’s book.
We chose the FSI model instead of a diesel because the direct injection petrol model has been launched specifically as a low-cost motor.
Thanks to some hi-tech jiggery-pokery by the engineers – vorsprung durch technik (advancement through technology) in action, the engine offers more power and better fuel economy than the old-style petrol unit.
But to really see the savings this engine can offer, we need sulphur-free fuel which is apparently only available in Edinburgh at present.
Without this fuel, there is a noticeable drop-off in torque, while economy won’t be as good as it might be, although the previous tester, editor John Maslen, managed a creditable 36.4mpg.
I haven’t driven the car long enough yet to get a true handle on its fuel usage but I fear I am going to be woefully under my editor’s tally. They don’t call me Old Lead-Foot for nothing.
I’d have to agree with the editor, too, that the car feels underpowered at times, despite its 150bhp output.
Mind you, after the blistering performance from the 3.0-litre Subaru engine I had been used to, most cars would seem lacking in oomph.
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 36.4
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