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Audi A4 Avant vs. Audi A3 vs. Subaru Outback

hope this is in the right place... couldn't find a spot for A4 Quattro Avant (just A6).

Looking at something big enough for two car seats in the back, but tired of looking like every other soccer mom in a giant SUV. Went the minivan route already... liked all the function but not the form.

I sat in an A3 today. I absolutely LOVE it!! but my husband can't justify the price for it in Quattro ($37K). He says for that money we should be looking at the A4 Avant Quattro. We also looked at the Subaru Outback which seems to be an amazing value especially as compared to the Audi's. I clearly prefer the Audi but at $10K more than the equivalent Subaru it is hard to process.

Could anyone offer some guidance?

Also looked at the BMW 3 series wagon, but it is so low to the ground it was difficult to get in and out of... also wasn't fond of the conveniently placed ashtray as compared to the cupholder in a spot that basically wouldn't allow its use (the cupholder is sort of an issue for me, particularly after driving Japanese cars for so long).



  • byronwalterbyronwalter Posts: 220
    I've driven a couple A3s and a bunch of A4s. I felt that the A4 had much sharper handling, which is high on my list.

    I'm assuming that you are looking for a car equipped with an auto trans. In this area the A3 has a technically superior transmission (formerly call 'DSG' but name changed to 'S-Tronic'). How well this transmission will stand up over time is yet to be determined.

    If you are looking at the two liter engine, then it's a draw other than by virtue of being slightly lighter, the A3 will be a little quicker.

    Both cars are capable of extremely wide variations on gas mileage. City driving during winter can result in less than 20 mpg. But on a recent trip (to the Mid-Ohio Driving School :) ), I managed to get better than 37 mpg @ 68 mph. Must have been a hell of a tail wind.

    In Quattro versions, the A4 has a Torsen center differential, which has proven to be very reliable and trouble free. The Haldex system on the A3 Quattro is, in my opinion, a step down.

    The current generation A4 seems to be exceptionally well made. Whether this will translate into a better long-term repair record remains to be seen. My current '06 A4 is approaching its first birthday and I have yet to have a single issue with the car... not a squeak or rattle. And did I mention the car handles great?

    So my nod goes to the A4

    But I can't help on the Outback. The only Subaru that I've driven is the WRX STI, which probably isn't the best kiddie hauler.

    However, if you tend to drive your cars until the wheels fall off, the Subie would seem to be the safer choice. It's not that Subie wheels never fall off, but when they do, they probably cost less than Audi wheels to re-attach.
  • jfljfl Posts: 1,346
    Years ago when I was looking for an AWD car, I liked the looks of the Audi A4 but didn't care for the lack of rear seat knee room. I ended up with a Subaru Legacy.

    The current Subarus have fared very well in crash tests. (I didn't look at Audi's results, they may be equally good.) If you tire of the car, I think you'll find Subaru has better resale value.

    Good luck with your decision.


    The Subaru WRX also comes in a hatchback version. That would get you and the kids around quickly!
  • rapowitzrapowitz Posts: 12
    My nod goes to the A4. I own two A4's (2001 1.8T Frontrak and 2006 2.0T Avant). They are outstanding cars. Previously I did own a 1999 Subaru Outback, which was a fine car. Didn't drive it long enough to advise on the long term reliability. While Subaru's have an excellent reoutation, I had a friend with a late model Legacy Outback and the clutch failed early on and he had some other problems. My last issue of Car & Driver reviewed the zLegacy 2.5 Turbo after 40K miles and it had a ton of problems. I'm not so convinced the new ones are made to last like their reputation has it. Last, about the Subaru's, there is NO comparison on interior quality and how they feel and handle as compared to an Audi. It's not even comparable. Audi's are sports cars, and with the possible exception of the WRX's, no Subaru comes close.

    I've not driven the A3, but I think they are too small for 2 kid seats and in my opinion, they are too closely priced to the A4's when optioned up. For mid $30's, go the A4 route. I'd go with the VW GTI for low $20's before I went for the A3. They are very close to being the same car underneath the surface (which I happen to like better on the GTI anyways).
  • byronwalterbyronwalter Posts: 220
    "The current Subarus have fared very well in crash tests. (I didn't look at Audi's results, they may be equally good.) If you tire of the car, I think you'll find Subaru has better resale value."

    Audis also have very good crash test ratings. The A3, A4, and A6 are all silver rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Legacy and Impreza grab the gold.

    As for resale value, I do know that my previous Audis have done better than I expected. But maybe my expectations were low :P.

    Oh, another factor to consider is dealer support. A crummy dealership is a deal breaker for me. Mine's been extremely easy to work with. My present car was a factor (uh.. make that 'factory') order, verbal agreement, and no money down. Didn't hand over a cent until I picked up my car at the exact price previously agreed to. You can bet I'll be going back to that dealer. Just wish it was to pick up an RS4.
  • skid0skid0 Posts: 16
    2000 Outback Limited, and 2006 A4 Avant.

    The A4 is quieter, has incredible braking, gets better MPG, is quicker, and the Xenon headlights are to die for.

    In NORMAL public street driving, there is no useful difference in handling. The Subie handles VERY good at the traction limit, even if it does lean alot. It's easier to take the Subie to that limit, than it is the A4 to it's higher limit. (We are talking racing speeds/g-forces here.)

    The A4 has a better radio. The A4 has worse speakers. The A4 rides much more harshly. The A4's 'climate control' wants to do things IT's way, not YOUR way. The A4 seats belong in a Yugo.

    I drive the A4 to work in summer, and the Subie in winter (with a set of wheels and Bridgestone Blizzak tires). I also drive the Subie to the store on the weekends. Every time I drive it, I say to myself "I LIKE this car!".

    My Subaru dealer is great, and I trust them. My Audi dealer is the progeny of Satan, and I expect hell to erupt from their lot any time, now.

    I don't think it was a wise expenditure of money to get the A4, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime splurge. I will NOT buy another Audi, but would buy another Subie today (and almost talked my spouse into getting one).

    Do a VERY complete background check on your Audi dealer(s) before buying from them!!
  • thanks for all the great responses...

    just to confuse matters even more, we stopped by a Mercedes dealership yesterday and drove around a 2004 E320 4MATIC wagon... oh my, what a car... almost too much car for at this point in my life. if only I were 5 years older.

    It only had 11,000 miles on it and looked brand new. It is really a little beyond our price range though. They are asking $43,000 -- haven't a clue of what they might be willing to come down to.

    The experience got me thinking of the other cars though. It would be so nice to be in a plush car. I think the Subaru Outbook is the most practical choice, I am just having a hard time getting excited about it. These nicely appointed European cars certainly have a good feel to them!
  • byronwalterbyronwalter Posts: 220
    Ah... the new Subaru OutBook... would that be a journal about Subaru drivers coming out of the closet?

    Sorry about that!

    I believe that you probably meant 'Outback'.

    Well of course you did.

    Anyhow, do you live in an area that 'features' deep winter snow or do you plan to drive to such locations? If not, the Subaru Legacy wagon would provide better emergency handling by virtue of a lower center of gravity. Those extra few inches of Outback ground clearance come with a price in the handling department.

    In closing, it looks to me as if you should try to go on a few more test drives before you do the deal.

    Best of luck...

  • oops... yes, the outback. i was typing in a hurry.

    yes, we get lots of snow in the winter. We are in New England. We have a ski house that we travel to on the weekends up North so I would like something that has AWD.

    Incidentally, the reason I am looking for a new car is that my car (which was only 7 months old and was purchased new from the dealership) was stolen right out of my driveway while we slept. We live in one of the safest towns but still this happened... I am still a little shocked.

    It is totally infuriating because I think we are going to take a huge hit on depreciation if the car is not recovered which at this point is unlikely as it has been a couple of weeks (the insurance company requires us to wait 30 days before calling it a total loss). At this point, I am sort of hoping they don't find my car even though it will be a great financial loss as I can only imagine what it looks like. :sick:
  • subahondasubahonda Posts: 75
    I have a 2006 Legacy i-LTD wagon and my neighbor has an Audi A4 wagon. The profiles are very similar as are the interiors. I had a 95 Legacy wagon and it is still going strong, with the original battery and muffler and 200,00 km! I love driving the new one - and the sunroof is amazing. The highway mileage with some stop and go stuff is a true 31 mpg - on regular. It is very easy to like this car - and if you use it in the winter on snow it is truly amazing at getting through stuff that seems too deep for an SUV. I looked at the Outback, and it seemed like a Legacy dressed up as an SUV but fooling no one. I couldn't discern the difference in handling, but the higher road clearance costs money and affects handling negatively. The Audi has traction control and stability control. The Subaru doesn't and I never was in a situation where I needed either but some think those are deficits. The i-Ltd only comes as a 4-speed automatic with sport shift. Just to confuse things - have you looked at the new Passat wagon? It is the best looking of the lot and has many great features - but VW has not yet made reliability and repair expense into its strong points.
  • byronwalterbyronwalter Posts: 220
    Many moons ago I had a car stolen out of my driveway (I was renting at the time). I ...ah... left the keys in the car!

    Kid down the road skipped his lithium and decided that he should drive to Montana in search of dental floss. Got picked up about 100 miles west of my place.

    Anyhow, you really could use the AWD. Both the Audi A4 and the Legacy/Outback have very good AWD systems and in your case you just might need the Outback's extra ground clearance.

    Hey, but just stay away from that $$$ used Mercedes :)
  • I will look at the Legacy... I know so little about Subaru at this time - I thought the Legacy was a Sedan and the Outbook was the same car but in a wagon. Tells you how much I know.

    It is nice to hear so much support for the Subarus as the Audis will be a little pricey for us - not to mention the used Mercedes (here is the small world part of the story: when at the dealership, they gave us a Carfax report on the mercedes which revealed the former owner, who happens to be just down the street, literally 100 yards down the road - same small street in the same small town. I plan to ask him about the car - only has 11,000 miles on it - it is a 2004, but the reality is that the car is too nice for us - the rugs are off white - my kids will have this absolutely stunning car looking like a mess after one ride in it).
  • ccd1ccd1 Posts: 140
    After reading this thread, I'm not sure what you are looking for or what is most important to you. The A3 is more of a sports car than either the BMW, or MB, IMHO. If AWD is really important to you, the Subaru (or Maxda, see below) is probably the way to go for a new car.

    However, I lived for years in the Boston area and I probably engaged the 4WD on my truck a half dozen times each year; in snow country, they know how to get the roads cleared quickly. In fact, I always noticed that most of the cars stranded on the side of the road on snowy days were always SUVs, no doubt driven by drivers who thought 4WD was a substitute for common sense (ie, you don't try to drive the speed limit in the middle of a snow storm, no matter what kind of vehicle you have). The 2.0 A3 is a hoot to drive and can easily be had under $30k.

    A couple of other vehicles worth a look might be the Mazda CX-7 which is a very nice package for the price and the Infinity FX35. Both are available with AWD. And you could check on some used Audi A4s or A6s as well. Depreciation tends to be high with most Audis so you might be pleasantly surprised at what you could afford.

    Good luck.
  • ccd1ccd1 Posts: 140
    Another car I forgot to mention is the Toyota RAV4. You can get that car with AWD and a V6. Won't handle like the A3, but it will be quick. The Sport RAV4 will handle the best. This car also gets pretty good gas mileage unlike the CX-7.
  • hi ccd1,
    thanks for the advice.... funny you say that you are not sure what is most important to me, because neither am I.

    I drove a Toyota Highlander for 5 years, loved it! - loved the car like feeling to it. We bought a BMW X5 - I hate it. It takes quite a lot of strength just to open the door. Forget about trying to back out of the driveway one handed - it takes two hands to turn the steering wheel. The way it drives is very heavy (my husband loves it though - he thinks it is a driving machine, particularly on the highway). We traded the Highlander for a Sienna after I had my second child. I thought I needed more space, and it was nice having all of those bells and whistles, but I live in a small town and getting the minivan in and out of parking spots and in and out of my parking spot (which really isn't big enough for the minivan which was 200" long) proved tricky.

    Since the car got stolen we have this little tincan rental, a Chevy Aveo... driving this around after driving the minivan has been SO freeing... I love the quick zippiness of it and the turning radius is truly AMAZING!!!

    So, I like the way it drives, but from a practical standpoint, I want something safe, and bigger to accomodate the kids, but not anything nearing the size of the minivan. I need the AWD mostly to get out of my driveway in the winter. It is gravel and steep, and our former non-AWD cars could never make it up the driveway because it gets slicked over with sheer ice in the winter.

    Here is a list of the cars I am currently considering (with their length in inches next to the name), not counting the ones you mentioned above which I will look into (I am incredibly open minded about what to get and truly appreciate any thoughts you can pass on). I seem to be adding/deleting cars from my list daily... it is an ongoing thought process of balancing my desire to zip around town, with the reality of my life as a stay at home mom toting around kids and gear.

    Toyota Highlander 184.6
    Acura MDX 188.7
    Lexus RX 330 186.2
    Mercedes E320 wagon 190.9
    Subaru Outback wagon 188.7
    Audi A4 Avant 180.5

    by the way, I have been told while shopping, that the Highlander and MDX are undergoing a remodel for 2007 which will feature that rounded (space age) look such as the Subaru Tribeca, Audi Q7.... not sure how keen I am on this look. Wondering if the last model year of the older style will hold its value better in terms of trade in/resale down the road. The Infiniti FX35 has that rounded look as well, but for some reason is more appealing to me.
  • oh one more thought.... mostly about the looks of the cars (inside and out).

    I loved the look of the Lexus RX330... really nice finishes in the car and very plush. My husband thinks it is silly to pay extra for this. He thinks it is a dressed up Toyota Highlander. I, on the other hand, enjoy the dress that said Lexus is wearing...

    I also thought the MDX seemed a little nicer inside than the Highlander and there are more standard features included.

    We'd be buying a used Mercedes, Lexus, and Audi, but could do new in the Subaru, Highlander, and new or used for the MDX. Not sure how to weight this in my decision making as with the previously owned certified vehicles, someone else took the big depreciation hit and you (in some cases) get the extra long warranty which carries you beyond the period you would get if you bought the same car new.

    On the other hand, there's nothing like a new car!!
  • ccd1ccd1 Posts: 140
    My only general comment is that most people, including yours truly, buy much more SUV than they really need or will ever use. We are beginning the process of shopping ourselves. The current vehicles is a Toyota 4Runner. Great car, drives well for a car and is built like a tank. But we have no kids (at least of the 2-legged variety), live in the DC area and never go off-road. Our top candidates are the Audi 3, the new Audi TT, and the RAV4. I'm seriously thinking of waiting for the introduction of a diesel powered TT as we rarely use the back seat.

    Now, as for your list:

    1)Highlander is a minivan masquerading as a SUV-never like the car.

    2) Lexus 330: just a more expensive version of the Highlander

    3) MDX is a good car, but the seats are not comfortable for long trips. The leather seats are very hard. The biggest knock on the MDX is the Honda Pilot which is essentially the same car for MUCH less money. IMHO, the Pilot is the best large car like SUV for the money. I like this car alot!

    4) The redesigned RAV4 is pretty big and deserves to be on your list. The V6 is very powerful and available in AWD. Gets decent gas mileage and takes Regular gas!

    5) A4 is a good car and we would be looking at it if we needed that much space. Wife likes the A4 sedan. Definitely worth a look. The Audi takes Premium gas, but the 2.0T is generally regarded as a great engine and you get pretty good gas mileage.

    6) No opinion on the MB other than that you could probably do better for the money. IMHO, value and MB tend to be mutually exclusive.

    7) Subaru offers less luxury than the rest of your list and probably isn't quite as refined. But good car for the money.

    Just my opinion, hope this helps
  • hi ccd1,
    here is where i stand currently...

    test drove the RAV4 today: I love it!!! first we tried the 4 cylinder -not very powerful, so we tried the V6 Sport - it was an entirely different experience. The turning radius is fabulous. It felt "zippy" which is what I am after. I definitely think there is enough cargo space.

    At this point, I am between the Acura MDX and the RAV4... the MDX is closer to what I am used to and also more money. The RAV4 would make me feel younger (which is never a bad thing). I intend to look into the 3rd row seating option on the RAV4 which I understand is tiny, but my kids are little and I think it would be useful to have so it might work...

    thanks so much for suggesting the RAV4 - it really does have everything I am looking for. It reminds me of the Audi A3 but at a fraction of the cost and also more practical.
  • now I am also considering the Acura RDX. Seems to fall somewhere between the MDX and RAV4 - sportier than the MDX, but more luxurious than the RAV4. Could be just the right balance for me...

    the only problem is I hate paying full retail. I love the idea of getting a last day of the month / year end model type of deal - that's what we usually do. I doubt they'll give away the RDX's.
  • ccd1ccd1 Posts: 140
    Two points:

    1) The Pilot is much more pedestrian looking than the MDX, but they are essentially the same car. The Pilot is much less money.

    2) The only problem with the RDX, from what I have read, is that the Mazda CX-7 is pretty comparable, but costs much less. Hate to add another car to your list, but the CX-7 deserves your consideration if you are thinking about the RDX.

    Just have to decide what is important to you
  • krzysskrzyss Posts: 843
    Subaru Outback XT or Legacy GT Wagon?
    Try, you might like them.


    PS Ice covered steep driveway needs winter or witer ice tires, AWD helps but may not be enough.
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