Australians absolutely adore Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), but the Audi A4 Allroad is one traditional family wagon that is rising up while refusing to be beaten down.
It is rather ironic that the new Allroad is attempting to claw back sales from the SUV flock by climbing up and matching them with raised ride and seat height, though. Just add some unpainted plastic body cladding and, apparently, voila – hello, buyers.
If it all seems cynical, then check the form guide in the more affordable segments. The Subaru Outback follows that formula and outsells the Liberty sedan on which it’s based by four-to-one. Heck, that wagon outsells the similarly priced Toyota Kluger.
Audi won’t bank on this jacked-up, high-riding A4 Avant outselling its SUV-proper Q5, but whether it deserves to or not is something definitely worth finding out. The wagon, especially in the $75,000-plus premium classes, is absolutely the underdog.
Vehicle Style: Medium wagon
Price: $74,400 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 185kW/370Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol | seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.7 l/100km | Tested: 9.5 l/100km
The previous A4 Allroad was a diesel-only proposition, and a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-oiler continues in the range priced from $71,400 plus on-road costs.
For this new-generation model, however, a 185kW/370Nm turbo petrol of the same capacity joins the lineup, as tested here, from $74,400 plus on-road costs.
That A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI quattro only asks $1500 more than the A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI Sport quattro on which it’s based. As the full nameplates might indicate, the Sport scores low-profile 19-inch alloy wheels and sports suspension, both of which are flicked from the Allroad that is destined to travel over more roads, if not all roads.
Bush-friendly 18-inch tyres enter the equation here, teamed with a 23mm increase in ride height and 34mm extra ground clearance compared with the regular A4 Avant. While both utilise the same on-demand all-wheel drive system – as the ‘quattro’ tag denotes – only the A4 Allroad gets an ‘offroad’ mode that locks in drive to all wheels.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless auto-entry and push-button start, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, leather-trimmed electrically adjustable front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, cruise control, automatic headlights and wipers, and electric tailgate
- Infotainment: 8.3-inch colour screen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, twin USB and SD card inputs, satellite navigation with 3D maps and live traffic updates, one-shot voice control and eight speakers
- Options Fitted: None
- Cargo Volume: 505 litres
The last time we tested a $72,900 (plus on-road costs) A4 Avant 2.0 TFSI quattro it was equipped with $16,520 worth of options. As excessive as that sounds, it actually proved to be a fabulous, full featured $90K wagon.
By contrast this A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI quattro is completely unoptioned. Thankfully, however, it retains its wonderfully premium ambience, placing greater value on lush trim textures and finely finished furnishings over jammed-in equipment.
The brand’s 12.3-inch full colour screen ahead of the driver, dubbed ‘virtual cockpit’, retains a $2200 option bundled with a head-up display. However, neither are sorely missed given that a colour trip computer display remains, and is matched by intuitive controls to operate such functions.
An 8.3-inch central screen is similarly a high-resolution high watermark, although the lack of touchscreen functionality hinders the (standard, unlike in a BMW) Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring technology that doesn’t work as well via Audi’s otherwise ergonomic MMI centre console control dial.
Otherwise, the company of offers terrific voice control, twin SD and USB inputs, and a great-sounding 10-speaker audio unit that helps resist the temptation of optioning the $1500 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen system. A theme is emerging here.
The seats, front and rear, are wonderfully supportive and neatly leather trimmed. Although ‘milano’ premium leather trim is a $1500 option, it isn’t necessary.
Particularly for a vehicle likely destined to see snow-capped areas at some point, though, $600 for heated seats seems mean. At least there’s electric adjustment for driver and passenger, plus a third climate zone with controls for rear riders and an electric tailgate that opens to a capacious 505-litre boot.
Skis, and such, will filter easily into that cabin thanks to a 40:20:40 split-fold backrest.
Finally, a couple of other surprise exclusions abound, including optional active cruise control (part of a $1900 driver assistance package) and 360-degree camera with automatic park assistance ($950 combined as an upgrade from the standard rear-view camera and front/rear sensors).
To be fair, though, this tester didn’t really miss them. Compared with a $59,990 Volkswagen Passat 206 TSI wagon, the circa-$14K premium for the A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI quattro seems worth it for the boost in cabin finish alone.
ON AND OFF THE ROAD
- Engine: 185kW/370Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: multi-link independent front and rear
- Brake: ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
Audi’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder is good enough to not only dismiss a diesel, but also question whether more cylinders and added spend is necessary these days.
Compared with the equivalent Avant, this A4 Allroad petrol is only 40kg heavier, at 1580kg. Its 6.1-second 0-100km/h claim is a tenth slower, while its combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.7 litres per 100 kilometres is just 0.1L/100km thirstier.
The A4 Allroad diesel? 1640kg, 7.8sec and 5.2L/100km respectively. Petrol, please.
When the 370Nm of torque is deployed from 1600rpm until 4500rpm, the Allroad is smooth, silken and quiet. Just below those revs, the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (S tronic in Audi-speak) can be hesitant and a tad slow when moving from ‘R’ to ‘D’ for example – but it’s otherwise almost flawlessly slick.
By the time the 185kW of power comes into action between 5000rpm and 6000rpm, this A4 develops a hard-edged, grainy snarl that is characterful but a bit shrill for luxury-oriented buyers. Or kids sleeping during a freeway overtake.
Almost wholly, however, the drivetrain is as sweet as Audi’s steering, ride and handling blend that rates as one of its best efforts yet.
Where 19s and sports suspension seem a bit needless in the regular Avant, 18s and raised suspension work a treat in the Allroad. Initially it can seem slightly too firm and almost a bit too jiggly, but it delivers an impressively ‘level’ ride over even the most chopped-up surfaces.
The chubbier Michelin rubber and loftier seating can’t quite imitate the sewn-in handling of the standard wagon, but the upshot is great dirt-road dynamics. The electronic stability control (ESC) system is immaculately tuned, particularly in offroad mode where it permits increased throttle to be used earlier in tight bends, sending drive rewards to neutralise itself and avoid understeer, without intrusion.
In any situation, the steering is as dainty and fluid as the handling is light and deft. This is no lumbering, heavy, inefficient SUV. Not by a long shot.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Audi A4 range scored 34.50 out of 38 possible points when tested by Euro NCAP in 2016.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, rear-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC, blind-spot assistance with pedestrian/cyclist detection, forward and rear collision warnings with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Audi’s three-year/45,000km servicing package includes three dealer checks, one every year or 15,000km, for a total price of $1620 – or an average $540 each.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Volkswagen’s Passat Alltrack and Volvo’s V60 Cross Country are similar in stature, but cheaper at under $50,000 plus on-road costs – and with good reason, because neither are nearly as impressive as this A4 Allroad.
The Audi will have to wait until the arrival of the V90 Cross Country to have a genuine rival, because neither the BMW 3 Series nor Mercedes-Benz C-Class play the jacked-up wagon game.
- Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
- Volvo V60 Cross Country
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Without any direct competitors (see above) the Audi A4 Allroad will need to tempt buyers away from the BMW X3/X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC/GLC Coupe, although the company probably won’t mind if someone picks its own Q5 instead.
It perhaps says a lot about our association with vanity versus practicality, though, that swoopy coupe-style SUVs (X4, GLC Coupe) are all the rage now, despite being quite compromised. Yet here’s Audi with the immaculately finished, genuinely sporting yet soothing, and semi-offroadable Allroad that has a huge task to sell itself.
Hopefully this classy wagon is SUV-enough to get Australians over the line. With the exception of some pricey options, it deserves to.
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