Luxury all-rounder: Audi A4 Allroad road test and review
Nice wagon. What's with the big plastic wheel arches?
That'll be because this is the Allroad, Audi's all-new A4 Avant with an additional 34mm of ground clearance, wider track, roof rails, a few extra style touches, larger rear diffuser and those flared arches differentiating it from normal A4s. It fits to a tee that active lifestyle buyer who doesn't want an SUV.
Ah, a "lifestyle and possibilities" type of car. Do buyers fall for that?
Sure do, and well they should. These Allroads are pretty versatile and lovely things. In fact, since they first arrived in 2012 we've bought almost as many of them as we have normal A4 Avants - Audi's name for its wagons. We Aussies dig these niche Allroads.
I've read these things offer "practical versatility and go-anywhere ability," can I really climb mountains in an Allroad?
Look, "practical versatility" is on the money, but let's not pretend they are truly "go anywhere" - that's marketing spin. If you want serious ground clearance, wading depth and towing capacity buy a Toyota LandCruiser or Range Rover.
An Allroad has 173mm ground clearance, a normal A4 Avant has 139mm and Audi's Q5 SUV 200mm. It's the middle ground. Look to the Allroad as something that will tackle unsealed roads with aplomb while still delivering genuine car-like sealed road daily driving abilities that serious 4x4 SUVs cannot.
Sounds good. So what's new here?
Well, Audi launched its new A4 range in Australia earlier this year, an Avant model soon followed and now we have the new Allroad version with all the latest A4 kit.
For starters, it's 80kg lighter than its predecessor and this is the first time we get an A4 Allroad with a petrol engine. The economy of the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder TFSI at 6.7L/100km means it doesn't get stung by any Luxury Car Tax as it's classed as a "fuel-efficient vehicle" and costs under $75,500. The 185kW petrol model starts from $74,400 before on-roads, while a 140kW 2.0-litre diesel follows in November for $71,400.
What about its styling, it still looks very familiar A4?
The A4's exterior has evolved rather than been given a dramatic makeover, but it's a pretty car already wouldn't you say? It's sharper and edgier than before, with nice slim style lines, especially the full length body line running from front to rear lights, helping the Avants look like sizeable offerings.
Horizontal lines are also flavour of the month in the cabin too; just check out the lengthy air vents. Audi is absolutely nailing cabins right now, and this Allroad is no exception. It's a glorious place to be with soft touch everywhere, bold style and clean design. You're paying for premium so you have every right to expect it, and Audi delivers.
The normal A4 is pretty loaded with goodies, I take it the same applies with the Allroad?
Oh yes. It's crammed with technology, and Audi's unique selling point is its glorious Virtual Cockpit: an all-digital 12.3-inch high-res screen behind your steering wheel replacing the round analogue instruments. You can scroll through your digital instruments, navigation map and infotainment and it is really rather brilliant and cutting edge. It is a $2200 option on this car, and is a must, no question.
Dropping $75k is a big ask for the majority of buyers, but you can see where the money goes. Included in your Allroad are 18-inch alloys, adaptive LED lights, dynamic indicators, hands-free electric tailgate, electric leather appointed seats, tri-zone climate control, 8.3-inch screen with navigation, in-car wi-fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone interface, ambient cabin lighting, 10-speaker and subwoofer sound system and digital radio.
Yep, with some unique-for-the-segment gear as well if you tick the options boxes. The likes of turn assist and collision avoidance assist are all Audi only for the class.
You even get a disco of lights in the cabin to prevent you "dooring" (lovely term, that) a cyclist if it detects you're about to clean up a lycra-clad road user when parked. Standard safety toys include blind spot warning, autonomous emergency braking and cruise control with speed limiter.
So what's it like to drive then?
Very, very hard to fault actually. For general use, that is cruising on the motorway or around town, it is sublimely comfortable, cosseting and unruffled by most dips and bumps. The 2.0-litre petrol hums along quietly, but floor the throttle and it is actually a quick car - 0-100kmh in a sniff over six seconds is as fast as you'd really ever need; it also has a reasonable exhaust note for a four-cylinder.
Should have the guts to serve as a decent tow car too, with maximum braked capacity at 1900kg. Sure, it rides higher than a normal A4 Avant so loses some handling abilities when you're really on it through the turns but still felt very capable and balanced no matter how hard I pushed it on thanks to that smart quattro all-wheel-drive system. Steering too is effortlessly smooth and light, and the whole package feels softer than a normal A4, but still bloody good. Go for an Allroad if you err more towards outright comfort than sports performance and fun.
You can alter your drive mode, with Auto the best option as all those computers calculate best traction and handling for the surface, or sling it in Dynamic to hold gears longer and send power to the rear axle sooner.
And how about on the rough stuff?
We took the Allroad over some pitted and potholed unsealed sections and it gave confidence to plough on at decent speeds such was the noise suppression, grip and bump absorption. It's no large SUV though, so bigger holes on the Allroad's comparatively skinny tyres were best avoided.
A bit of fuel-saving smartness too, the Allroad is the first quattro to come with "ultra technology" part-time AWD where it detects when it should disconnect AWD and make it pure FWD. Leave it in Offroad mode however and it will stay permanent AWD. Oh, you score hill descent control for the first time on this model too.
Convincing stuff, any direct rivals?
Sorta. Biggest competition will come from Audi's own range you'd have thought. The normal quattro A4 Avant is $1500 cheaper, while a Q5 mid-size SUV can be had from $63,210. It's set for replacement any month now, so best wait for the new model there.
Other all-wheel-drive slightly higher riders include the far cheaper VW Golf Alltrack ($37,990), VW Passat Alltrack ($49,290) and Skoda Octavia Scout ($38,590), or even try the diesel-only Volvo V60 Cross Country ($63,375).
Is there room for the kids and all my sports gear? Interior dimensions of the Allroad match the normal A4 Avant, which trumps its rival BMW and Merc wagons for space. Three kids across the rear bench would be no trouble, while boot space of 505-litres seats up and 1510-litres down again trumps its fellow Germans.
Sounds like a near perfect all-rounder.
Now that you mention it, it isn't really far off. The Allroad is a lovely thing to live with, proving genuinely talented in so many areas. No, it's not as dynamic and rewarding a sedan as, say, a BMW 3 Series, nor will it challenge a large SUV for go-anywhere status, but few drivers need these ultimate abilities. Those who should really go for the Allroad are buyers who think they need a full SUV when really the most off-roading they'll do is an unsealed road.
Audi shoppers will still buy Q5 SUVs far more than these though, right?
Oh yes. There's no telling some people.
Driving experience 19/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 19/20
Value for money 16/20
Style and design 17/20
What matters most
What we liked: Cabin design and quality its rivals can't touch, excellent all-round versatility, tough-ish looks, quattro AWD and lots of safety inclusions.
What we'd like to see: Add $2000 to the purchase price and make the brilliant Virtual Cockpit a standard feature, needs heated and ventilated seats, price will still drive buyers to the cheaper Q5 SUV.
Warranty and servicing: Three years/unlimited km warranty. Service intervals are every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Audi A4 Allroad quattro TFSI.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive premium wagon.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol with maximum power of 185kW @ 5000rpm and peak torque of 370Nm @ 1600rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.1-seconds, top speed of 246kmh.
Consumption: 6.7L/100km (combined).
Towing capacity: 1900kg (braked).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $74,400 (140kW 2.0-litre TDI diesel follows in November for $71,400).