Mention the name "Allroad" to most automotive enthusiasts, and it's likely to conjure up images of the Audi A6 Allroad Quattro, first introduced in 1999. That car-like alternative to a sport utility vehicle was based on the German automaker's A6 Avant wagon. But unlike its luxurious road-going sibling, the Allroad was an on- and off-road variant fitted with an advanced height-adjustable air suspension for additional ground clearance, rugged tires on oversized wheels to improve off-pavement grip and unpainted flared fenders and bumpers to protect it from rugged use. That original A6 Allroad arrived with Audi's powerful twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6, more to offset its increased weight than to boost performance, and was eventually offered with a 4.2-liter V8 before it was discontinued in 2005.
Fast forward eight years, and Audi has introduced its replacement – now based on the smaller A4 Avant wagon.
A quick overview reveals that the new Allroad is smaller, less technically advanced, and it lacks its predecessor's focus and capability. Those traits aren't necessarily negative, as they appeal to a very different audience. But do they make this model less desirable?
As Audi seems to satisfy those craving luxury and utility with its Q5, Q7 and upcoming Q3 crossovers, we should be pleased with the arrival of the Allroad. It does, after all, mark the reemergence of the A4 Avant wagon on our shores. And those who yearned for a wagon should be beaming, as the conversion from standard Avant to gussied-up Allroad resulted in very little compromise.
Compared to the discontinued A4 Avant, which left us after the 2012 model year, the new-for-2013 A4 Allroad features a handful of cosmetic enhancements to distinguish it from the crowd. In addition to being treated to the A4's mid-cycle facelift, the wagon boasts the automaker's "singleframe" grill with vertical chrome slats and angled upper corners on its nose, and a stainless steel skid plate on its chin. The stainless rails are fitted to each side, contrasting with the flared fenders (now offered in a variety of finishes, including body color). The rear features twin round exhaust pipes and a lower stainless skid plate valance. Audi's alu-optic raised roof rails, running parallel down each rain gutter, are also standard.
The conversion from standard Avant to gussied-up Allroad resulted in very little compromise.
The interior, with the exception of its larger 50.5 cubic foot trunk (measured with the second row of seats folded) and optional power-operated liftgate, is nearly identical to that of the standard A4 sedan. As you recall, that model was improved for 2013 with more upscale switchgear, higher quality trim materials and a new, optional three-spoke steering wheel.
Dimensionally, the Allroad is wider and taller than the discontinued A4 Avant. By the tape, the exterior width has grown by 0.5 inches and the wagon has 1.5 inches of additional ground clearance (bringing it up to 7.1 inches overall). Audi didn't include towing information in its US press packet, but European models are rated to pull about 4,000 pounds, according to information we learned during our First Drive.
Audi fits the A4 Allroad with its proven 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine, a mill shared with several of its other models, rated at 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque in this application. There are no other powertrain offerings, but those focused on numbers will realize today's four-cylinder engine makes as much torque as the original Allroad's twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6, yet it does so much more efficiently. The direct-injected engine, longitudinally mounted ahead of the front axle, sends its power to a traditional eight-speed automatic mated to Audi's Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system. Under normal conditions, torque is split with a rear bias (40:60), but the three-differential system will automatically distribute power to the axle that needs it more.
Today's four-cylinder engine makes as much torque as the original Allroad's twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6.
The suspension is independent, with a five-link design and a fixed calibration unique to the Allroad. The brakes are ventilated discs up front, with solid discs in the rear, both with single-piston sliding calipers over iron rotors. Standard are 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, wearing 245/45R18 all-season rubber (19-inch wheels are optional). The steering uses electric assist – no surprise here, since that's what all the other A4 models have for 2013.
As it does with the majority of its lineup, Audi offers the Allroad in three different flavors: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Premium models arrive with standard features including leather upholstery, power driver and front passenger seating, dual-zone climate control, panorama sunroof and a 10-speaker 140-watt audio package. The Premium Plus adds equipment like Xenon headlamps, power tailgate, heated/memory seating, three-zone climate control and iPod interface. The range-topping Prestige features Audi's multi-media interface (MMI) navigation; a Bang and Olufsen 14-speaker, 505-watt audio system; keyless ignition; blind spot warning and upgraded xenon headlamps with cornering control.
Our test vehicle, an Allroad Premium Plus model in Ibis White over a Black interior, had a base price of $42,900. There were no options other than a mandatory $895 destination charge that brought its as-tested price to $43,795.
Our test vehicle had an as-tested price of $43,795.
The cabin of the Allroad is indistinguishable from its A4 sedan sibling, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Switchgear is logically placed and easy to find after being acclimated (the rolling volume control drum on the steering wheel, with a push-to-mute function, is one of the best in the industry). Models not equipped with Audi's Multi Media Interface (MMI) system have their infotainment controls on the center stack, a location that is less convenient than on the navigation-equipped vehicles, where it is located on the console behind the shifter.
Audi's interior quality and choice of materials across its lineup is nothing but first-rate, and the Allroad makes no exception. Standard trim is aluminum, and it contrasts well with the high-quality black plastic and leather inside the passenger compartment. However, if we were to lodge one complaint, it would be that the new bright polished aluminum surrounds on the vents and switchgear is lost against the silver trim (higher trims offer contrasting wood).
The seats are comfortably firm, flat and lacking much in the way of bolstering. Even so, the driving position is fine for folks of all statures, thanks to the fact that the steering wheel manually tilts and and the center armrest moves forward and back, not to mention being adjustable for height. There are two differently sized cupholders in the console, both with sprung arms to hold beverages securely, and pockets in the doors hold good-sized water bottles. The second row is folding, of course, with a 60:40 split providing additional floor length for larger objects – there is no ski pass-through, though. The trunk itself is carpeted, with an opaque vinyl roll-out cover, metal tie-downs on each corner, a light and 12v outlet.
Keeping in mind that the Allroad is based on a discontinued compact wagon sharing platforms with a sedan, its passenger appointments are accommodating but not spacious. Second-row passengers will likely find their knees touching the seatback, and three abreast is a shoulder-to-shoulder affair. Five passengers will find more room than they would in a Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, but the BMW 3 Series is larger than both (for the record, Audi's own Q5 crossover is larger than all, providing its occupants with much more wiggle room).
It drives like a portly A4 Quattro sedan, and that's actually a very fine compliment.
Where the Allroad excels is on the road, as it drives like a portly A4 Quattro sedan, and that's actually a very fine compliment.
Tipping the scales at 3,891 pounds (about 200 pounds heavier than the sedan), the extra weight of the wagon only costs it a couple tenths in the benchmark sprint to 60 miles per hour (Audi quotes 6.5 seconds, and it felt every bit that quick from behind the wheel). The eight-speed automatic is plenty smooth, and its tall gearing helps the five-passenger vehicle earn decent EPA fuel economy estimates of 23 city and 27 highway.
Highway travel was effortless mile after mile. The engine was muted, and there was little vibration coming into the passenger compartment. Straight-line stability was near perfect at higher speeds, too. And Audi's Quattro is unbelievably reassuring, regardless of the weather or road conditions (the additional ground clearance seemed to add an extra margin for safe passage). While the previous-generation A6 Allroad was more capable off the pavement, the all-new Allroad is indeed more agile around town, quicker in the sprint and more fuel efficient.
If we were handing out letter grades, the Audi Allroad would likely earn a solid B.
When pushed hard, this upmarket wagon felt every bit as tightly sprung as the standard A4 sedan, but there was more body roll in the corners as its higher center of gravity worked against it. Most would never call the Allroad sporty, but it embraced spirited driving on just about any road. At the limit, the first to protest were the Audi's all-season tires, which was followed by expected understeer. The handling traits were a gentle reminder that this is a compact family hauler and not a sports car. On that note, the electromechanical steering was light and lacked communication, but felt very accurate (it's not a deal-breaker).
If we were handing out letter grades, the Audi Allroad would likely earn a solid B. That is a fine score, but is it enough to open your wallet to the tune of $44,000?
Before you answer that question, consider why BMW and Mercedes-Benz have a difficult time selling compact wagons in the United States – the rise of the crossover. That said, there still remains a perfect customer (or two) for the Audi Allroad, but we can't help thinking most everyone else would be better served by another offering.
For argument's sake, forget the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLK and focus on the Audi Q5. The new Allroad and Q5 both share Volkswagen Group's Modularer Längsbaukasten (Modular Longitudinal Platform), the identical 2.0-liter engine and the same all-wheel drive Quattro drivetrain. They drive similarly, and fuel efficiency is closely matched too (amazingly, the Q5 is more aerodynamic – 0.33 coefficient of drag vs. 0.36 in the Allroad). But when compared line-by-line, the Q5 provides more ground clearance, more shoulder room, more passenger room and more luggage space. And, of course, there are the subjective advantages of driving a vehicle with a raised ride height, taller front valance and a shorter overall length when parking or pulling into a garage.
The enemy of the wagon is called the crossover.
We will happily praise the new 2013 Audi Allroad to all who ask, but think that there are wiser choices out there for many. Unfortunately for this compact wagon, its fiercest competitor just happens to reside on the other side of the showroom.