What we got
The A4 Allroad shares the same powerplant as the sedans: a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four making 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, with a seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch automatic. The setup briskly moves the wagon from 0-60 miles per hour in under six seconds.
An Allroad starts at $44,000 MSRP for basic Premium trim. This Premium Plus tester starts at $47,000. Add $575 for the metallic Gotland Green paint - a dignified color that drew back-to-back compliments from a carwash guy and a passing postal carrier, and pairs nicely with the Nougat Brown leather interior. The car is equipped with the $3,000 Premium Plus option package, which includes a sweet Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system; heated, auto-dimming, power-folding side mirrors; an alarm system; heated eight-way power front seats with driver memory; LED headlights; and parking assist.
The car also carries the Technology package, in which $3,250 gets you navigation, side and rear sensors, and Audi's elegant Virtual Cockpit instrument display.
Those two equipment groups include trials of Audi Connect. The Care, Prime, and Plus packages of Connect offer services such as Google Earth mapping and Google voice search, SOS and roadside-assistance calling, dynamic route guidance, and a lot more.
The blind-spot monitoring system packaged with this car is particularly nice, as it employs extra-large amber lights and an audible warning. They greatly augment the rather small, teardrop-shaped side mirrors.
Finally, the wagon has the $500 Cold Weather package with heated rear seats and heated, multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles. Its high-gloss burl walnut wood inlays cost $350.
Throw in the $950 destination charge and you're looking at MSRP of $52,625.
What we skipped
We didn't go for the $1,450 Warm Weather Package, which would have provided ventilated front sport seats with four-way lumbar support. The car also came without the rear side airbags, a $350 option. Nor did we go for the $1,000 Full Paint Finish option, which would replace the car's bits of black cladding.
And of course stepping up to the $53,000 starting price of the Prestige trim level would have gained us a raft of driver assistance technology, the top-view surround camera system, and a head-up display. Finally, the wagon has the standard 18-inch wheels rather than the 19s we opted for on the Midnight Blue Prestige sedan.
Why we got it
The idea here is pretty simple: Is life better in a sedan, where the people are in the seats and the junk's in the trunk? Or is the do-it-all utility and flexibility of a wagon the way to go? Looks are certainly not the tiebreaker in this case: Both body styles are beauts. And the price difference is inconsequential. So we'll drive this awhile, haul our dogs and kids and bags of mulch, and let you know.
As with any Audi, this is a lovely car to behold and to drive. Sleek lines, tastefully designed interior, smooth engine, confident transmission, athletically fast. Everything's taut and refined. It drives like butter.
It's a given that an Allroad has Quattro all-wheel drive, as do most of the A4s Audi sells. And it's lifted almost an inch more than the sedan - though at 6.5 inches of ground clearance, as compared to, say, a Subaru Outback's 8.7 inches, it's Allroad, not off-road.
Likewise, with sloping rear glass that enhances its sleek profile but subtracts from cargo space, it might be best to think of the Allroad as something between a small station wagon and a large hatchback. Its interior is less spacious than other small wagons such as the BMW 3 Series, and it won't swallow boxy cargo quite the way a squared-off car like a Subaru Forester will. When she jumped into the Allroad for a ride recently, Sugar the golden retriever had to cower when the hatch came down on her head. Yet front and back legroom is excellent, and like most German cars, the driver's seat will adjust for the tallest of drivers. That adjustment sends the seatback past the B pillar, however, so big-and-tall types may find exiting the car awkward.
We'll provide more driving impressions as we continue to live with the Allroad - and as we approach the apex of this comparison, the powerful S4.