High so­ci­ety

Wagon on stilts cre­ates a stylish al­ter­na­tive to a lux­ury soft­roader

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - PETER BARNWELL peter.barnwell@news.com.au

AT first glance Audi’s A4 All­road seems re­dun­dant. Most peo­ple who want a small, prac­ti­cal Audi wagon nat­u­rally grav­i­tate to­wards a cheaper Q3 or Q5.

But the Ger­man maker in­sists there are peo­ple out there who still han­ker for a con­ven­tional wagon that can han­dle the odd dirt road.

Audi of­fered an A4 All­road four years ago, pow­ered by a 2.0-litre diesel. An A6 All­road pre­dated that and both had slug­gish sales.

The lat­est model is a big step up on its pre­de­ces­sors on ev­ery front be­cause it’s a new gen­er­a­tion model rather than a re­vamp. It will ini­tially be avail­able with a 2.0-litre, turbo petrol en­gine with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel fol­low­ing in a few months. The petrol model scores Audi’s new ul­tra quat­tro all-wheel-drive with sen­sors used in a pre­dic­tive way to an­tic­i­pate the road ahead and cal­i­brate All­road’s drive to suit. Ul­tra quat­tro uses twin clutch packs on the drive­shaft to ap­por­tion power front and rear more ef­fi­ciently.

Drill down and All­road is es­sen­tially a wagon on stilts with a tough ex­te­rior and some con­ces­sions to go­ing off road such as un­der-car pro­tec­tion and in­creased ride height com­pared with the reg­u­lar A4 Avant. It’s a sim­i­lar for­mula to Volk­swa­gen’s Pas­sat Alltrack and Subaru’s Out­back.

There’s no doubt it’s an ar­rest­ing de­sign that com­mands at­ten­tion on the street. The car looks tough with its heavy duty 18-inch al­loys and large whee­larch flares. And yet it ex­udes a hi-tech aura, es­pe­cially on the in­side where much of the lat­est elec­tron­ics re­side.

Audi high­lights the car’s strik­ing lines with splashes of chrome and buffed alu­minium body hard­ware. As a bonus, it is some 80kg lighter than the pre­vi­ous model.

It’s a wider car than be­fore and now has three-zone air­con.

The in­te­rior de­liv­ers the usual Audi func­tion­al­ity and style and rates as ar­guably one of the bet­ter main­stream cab­ins. Lux­ury fea­tures are com­par­a­tively gen­er­ous though there are plenty of op­tions to spend on.

If you want to ramp up lux­ury and tech­nol­ogy a “vir­tual” cock­pit — a dig­i­tal, con­fig­urable in­stru­ment clus­ter with a 12.3-inch colour dis­play — is avail­able as part of a $2860 Teck­nik Pack­age.

Other items on the op­tions list in­clude a 360-de­gree cam­era and ad­vanced driver as­sist tech­nol­ogy such as ac­tive lane as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol, traf­fic jam as­sis­tant and turn as­sist, which mon­i­tors on­com­ing traf­fic when turn­ing right.

In stan­dard form, you get Wi-Fi hotspot with Google ser­vices, Ap­ple Carplay and An­droid Auto, all dis­played on a 7-inch colour screen.

The All­road also has six drive modes to se­lect from. You can choose a set-up that is bi­ased to­wards ei­ther com­fort, econ­omy or sporti­ness, or you can se­lect a com­bi­na­tion of all three in “In­di­vid­ual” mode. There is also a spe­cial set­ting for off-road con­di­tions.

Stan­dard safety gear in­cludes front and rear cam­eras, radar sen­sors, ul­tra­sound for blind spot and rear mon­i­tor­ing, rear radar to help pre­vent rear-end col­li­sions by flash­ing the hazard lights at a fast-clos­ing car, au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing, cross traf­fic alert and more.

ON THE ROAD

The All­road’s en­gine runs from back to front rather than side­ways, which is un­usual for a front-drive car.

As a re­sult, it is a bet­ter drive. It feels smoother, more bal­anced, eas­ier to place on the road and bet­ter rid­ing.

Us­ing nu­mer­ous sen­sors, the “ul­tra” quat­tro drive more ef­fi­ciently ap­por­tions drive to the front or rear axle. The on­de­mand sys­tem also varies drive be­tween wheels as re­quired.

It’s not a sporty han­dler and if driven hard through cor­ners its nose will push wide. Wind­ing on more lock achieves noth­ing at this point.

But the punchy 2.0-litre petrol en­gine has a lin­ear power de­liv­ery with plenty of torque read­ily avail­able at low and mid­dle en­gine revs. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is brisk and the en­gine spins out will­ingly with a raspy note.

Bet­ter yet is the achiev­able fuel econ­omy of about 8L/100km — not bad for a 1500kg plus fam­ily wagon with this much power.

If you want to ven­ture of­froad, All­road has hill de­scent con­trol for the first time in this model at speeds up to 30km/h.

VER­DICT

A stylish, prac­ti­cal car with cut­ting edge tech­nol­ogy.

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