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 PRICE Up marginally though a petrol Allroad hasn’t been available in Australia before. The diesel will be $600 less than its predecessor when it arrives later this year. The new generation model ushers in a whole raft of technology and features. It’s lighter, safer, more efficient, better equipped and includes the latest generation connectivity and all-wheel drive that can read the road conditions on petrol variants. TECHNOLOGY The really good stuff is mostly tied up in optional packages; the Assistance Package with advanced driver assist features ($2470), Parking Package with 360 degree camera ($1235) and the Technik Package including the desirable virtual cockpit at $2860. Standard features include a sensor operated tailgate, efficiency assist to help cut fuel consumption and engine stop/start that turns off the engine rolling towards a red light at speeds under 7km/h. PERFORMANCE The 2.0-litre engines are more efficient and use less fuel. Performance is strong from both with the turbo petrol particularly satisfying to drive. DRIVING It’s a better car to drive, lighter, uses less fuel, handles and rides better, is safer and feels better from behind the wheel. But additional advanced driver assistance comes at a cost. DESIGN It’s easy to spot changes, from the large vertical slat grille to the new-look headlights, large wheel arch flares and redesigned rear diffuser. A stylish, practical car with cutting edge technology.