THE LATEST Audi A4 Allroad has landed, introducing with it turbo-petrol power to supplement the turbo-diesel. Offering all the technological and driveability benefits of the latest A4, it provides a smarter, comfier, and more dynamic alternative to many luxury SUVs.
WHAT IS IT
Basically an Audi A4 Avant wagon with more ride height, wheel arch extensions, and a tougher grille, the A4 Allroad quattro is the luxury sphere’s answer to the Subaru Outback, and a welcome respite from an endless parade of premium SUVs.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
The ninth-gen Audi A4 (if you count three iterations of the Audi 80 that preceded it) is probably the brand’s strongest against the genre-defining BMW 3 Series, so the inclusion of the Allroad raises the interesting question as whether consumers need to default to a more cumbersome SUV alternative.
Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, Volvo XC70
THE WHEELS VERDICT:
UNTIL Mercedes and BMW decide to bring out jumped-up versions of their respective C-Class Estate and 3 Series Touring wagons to Australia, the A4 Allroad quattro has the luxury medium crossover market sewn up, especially as the Volvo XC70 is too old and the pioneering Subaru Outback too cheap.
Only the in-house Volkswagen Passat Alltrack can provide some semblance of competition, but it may not be enough, because the Audi majors on all the things that make the latest A4 sedan/Avant compelling (like quality, technology, safety, refinement, and all-round capability), in a roomy and high-riding AWD package. For design, versatility, driveability, comfort, and exclusivity, the A4 Allroad quattro has many luxury SUVs licked – including Audi’s (admittedly ageing) own Q5.
PLUS: Design, quality, versatility, performance, efficiency, space, safety, technology, exclusivity
MINUS: Ride-soothing adaptive dampers optional, expensive options, some road noise intrusion
THE WHEELS REVIEW
The Audi A4 Allroad quattro is the thinking SUV buyer’s crumpet.
Compared to its in-house Q5 equivalent, the recently released B9-series Avant wagon based newcomer is roomier, lighter (by 175kg!), faster, less thirsty, more athletic, comfier riding, lovelier inside, and only fractionally smaller boot-wise.
But with a $10,000 price advantage, the more modish SUV will prove way more popular. And that’s a pity, especially as this second-series A4 Allroad stands virtually alone among the luxury brands in brandishing a lifestyle-alluding medium-sized crossover. Scandinavia’s venerable Volvo XC70 is the exception, but modernity-wise that old-timer’s more Roxette than Röyksopp.
To better avoid rocks, there’s hill-descent control, 34mm of extra ground clearance (at 173mm – though that’s still 27mm shy of the loftier Q5), and a fresh part-time AWD system dubbed Ultra. Chunkier bumpers, a toothier grille, bodyside cladding, different alloys, and a unique rear diffuser give the Allroad that obligatory streetwise attire.
Otherwise, the latest A4’s MLB modular longitudinal platform applies, with its five-link suspension at both ends, and advanced driver-assist technologies like available adaptive cruise with stop/go functionality, as well as rear cross-traffic alert, turn-assist warning (helpful in avoiding striking a cyclist), and autonomous emergency braking.
Although 80kg lighter than before, the new Allroad has grown, accommodating five adults fairly easily. Of course, lavish interiors are Audi’s forte, so it’s no surprise that obsessively sparse detailing and sensual materials coalesce effortlessly with logical switchgear and firmly supportive seating, for a sumptuous yet sensible cabin experience. Certainly in our test car, which included the optional ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digitalised instrumentation, a head-up display and 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio.
A 505-litre load capacity is handy, stretching to 1510L with the 40/20/40 backrests lowered. There’s also a space-saver spare, powered cargo cover, and electric tailgate with foot-gesture activation. Only occasional tyre drone and the odd suspension jolt intrude in an otherwise civilised environment. The optional adaptive dampers help provide a gentler ride.
The real point, however, is that – unlike most SUVs – the Allroad drives like a hunkered-down sports/luxury wagon, meaning that the A4’s fluid (if slightly remote) steering, enjoyably agile handling, and unflappable roadholding translate largely undiluted. There’s alacrity and control to be savoured, backed up by spirited performance from a brawny yet cultured and frugal 2.0 TFSI four-pot turbo. Or a 140kW/400Nm 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel alternative from $71,400 is also available.
It’s clear, then, that the smart money is on the A4 Allroad. But will SUV buyers take heed?
Model: Audi A4 Allroad quattro 2.0 TFSI S tronic
Engine: 1984cc 4-cyl, dohc, 16v turbo
Max power: 185kW @ 5000-6000rpm
Max torque: 370Nm @ 1600-4500rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch
Fuel economy: 6.7L/100km
On sale: Now