Audi's new-generation A4 allroad aims to go where no A4 has gone before. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Fancy an A4 Avant with extra road presence and ability in slippery conditions? If the answer is yes, you'll be wanting an A4 allroad. This is Audi's alternative to a full-blown SUV and for the majority of buyers who never undertake challenging off-road trips, it could be preferable.
Audi has been churning out four-wheel-drive estate cars for quite a while but there's a distinction between the basic quattro Avants, as Audi nomenclature refers to them, and the allroad line. An allroad goes further in making Audi's impressive quattro 4x4 system appropriate for off-road use. We're not talking about rock-strewn mountainsides or extreme wilderness river crossings here but the kind of unmade roads and muddy tracks that owners might encounter. A standard A4 quattro could tackle such terrain but there would be a greater chance of it sustaining damage. The A4 allroad has a raised ride height and body-protection measures to help it come through this kind of use unscathed. The original version came out in 2009 but this new generation version is lighter, more efficient and features more extrovert, individual design.
The engine range is loaded with familiar Audi units. Petrol buyers get a 2.0-litre TFSI unit with a 252PS output, but most will want to fuel from the black pump. The TDI diesel range kicks off with a 2.0-litre TDI 150PS unit, an engine also offered in 190PS guise. From a standing start, the 190PS variant gets to 62mph in 7.8seconds. Top speed is 136 mph. Pokier options are provided by 3.0 TDI models with 218 or 272PS outputs. Naturally, quattro all-wheel drive is standard on all models. The quattro drive set-up is partnered with the updated wheel-selective torque control system, which is active on any surface. Depending on the engine, there is a choice of a manual six-speed transmission, the seven-speed Stronic auto or an eight-speed tiptronic auto. This A4 allroad is a little better off piste than before. Ride height has been increased by 23mm and larger wheels compared with the AudiA4 Avant provide an additional 34mm of ground clearance. As an alternative to the standard suspension, this model is available for the first time with optional suspension with damper control. Sensors measure the movements of all four wheels plus lateral and longitudinal acceleration. The damper characteristic adapts accordingly to the surface conditions and the driving situation. The results are enhanced handling with even greater comfort and impressive off-road capability. Furthermore, the driver can push a button to choose the default setting of the suspension in Audi drive select and call up the desired handling characteristics at any time.
Design and Build
The A4 allroad certainly looks more SUV-like this time round, powerfully flared wheel arches and a re-styled rear bumper attracting attention. These are finished in matt structure grey or painted in the body colour. The robust underbody guard and the rear diffuser are finished in selenite silver. The distinctive front end with jagged headlights, unique bumper and model-specific air intakes underscores this car's now more extrovert character. Vertical chrome slats adorn the sculpted Singleframe grille, while allroad badges decorate the front wings and the tailgate. The higher roof rails round out the typical allroad look. Plus there's the option of Audi's clever Matrix LED headlights. At the wheel, there aren't many changes over any ordinary A4 Avant - but that's no bad thing. That means a classy fascia with its distinctive continuous air vent strip. Out back, the luggage compartment offers 505-litres of storage space in the standard configuration. Total capacity with the rear seats folded down and loaded to the roof is 1,510-litres. An optional rail and load-securing kit makes it easier to transport individual objects. A power luggage compartment cover and the electric drive for the tailgate are standard. With the optional sensor control, the driver can open and close the lid via a foot gesture.
Market and Model
As before, expect prices to sit mainly in the £35,000 to £40,000 bracket, reflecting a reasonably affordable premium over what you'd pay for a normal A4 Avant with quattro 4WD. Standard equipment is pretty complete across the line-up. All trim levels include alloy wheels of at least 17-inches in size, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, the 'Audi smartphone' interface, the 'Audi drive select' driving dynamics system, three-zone climate control and a 7-inch colour MMI infotainment monitor. We'd want to look at a couple of key options. The 'Audi phone box' connects smartphones to the on-board antenna and charges them. Meanwhile, for discerning hi-fi fans, a Bang & Olufsen 3D Sound System with innovative 3D sound is available. As for safety, well along with the usual airbags and electronic safety nets such as ABS and stability control, there's optional active lane assist, a rear cross traffic alert, collision avoidance assist plus a cruise control system that assists with tiresome traffic-jams.
Cost of Ownership
Running costs are of course a vital consideration in this segment and this A4 allroad offers some impressive numbers thanks to this generation model's weight reductions of up to 90kg and that sleeker shape. The volume 2.0 TDI 190PS diesel is 21g/km odf CO2 clweaner than it was in the previous generation model thanks to an updated start-stop system. With the S tronic auto gearbox, this variant manages 57.7mpg on the combined cycle and 128g/km of CO2. Even the top 272PS 3.0 TDI manages 53.3mpg and 139g/km of CO2. The 2.0 TFSI petrol version delivers 44.1mpg and 147g/km. All A4s come with a three year 60,000 mile warranty which can be extended to four years/75,000 miles or five years/90,000 miles for a fee. Audi residuals are some of the best in the business, assuming you pick a desirable engine and trim combination. Some restraint on the all too tempting options list will help too.
If you're after a true multi-purpose vehicle in the £35,000-£40,000 bracket, the temptation is to look at the various SUV options but this latest generation version of Audi's A4 allroad could actually prove a more agreeable everyday companion for many drivers. Residing somewhere between a compact executive estate and a compact SUV, it aims to balance road-going competence with light off-road ability. Factor in the big boot and Audi's quality interiors and you have what should be a convincing product.