What do you buy if you want an SUV, but don't want the size of an SUV? Audi's A4 allroad offers the perfect split between road car and SUV.
Audi has stepped up its game with a more powerful and efficient A4 Allroad for the 2015 model year. Up 10kW and 20Nm on the previous iteration, the revised crossover is even better armed to carve out a niche for the German luxury brand.
Blending a mix of a station wagon versatility and SUV prowess, the A4 Allroad straddles the line between family hauler and occasional off-roader. The version you see here is priced from $70,500 plus on-road costs — up $600 on the outgoing variant.
Sitting 180mm from the ground, the A4 Allroad’s ground clearance is some 37mm greater than the regular A4 Avant. To put that into perspective, it’s 20mm and 30mm lower respectively than the Audi Q5 and its BMW X3 rival, both of which are more conventional SUVs.
From the outside, the Allroad gets flared wheel arches with plastic cladding and chrome highlights around the front and on the roof racks. The rear bumper also comes in a different colour to differentiate it from the A4 Avant. Those 17-inch alloys and LED daytime running lights also do the trick.
While the Allroad is subjectively great to look at from the outside, the interior is getting on in age. With styling and features dating back to 2008 when the 8K (Audi’s current A4 model designation) was first launched, the competition has moved on and it feels due for a makeover.
Putting the age of the interior to one side, the fit and finish is excellent. Audi prides itself on delivering a quality vehicle and this is no exception. The dashboard, door lining and seats feel soft to the touch and are easy to clean — critical for a car likely to be carting kids around.
The first and second row of seats is very comfortable with adequate leg and headroom available. At over six feet tall, I was able to easily fit in the second row with my seat in its regular position. The rear seats feature 60:40 split folding and come with an inbuilt armrest. There's also three-zone climate control.
With the rear seats upright, cargo capacity is rated at an impressive 490 litres. Fold the rear seats almost flat and that capacity increases to 1430 litres. Despite being around 50 and 60 litres respectively less than the Q5 and BMW X3, the A4 Allroad gets away with being more compact on the road.
The seven-inch Audi MMI (Multimedia Interface) is controlled by a rotary dial located in the centre of the cabin. The MMI manages features such as radio, satellite navigation and car settings. It’s flanked by buttons that act as shortcuts to other menus.
Available as individual options, or as part of a technology package, buyers can opt for SIM card operated internet connectivity — which allows Google Maps overlay for the satellite navigation — or digital radio, in addition to standard streaming options such as Bluetooth and auxiliary audio.
The satellite navigation system is generally easy to use. The voice recognition system, however, lacks the level of sophistication available from the Audi's Mercedes-Benz and BMW counterparts. Standard fare also includes 20GB of music storage and a six-channel amplifier with 10 speakers and a sub.
Under the bonnet of the latest A4 Allroad revision is a more powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine, producing 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque. The 0-100km/h time has been slashed by 0.3 seconds to 7.8s.
Even more impressive is a reduction of fuel consumption from 6.8L/100km to just 5.6L/100km. The engine gives the A4 Allroad a decent braked towing capacity of 1900kg.
We recently had a chance to test this Audi crossover during a drive across Tasmania. It was a mix of city driving, along with twisty high-speed roads and wet conditions. In and around the city, it was an absolute breeze to drive and park.
Visibility out of the front, rear and sides is exceptional. While it doesn’t get the high ride height of a traditional SUV, it’s high enough to offer a commanding view over the road, yet low enough to feel sporty through corners.
As we hit the open road, the ride was the first thing we noticed. It errs on the side of sporty, but isn’t firm enough to consider rough. In fact, over the distance of our journey, it offered a commendable split between sport and comfort.
Open stretches of highway demonstrated its ability to glide over bumps and corrugations, while corners highlighted impressive turn in and all-wheel drive surety.
Feel and feedback through the steering wheel is good: somewhat heavyset, enough to offer feedback, but not enough to become cumbersome. The rack is quite direct and manages direction changes with ease.
We weren’t as impressed with the brake pedal feel, which was a bit dull at times.
While the A4 Allroad is unlikely to spend much time off the blacktop, we ventured off the beaten track to test its abilities. Featuring a permanent all-wheel drive system with a self-locking centre differential and torque vectoring, the Allroad always felt sure of itself.
Although we didn’t quite climb Everest, the rocky and wet tracks proved that it’s a capable vehicle for mild off-roading — the type you would find yourself doing on the way to a camping ground, perhaps. Or, for that matter, the snow fields.
The price point of the Allroad places it right in the mix of premium SUVs such as the BMW X3 and Audi Q5. At $70,500, it’s only $300 short of the most expensive vehicle in the Audi A4 range. The entry diesel Q5 costs $62,600, by comparison.
That's not to say the Audi doesn't remain a premium-feeling, stylish and accomplished crossover vehicle that looks flash in your driveway, and remains pretty flash on the way to the snow or that tucked-away campsite.