If you're anything like me, the appeal of a station wagon far outweighs the proposition on offer from most SUVs. That's where the 2017 Audi A4 Allroad comes into play.
Sitting higher than an A4 Avant (by some 34mm), but lower than a Q5 (by 27mm), it's the perfect middle ground between wagon practicality and SUV ride height. We recently joined the Audi team in Cairns to put the new A4 Allroad through its paces.
Starting from $71,400 (plus on-road costs), the new A4 Allroad TDI is some $600 less than its predecessor, which was only available as a four-cylinder turbocharged diesel. The latest version will now also be offered with a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, in addition to the diesel, starting from $74,400 (plus on-road costs). The diesel goes on sale from November, while the petrol is available immediately.
Both A4 and A6 Allroad variants have been a huge success for Audi in Australia. Launched locally in 2012, the A4 Allroad has seen sales grow to a level where almost 40 per cent of A4 Avant sales have been of this high-riding crossover derivative.
Audi Australia expects that trend to continue, with the brand targeting buyers with children and active lifestyles that may not be particularly enamoured by the SUV proposition.
From the exterior, it's hard to mistake the A4 Allroad for anything else. The higher riding profile with plastic-clad wheel arches cuts a sleek line in traffic. Audi has managed to save 80kg in weight over the outgoing model with the use of strategically positioned high strength steel and aluminium.
While the exterior looks stylish, it's the interior that really impressed us. It feels far, far more premium than its price tag suggests. Every surface feels solid and well thought out. For example, the elbow touch points are all nicely padded, while the buttons and all interfaces have a mechanical, durable feel to them. It's hard to explain until you've had the chance to sit and try it for yourself.
The entire range comes with an 8.3-inch colour infotainment screen that sits atop the dashboard. The titanium-bordered screen is high resolution and controlled by a rotary controller ahead of the gear shifter. It also responds very well to voice commands, which can be accessed through the steering wheel.
Buttons surrounding the controller also feature haptic touch control that brings up the buttons preset shortcut by using a light touch. A harder push then activates the shortcut — the shortcut can be anything from a radio station through to a navigation address.
The infotainment system also features a solid state hard disk for multimedia storage, in addition to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's incredibly quick to navigate and the addition of a SIM card for data allows a Google Maps overlay to further enhance the experience.
Buyers with children will love the rear seat entertainment package. Unlike a lot of cars with these systems, the 10.1-inch rear seat infotainment package features detachable tablets that have 32GB of inbuilt flash storage, along with an Android operating system. The Android operating system allows the addition of applications beyond the standard package.
Rear seat passengers can also search for navigation destinations, surf the internet and control the vehicle's audio. The rear seat entertainment package can be optioned for $2000 for one screen or $3600 for one on each side.
An LTE WiFi hotspot can also be activated to allow passengers to all connect to a single data connection, which is a handy feature for cars travelling with iPads and other internet-hungry technology.
Safety is high on the agenda for Audi, with the A4 Allroad loaded with standard passive and active safety equipment. Standard on the A4 Allroad is rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, an active bonnet, autonomous emergency braking, an attention assistant and even a system that will flash the tail lights brightly if a vehicle approaches too quickly and could collide with the vehicle.
A 7.0-inch colour screen sits between the speedometer and tachometer, displaying navigation and trip computer data. Buyers can option the awesome 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit colour LCD screen as part of a package that includes both a heads-up display and virtual cockpit for $2200 — we'd definitely be ticking this box.
There are a number of options available, such as a mix of 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels, seat heaters, paint colours and matrix LED headlights, amongst others, but the main option packages include:
Assistance package tour ($1900):
- Active lane assistant
- Adaptive cruise control
- Turn assist
- Extended collision warning up to the vehicle's top speed
- High beam assistant
- 360-degree view surround camera
- Automatic parking assistant
- Audi virtual cockpit
- Heads up display
- As Technik package, with the addition of a panoramic sunroof
Front leg and headroom is good with padded touchpoints for knees on the driver and passenger sides. Rear leg and headroom is also good with plenty of toe room and adequate knee room for adults. Both models come standard with manual sun blinds for rear seat passengers.
The boot comes with an impressive 505 litres of cargo volume with the second row in place. With the 40:20:40 second row folded, that volume increases to 1510 litres, making it a cavernous space for longer and larger items. Part of the reason the boot is so large is because of the space-saver spare tyre.
We were only able to drive the TFSI (turbocharged petrol) at the launch. It's the same model that is on sale immediately, while the TDI (turbocharged diesel) goes on sale from November.
Powering the TFSI is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that produces 185kW of power and 370Nm of torque, consuming 6.7L/100km (which places it under the luxury car tax threshold). The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that allows it to sprint from 0-100km/h in just 6.1 seconds.
The second option is the TDI, which uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque, sipping just 5.2L/100km (it too falls under the luxury car tax threshold). It too is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and will move from 0-100km/h in 7.8 seconds. Although largely irrelevant for Australia, both models offer top speeds of 246km/h and 220km/h respectively.
Audi has refined the TFSI engine so much that it's almost dead silent after it's started. You almost forget it's on at times.
One thing that you certainly wouldn't forget, though, is the jerkiness for the dual-clutch gearbox. Despite being mass marketed and refined by Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche over a number of years, it's still clunky off the line. It's unacceptable in today's age of technology and we'd far prefer a regular torque converter automatic in place of a dual-clutch gearbox if it meant a smoother driving experience.
Anyway... once the car is moving, it's smooth sailing. The gearbox shifts effortlessly and deals well with throttle inputs and requests for torque. When things get a little more adventurous, the drive select mode can be switched between automatic, offroad, dynamic, comfort and economy to obtain the desired driving style.
In the vehicle's dynamic mode, the steering tightens up and the gearbox enters a sport mode, which holds gears for longer and aggressively downshifts. During a mountain climb we found this the most rewarding driving mode to extract the most out of the car.
Steering feel is excellent and is only amplified in dynamic when the corners get tighter. Throttle response and brake pedal feel is excellent, giving the driver confidence behind the wheel.
There is a degree of body roll, but it's certainly nothing to write home about and it's on par with what you would expect from this car.
What impressed us the most was actually the ride. Audi has absolutely nailed the A4 Allroad's ride across virtually any surface. While most of the surfaces we travelled on were smooth, a short dirt road stint allowed us to explore the car's abilities on rutted roads. Fitted standard are a set of 18-inch alloy wheels and tyres that measure 245mm wide with a 45 profile.
For the most part the suspension dealt well with the rutted roads and communicated the road's characteristics through the chassis with little fuss. It absorbed everything thrown at and felt well beyond its standard non-dynamic, non-air suspension setup.
Beneath the front end is an independent five-link axle with an aluminium transverse link, subframe and tubular anti-roll bar. The rear is a similar setup with a five-link axle with rear tracking rod, aluminium transverse link, anti-roll bar and resiliently-mounted subframe.
An optional adaptive suspension package is available (with variable dampers) for $1700, but we found that it only made a difference in the vehicle's dynamic drive select mode, where it became markedly firmer. The tune in comfort is almost identical to the non-adaptive vehicle.
When you do head off the beaten path, the A4 Allroad's constant all-wheel drive system offers an offroad drive select program that varies torque distribution and stability control intervention.
With the offroad mode active, the stability control tapers back its intervention and allows the vehicle to lock its brakes more frequently on loose surfaces, which in turn allows it to stop quicker.
The mode also adjusts throttle response to get the most out of the quattro all-wheel drive system. Don't expect to do any rock hopping though, with a 173mm ground clearance.
In a bid to reduce fuel consumption, the TFSI model is able to completely disconnect the rear axle in some situations, such as cruising at constant speed and low throttle situations. It's then able to almost instantly activate the rear axle as it's required. The system can save up to around .3L/100km when it's active — which is a saving of around five per cent.
We came away from our extended drive completely impressed with the A4 Allroad. You don't need to go crazy with options to walk away with a well equipped car. A number of safety systems come standard, while the ride is very impressive for a vehicle in this segment.
The 2017 Audi A4 Allroad is the perfect family car for those not drawn in by SUVs and their promise of extra versatility. We look forward to testing this on local roads to see how well it stacks up.