Battling ruggedness with refinement
Normally, we’d take the time to lament the failure of wagons to gain acceptance in the North America. But with competent entries such as the BMW 328d Sports Wagon, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen—and the promise of the Jaguar XF Sportbrake and Volvo V90—the wagon tradition lives on for those who really want one. And now we add another important player to the list, the new 2017 Audi A4 Allroad.
We really liked our long-term 2013 Audi Allroad, so we expected good things for its successor. The new model features the same 252-hp 2.0-liter TFSI engine from the revamped A4 sedan, gaining 32 hp from the last available Allroad. Although its ground clearance is down 0.6 inch to 6.5 inches, the new Allroad adds about 15 percent more cargo capacity with the back seats folded, slightly more rear-seat legroom, a new seven-speed dual-clutch, an improved infotainment display that sits right atop the dash, and a newly available full-color head-up display. The 2017 A4 Allroad is also the first Audi to receive Quattro with ultra technology, which will soon make its way to the Q5, A4 manual, and A5 manual. An electronic multiplate clutch and a decoupling rear-axle differential help the drivetrain attain fully variable torque distribution. Each time you start the car, the system is building a profile of your driving habits and choosing whether to drive with all four wheels or switch to front-wheel drive. Thus the new Allroad is more efficient, rated at 23/28 mpg (10.2/8.4 L/100km) city/highway, up from last year’s 21/28 mpg (11.2/8.4 L/100km).
To prove the Allroad’s chops on and off the road, Audi threw us onto the wet, snowy, and muddy roads of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which proved to be the perfect location for the drive. After a day driving in this setting, it was difficult to find much fault with the Allroad. It feels like a true wagon, not a crossover. What it lacks in terms of a commanding road presence and a high seating position, it makes up for in carlike handling and a very well-controlled ride.
Playing around with the five driving modes (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Individual, and Off-Road), you’ll notice each one feels distinct. You can immediately feel the steering tighten up in Dynamic mode for tackling twisty roads. Both Comfort and Off-Road modes proved successful at traveling off the beaten path. On rocky trails, you can hit 60 mph and not feel the bumps. On more challenging roads lined with deep mud pockets filled with water, we were just as comfortable at speeds around 30 mph (48.3 km/h). Braking felt sharp, adding to the Allroad’s refined nature in some of the least refined natural settings.
Standard features on the Allroad include an adaptive damping suspension, leather seats, three-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, a rearview camera, and LED taillights with dynamic turn signals. Audi says the most popular configuration for the Allroad is the Premium Plus trim with the Technology package, which will put you just over the $50,000 USD mark. For this coin, you get full LED headlights, heated front seats with driver memory, a Bang & Olufsen 3-D sound system with 19 speakers, and MMI Navigation plus with a touchpad for writing in navigation commands. We also drove a top-level Prestige model, which comes with standard noise-canceling glass; other cars would pass us by at high speeds with just the faintest whisper. Cars with lower trims were also exceptionally quiet, though. Regrettably, the Allroad still offers shiny wood trim inside the cabin. I also wished the leather seats were a bit plusher, particularly when it comes to top-trim vehicles.
So who will buy one? Audi says its Allroad buyer is highly educated, typically male, and seeks a work-life balance suited to pursuing outdoor activities. We imagine the Allroad is a lot more fun to drive than a standard crossover on more forbidding roads, and you can fit a helluva lot more in the cabin than a standard A4. Will the new Allroad be a huge sales hit? Unlikely, but perhaps it’s even more alluring that way.