The Next Best Thing to an A4 Avant
It’s a good time to be a wagon fan. The long-roof body style is in the midst of an unexpected resurgence, and even if some cars have to gain a few inches of wheel gap to appeal to Americans’ insatiable crossover appetite, our wagon choices are pretty good these days. For one example, just look at the 2017 Audi A4 Allroad.
Although it’s not quite as sexy as the A4 Avant that Europeans get, the Allroad is still a handsome vehicle. The lifted suspension doesn’t offer the same ground clearance as a traditional SUV or crossover, but the front end still easily clears parking blocks and other obstacles common in the urban jungle. The wide-mouthed grille with vertical slats wasn’t instantly attractive to me, but the look grows on you. The same goes for the plastic fender guards, which are mostly for show but don’t obstruct the wagon’s lines too badly.
Like all A4 Allroad models, our tester came equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive system. That engine is virtually identical to the one in the A4 sedan, making the same 252 hp and 272 lb-ft of torque. That amount of power still feels adequate in the heavier Allroad, which weighs roughly 150 pounds (68 kg) more than an all-wheel-drive A4 sedan. Despite the added weight, it’s nearly as quick; it takes 5.7 seconds to hit 60 mph and 14.3 seconds to complete the quarter mile. (Both results are 0.3 second slower than an A4 Prestige.) The Allroad is a good deal quicker than the similarly crossover-ized but older Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD, which did 0–60 in 6.8 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds.
From behind the wheel, the Allroad feels peppy and has good power down low for passing. The new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission makes the most of the turbo-four’s powerband, banging out smooth, fast shifts and keeping the engine in its sweet spot. Getting the jump on the car in the lane next to you is easy, thanks to the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and low-end torque, which peaks between 1,600 and 4,500 rpm.
Despite its raised suspension, the Allroad still handles well. Body movement is controlled when taking turns, and the car feels relatively neutral without the understeering characteristics of older front-drive-based Audis. The Allroad completed our figure-eight test in 26.8 seconds at an average of 0.67 g. Curiously, that just about matches the performance of our long-term 2013 Allroad despite the new model making more power and getting the new Quattro Ultra AWD system. Still, that’s quicker than the 27.1-second result of the 2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 AWD. It’s even up there with our long-term 2014 BMW 328d xDrive wagon (26.7 seconds at 0.65 g), which had a lower ride height but made less power from its turbodiesel I-4 engine.
Audi’s speed-sensitive electromechanical power steering is one of the better systems I’ve sampled. It’s light but communicative in Normal mode. Switching to Dynamic mode tightens up the steering, which gives the wheel a natural-feeling weight to it. You also get improved throttle response and higher shift points, along with a stiffer ride from the adaptive dampers. There’s nothing crossoverlike about the Allroad when driving in this mode. When the pavement ends, though, switching to Offroad mode will make the suspension more compliant.
But whether you’re on- or off-road, the A4 Allroad’s cabin is the place to be. The cockpit inherits its luxurious feel and conservative good looks from the A4 sedan, and it features the same freestanding screen and long vent-heavy dash. I like how the passenger-side dash has a wide faux vent, which connects the functional HVAC vents in a continuous string from the gauge cluster to the passenger door, but I wouldn’t want to clean it after years of accumulating dust. Our car, being a Prestige model, came with Audi’s virtual cockpit screen, and the resolution is high enough that you forget there are no physical dials until the screen reconfigures to conveniently show details of your route or display some other bit of information. The color head-up display is also clear and puts useful data points more directly in your line of sight.
The MMI infotainment system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the smartphone integration schemes work just as well as in other cars. However, seeing the app icons that are clearly meant to be pushed to access makes me wish for a touchscreen instead of the touchpad dial interface, which otherwise works well. I also wish automakers would bring back physical radio controls; on most cars, functions for changing stations or choosing from presets are usually hidden in the infotainment system’s menus, as is the case in the Audi. Speaking of buttons, the cupholders are placed directly beneath the center stack, which juts out over the console. Larger drinks will barely fit in these cupholders, but when they do, you’ll inevitably hit the buttons above when trying to remove your drink. Skip the Big Gulp, though, and you’ll be fine.
Ergonomics for the rest of the car are good. Back-seat passengers have plenty of legroom and headroom. The 40/20/40 split folding rear seats go down easily with one hand, expanding the cargo area to 58.5 cubic feet. The power liftgate is fast, and when it opens, the cargo hider lifts up and out of the way.
As tested, our A4 Allroad Prestige rang up at $55,575 USD. That’s a sizeable chunk of change, but the Allroad seems like a lot of car for the money. Just as it always has, the wagon body style offers the driving characteristics of a car but with an extra helping of utility. The Allroad repackages that philosophy for American tastes, but that wagon DNA is still intact. To the wagon purists pining for the A4 Avant, here’s your next best thing. To the would-be crossover shoppers just now discovering the joys the wagon offers, welcome to the resistance.
|2017 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro (Prestige)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$55,575|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINE||2.0L/252-hp/273-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSION||7-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,818 lb (53/47%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||187.0 x 72.5 x 58.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.7 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||14.3 sec @ 96.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||113 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.82 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.8 sec @ 0.67 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||20.3/31.0/24.0 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/28/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147/120 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.78 lb/mile|