Crossovers are very much the thing at the moment and the A4 Allroad certainly stands out from the crowd.
Base price: $88,900.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four, 130kW/380Nm, 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, full-time four-wheel drive, Combined economy 6.0 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.1 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4721mm long, 1495mm high, luggage capacity 490/1430 litres, fuel tank 61 litres, 18-inch wheels on 245/45 tyres.
We like: Fantastic engine, chassis comfort, sheer quality.
We don’t like: Styling detail might be too overt for some, S tronic gearbox awkward in town.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Audi was an early adopter of the crossover concept: taking a normal wagon, raising the ride height and adding some off-road-style body addenda. It launched an Allroad version of the A6 back in 1999.
However, it’s taken a long time for the German maker to introduce an Allroad version of the popular A4. It did so in 2008, although only a handful of that model made it to New Zealand – and not until last year.
But finally, the very latest A4 Allroad has joined the range proper in New Zealand.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
It might be primarily about style, but in fact the most interesting thing about the A4 Allroad is the fact that it finally brings together a diesel four-cylinder engine with the S tronic dual-clutch gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive. That’s a combination not previously offered in the rest of the A4 range… although it is now.
The engine is a beauty: previously seen in the Q3, the 2.0-litre turbo diesel makes 130kW/380Nm in this state of tune and is bursting with energy. It’s torque down low and surprisingly zesty up high – one to convert the diesel doubters for sure.
The S tronic does what Audi/Volkswagen’s dual-clutch gearboxes do best: shift gears seamlessly at speed, respond to the throttle very quickly and help no end with the fuel economy. The A4 Allroad achieves 6.0 litres per 100km, which is no mean feat for a decent-sized family wagon with rough-road capability.
Where S tronic falls down is in city driving: the automated clutches can be indecisive in part-throttle situations and there’s a lot of slip if you’re parking or trying to reverse on a hill. You get used to it – but it’s simply not as smooth and predictable as a conventional automatic in city driving.
The A4 Allroad has conventional steel-sprung suspension. Although it’s raised up 38mm, it’s not even strictly an off-road setting: it’s a specification Audi offers for the regular A4 in some markets that have incredibly bad roads.
That said, 38mm is a generous increase and there’s certainly enough ground clearance for the kind of light-duty off-road work that cars like this might be asked to undertake. Or not, depending on which suburb they live in.
On-road, the extra compliance of the high suspension is a plus for the A4. Too often, Audi undermines the appeal of its family cars with rock-hard chassis settings: this one is a pleasure to ride in and certainly not too soft for quick driving on the blacktop.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
There are no dramatic changes to the A4’s cabin for the Allroad version, save some special upholstery. Audi has always led its class in interior fit/finish and quality and this car is no different. You could argue that it’s a bit generic – there’s little inside that marks this car as being a different Audi from any other – but you cannot argue with the immense sense of wellbeing you experience from being inside such a beautifully finished cabin environment.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
Crossovers are very much the thing at the moment and the A4 Allroad certainly stands out from the crowd: there’s a high level of bling on the exterior which may or may not appeal, but the fact that it could easily be mistaken for the larger, much more expensive A6 Allroad is probably in its favour.
The powertrain is excellent, the quality impressive.
Air conditioning: Dual climate
Audio: CD, iPod compatible
Auto-dipping mirror in reverse: Y
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Head-up display: No
Keyless entry/start: No
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: No
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: YesTrip computer