Marina’s resident motoring writer takes a long, hard look at the Audi Allroad…
The Audi brand has been synonymous with four-wheel-drive performance saloons since the original Quattro first hit the rally stages in 1980. The road-going saloon, based on the Audi 80, was released at the end of that year featuring Audi’s Quattro permanent four-wheel-drive coupled to a turbocharged petrol. There had been four-wheel-drive vehicles before, but Audi were the pioneers of the performance saloon that has spawned the likes of the rally-bred Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evo.
Audi have always remained true to the Quattro formula, and while lesser models in the range may now sport just front-wheel-drive, the top end and high performance models all benefit from an evolution of that original Quattro concept.
I’ve been fortunate to spend a considerable amount of time driving the latest A4 saloon. It’s a highly accomplished car with impeccable road manners and a well-considered interior with very high levels of build quality – something that has always set Audi apart from other premium brands.
The A4 Allroad is very much carved from the same block as the Volvo V60 Cross Country I tested in issue 12 of Marina. A premium estate car with increased ride height and four-wheel-drive for light off-roading – an SUV for people who don’t want to drive an SUV. In the case of the Allroad, ride height has been increased by 34mm. Not a huge gain in ground clearance, and you certainly won’t be scaling mountains, but enough to ensure rough tracks are no longer met with the sickening sound of scraping metal that befits regular road cars. In the event that ground clearance does become an issue, the Allroad is equipped with metallic skid plates front and rear.
To offset the raised centre of gravity the wheel track has also been increased by 20mm over a standard A4, and although there is a proportional increase in body roll from the extra height the chassis remains composed and very well controlled, if a little softer than its standard height siblings. Press on, and you can tell the Allroad has lost a little of the sharpness enjoyed by a standard A4, but at normal driving speeds you’d be hard-pressed to spot the difference.
Our test car came with the excellent seven-speed automatic, which perfectly mated to the 190bhp 2.0-litre turbo diesel (a combination that will attract most UK sales) the lazy, low-down, nature of the diesel power delivery suiting the more relaxed handling and ride comfort offered in the Allroad. The auto-box features steering wheel mounted paddles and sport-mode, which sharpens up the throttle and holds gears for longer – I have to confess to spending most of the test in sport-mode because I felt it better suited the car, switching back to drive only around town where the sharper throttle becomes tiresome.
A look inside
As befits a high-level model from a premium brand certain things should come as standard, and the Allroad doesn’t disappoint – with adaptive suspension, xenon headlights, tri-zone climate control, keyless entry and starting, parking sensors and Audi’s excellent infotainment system with 7in display. Our Sport-spec car added to this with Alcantara leather trim, heated and electrically adjustable front sports seats, parking assist, upgraded LED headlights, acoustic glazing and sat nav – it also upgraded the infotainment to include a Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system.
As with the Volvo V60 Cross Country and the other similar offerings by Skoda and Seat, it’s easy to overlook the Allroad in favour of a traditional SUV like the excellent Q5. However, spec for spec, the Allroad is cheaper to buy and run than its taller cousin, rolls far less and handles far better and bridges the gap between an SUV and a traditional estate car in a way that offers key benefits to both customer bases. It’s actually quite hard to argue against it.
And if you assume an SUV will offer more luggage space you might be surprised – the Allroad can swallow 505 litres with the seats up and a cavernous 1,510 folded, against 550 and 1,550 provided by the Q5.
One competition the Q5 does win hands down is tug of war – the Allroad can tow a maximum 1,900kg, fine for most of us but a long way short of its taller cousin. The Q5 can pull up to 2,400kg, so if you’re looking to move a boat on a regular basis you might well be better off going down the SUV road rather than the Allroad.
Clearly not a budget offering, our review spec Sport with a few hefty options came in at £47,955, a not inconsiderable £4,335 more than the V60 Cross Country (which had a very similar spec and performance, if slightly smaller load carrying capability). In its defense, the Audi does manage to feel like a more premium vehicle and, although on paper the performance figures match up, on the road the Audi feels the stronger car.