As we lose more and more wagons (and manual transmissions, for that matter) with every generation of cars launched in North America, we at Autos.ca must do everything in our power to cherish each and every long-roof we can lay our hands on. Audi has a legacy of wagons, Avant in Audi-speak that is rivaled by few, though the truly delectable hot-rod wagons were available only in Europe: the RS2 Avant, RS4 Avant and RS6 Avant. On our shores we still had the delectable Avant versions for the A4 and A6 and their hotter S4 and S6 variants. In 1999, Audi dropped some body cladding onto the wheel wells and bumpers, beefed up the chassis and jacked up the ride height on the A6 to give us one of the earlier crossovers, the A6 Allroad Quattro.
Despite its niche status, it’s a car we automotive scribes will push for with our dying breath ...
This time around, the Allroad Quattro has been attached to the A4 platform, though with far less differentiation from the basic A4 Avant on which it is based. Then again, we have been deprived of the current generation A4 Avant (and S4 Avant, and A6 and S6 and RS6 Avant…), so this Allroad serves as the only feasible A4 or Audi wagon we can lay our hands on. And lay our hands on it we did, by special request to Audi Canada, who were gracious enough to grant our request.
Despite its niche status, it’s a car we automotive scribes will push for with our dying breath serving the twin purposes of practicality and vehicle dynamics with equal aplomb in one often fetching package. The A4 has stately lines, and the wagon variant offers an equally elegant profile, though the ‘rugged’ plastic body cladding is textbook ‘garnish’ that serves little more than to create a distinct two-tone appearance. These bumpers and ‘skid plates’ clearly were not meant to absorb the punishment of a heavy off-roading stint, but perhaps they could shake off a few stone chips painted bumpers would not. Despite the outdoorsy apparel down low, the top is all business class, with some chrome trim to highlight the long window opening and matte metallic roof rails to demonstrate its classy practicality.
Step inside and you will discover why Audi is considered a frontrunner in interior design, and this despite the A4 Allroad riding on a platform that is in its twilight, due to be replaced by the ‘B9’ (ninth generation) 2017 A4 and its various versions. From the thick leather steering wheel and wide-handled shifter you grip in your hands to the carefully sculpted and supportive seat, and all the high quality plastics, metal and carpeting you will find throughout the cabin make the Allroad an inviting environment. Back seat space, on the other hand, is in short supply; decent enough for kids, but legroom for adults is cramped, and the middle seat is truly inhospitable between the seatback and driveline tunnel completely obliterating legroom. At least it’s not as comically useless as the back seat of the Volvo V60 Cross Country.
The benefit of that cramped second row can be found behind the seats, where a spacious 782 L of square, carpeted cargo capacity await your groceries and your junk, its closest competitors manage a comparable 793 L (Volvo V60 Cross Country) and another listed at 495 but appearing equally capacious (BMW 328i Touring). Fold the rear seats down and the Allroad increases to 1,430 L, while the BMW leaps to 1,500 and the Volvo to 1,240, and neither of them offer as much rear legroom as the Audi. However, note that a small crossover like the Lexus NX200t manages 500/1,545 L of cargo space, with superior front and rear legroom and ease of entry…
That advantage would have to be weighed against the superior driving dynamics of the A4 Allroad. While I got in wishing for the grace, power and poise of the S4 sedan, those expectations may have been slightly unfair. Powered as it is by the base A4’s 2.0T, the A4 Allroad musters 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, plenty enough for driving the 1,765 kg of mass smartly and smoothly, but nothing to stir the soul or elicit squeals of delight from my kids in the back seat.
The eight-speed automatic transmission similarly won’t earn gushing praise thanks to its mild-mannered nature, shifting gears innocuously and smoothly, and none too quickly compared to Audi’s latest seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic transmissions. Audi is wise to skip the paddle shifters that would serve nothing but to add needless complexity, as the transmission’s available Sport mode sharpen response enough to make manual shifting irrelevant, though you can still shift manually via the gear lever if you so desire.
While the latest small crossovers are beginning to eclipse the its car-like efficiency, most with similar space and capability would find it hard to match the A4 Allroad’s 11.2 L/100 km rating in the city, 8.4 on the highway and 9.9 combined. Audi’s Q5 2.0T is slightly behind at 12/8.5/10.4 without managing much better cargo capacity, though it does offer a reasonably competent 2,000 kg towing capacity to the Allroad’s 750.
Managing the ride is a five-link front suspension with upper and lower wishbones, and rear independent trapezoidal links, with mildly raised ride height (37 mm – less than 1.5 inches) for superior ground clearance. While the added suspension height shouldn’t give up much on the handling front, it doesn’t help, so the Allroad’s mission is comfort first, second and third. Adding a touch of suspension travel means the Audi’s normally firm yet compliant ride is softened a touch for a supremely smooth and controlled ride, promising to handle even rutted cottage roads at speed.
Tackle corners slowly and you will detect some body roll and sway, but attack a corner with a bit more gusto and the Allroad seems to shake off the whims of physics and hold a steady line. It doesn’t hunker down and beg for more like the S4 or S3, but it’s more than sporting enough for an average family on the go. In one instance, trying to make a quick U-turn I overestimated the traction and got to experience the Allroad’s subtle composure and balance as it easily responded to a light countersteer, with stability control no doubt assisting and returning the vehicle to its intended direction. A big, empty parking lot full of snow would have been a nice testing opportunity, but such was not to be thanks to our mild December.
Another area where the Allroad bleeds over solidly into SUV territory is the steering, with even the sportiest Dynamic setting yielding light, loose yet predictable steering; Normal and Comfort are even slower and lighter. Parking and low-speed maneuvers are a cinch, but it doesn’t ever seem to firm up enough at speed for that classic Germanic sense of control and security.
The Allroad starts at $47,300 and our Progressiv tester tacked a $1500 Sport Package and paint charge onto its $51,300 base price, coming to almost $56K with Freight & PDI accounted for. The base Komfort model features most of the modern amenities you expect in a luxury car at $50K, like alloy wheels (18 inches), bi-xenon headlights, fog lights, panoramic sunroof, heated power seats in front, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, leather seats and steering wheel, power mirrors and windows (one-touch up/down for all), power tailgate, trip computer, Bluetooth and a fine sound system, but this generation still does not have the USB ports for charging and device connection.
The Progressiv trim adds a unique design for the 18-inch alloys, nav system, three-zone climate control, back-up camera with rear parking sensors, voice recognition, proximity key with push-button start, two memory positions for the driver’s seat and exterior mirrors, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass and auto-dimming/power-folding exterior mirrors. The Sport Package we mentioned adds a few perks we really like: Sport Seats with Driver/Passenger Lumbar Support, 3-spoke multifunction flat-bottomed steering wheel and 19-inch wheels with 245/40 R19 performance tires (the black headliner we don’t really care about…). Unfortunately, the performance tires were swapped out for seasonally appropriate Michelin X-Ice winter tires that would have been useful if winter would ever start…
Still, better safe than sorry, and we were ready and hoping for some snow to put Audi’s unflappable Quattro and these snowshoes to the test, but the worst we saw was single-digit temps and some rain (and fog, as you can see in the pictures).
Finally, the Technik is another couple thousand and adds integrated garage door opener, blind-spot monitoring, heated rear seats, adaptive headlights with cornering function and an upgraded Bang & Olufsen stereo for $53,700. It’s nowhere near the level of technology is packing into even the top-trim A3 these days because it is an aging platform, but when experienced from behind the wheel, nothing truly feels missing, except perhaps a heated steering wheel and cooled seats. I do love me some cooled seats, and Jacob reminds me at every opportunity how important a heated steering wheel is for winter survival.
Overall, the Allroad acquits itself well even considering the age of its platform and the high price of entry. The abundance of crossovers in very size imaginable mean there are certainly greater values to be had, and likely with greater reliability than this platform, but buying a premium wagon is not usually a value-first proposition. The A4 Allroad continues to deliver subtle good looks with some crossover flair, an impeccable interior and Audi’s typically excellent ergonomics, driving dynamics on par with most sedans short of the sporting set and cargo and passenger practicality that splits the difference between the stodgy sedan and the frumpy crossover. The wagon isn’t ever likely to make a comeback, and I confess that I’d rather Audi sent us the nutso RSQ3 crossover than another version of the Allroad (or an S4 Avant, of course…), but the A4 Allroad still stands as an ideal compact premium wagon that would better serve than many a compact crossover.
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2015 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro|
|Price as Tested||$55,985|
$2,390 (Sport Package: – $,1500; Monsoon grey metallic – $890)