Building on the success of the current generation and the freshly launched 2017 A4 sedan, Audi returns to the jacked-up-wagon crossover segment with the A4 Allroad Quattro. The Allroad is due to arrive in the Canadian market in late 2016, and expect similar pricing over the sedan as the current Allroad to the previous A4 sedan, so expect it to range from around $48K for the base Komfort model up to $55K and above for the Technik, then even higher with various packages like advanced driver assistance systems.
What is it?
The A4 retains the current formula, taking the new headlights, taillights and more chiselled body from the A4, while the grille is the same shape but with vertical louvres in the grille to convey its unique position in the A4 lineup. The exterior is finished it off with some ‘rugged’ plastic cladding on the wheel arches (which can also be painted body colour for a sleeker look) and fascia, with some scuff plates that are just a little too pretty to want to get scuffed up much.
For its actual off-pavement credentials, Audi raises the ride height by 23 mm (over the Avant wagon available only in Europe) and with the larger wheels yields an extra 34 mm of ground clearance. The drive mode select also offers an offroad mode, which locks the Quattro in all-wheel drive mode and adjusts the engine, transmission, steering, adaptive suspension and other relevant driving assistance systems (like ABS and traction control, etc.) for optimum performance on light off-road terrain.
Power to the Rugged Outdoorsy People
While Europe has a selection of two efficient and torquey diesel powertrains to choose from, each with two power ratings, North American Allroads will be powered exclusively by Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0TFSI. Audi’s ever-evolving 2.0L turbo four is equipped with the latest iteration fuel injection and variable valve timing, making a healthy 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. With maximum torque available from 1,600 rpm through to 4,500 and peak horsepower delivered between 5,000 and 6,000, the engine always provides more punch than I expected, leaping ahead whenever throttle was applied, and it keeps on giving as long as you hold the pedal down. The Allroad can hit 100 km/h in as little as 6.1 seconds.
The engine stop-start system is perhaps a little too eager, and at short stops it leads to a bit of an abrupt halt and lurch. Once underway however, Audi’s 2.0TFSI is a leader in smoothness and refinement among the bevy of small-displacement turbos from various luxury brands. As well they should be, they’ve been using it in their cars for over 20 years, and it shows.
Masters of Injection
What often doesn’t get much attention is Audi’s intensive attention to the fuel injection, but here Audi throws the book at their injection and fuel mixture. Listed the Allroad spec sheet, we have: “Sequential high-pressure direct and multipoint manifold injection with adaptive idle-charge control, overrun fuel cut-off, adaptive lambda control; mapped ignition with solid-state high-voltage via single-spark coils, cylinder-selective adaptive knock control; manifold pressure measurement and active boost-pressure control via an electric wastegate actuator.” The aim is to control every aspect of the air and fuel mixture, as well as the pressure so that every combustion event fully maximizes the yield for ideal power delivery and efficiency. In the 2017 A4 sedan, the 2.0T is rated at 9.8 L/100 km in the city, 7.7 on the highway and 8.8 combined and the previous generation was only a fraction higher than its sedan sibling, so expect more of the same.
All the Differentials
Audi also came to market with all-wheel-drive and dual-clutch transmissions long before many of its competitors, and they continue to push the technology to remain at the forefront. In the Allroad, Audi applies its S Tronic seven-speed dual clutch, and it remains a smooth yet quick-shifting unit, with the available Sport mode to sharpen things even more (shifting in as little as hundredths of a second). Audi’s drive mode selector offers half a dozen modes to cater to your driving style or conditions, from Efficiency to Offroad to Sport, as well as Individual, with a mix of different setting for each of the systems incorporated into the Drive Select mix, steering, suspension and engine among them.
On the Quattro side of the drivetrain, Audi has incorporated a multi-plate clutch at the transmission takeoff, which decouples the drive shaft to the rear differential, while another clutch disengages the rear differential whenever the car switches into front-drive mode, eliminating the drag losses of the rear differentials and gears. Control over the distribution of torque falls to the electronic brain of Quattro, which processes a wide variety of sensor data like, steering angle, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, engine torque and more, and can adjust torque distribution predictively (balancing toque evenly when accelerating in slippery conditions or in FWD mode when cruising on the highway) or reactively (i.e. when hitting a patch of ice or gravel unexpectedly). All 100 percent of the torque can be sent to the front or rear wheels as conditions dictate, and it is seamless in operation whether shifting power or decoupling the clutches when coasting in FWD mode.
Of course, the reason to go with the Allroad over its sedan sibling is that beautiful, bounteous cargo hold. Offering 505 L behind the rear seats, the trunk is finished in typical Audi finery, carpeted and clever, with a cargo cover that powers up and out of the way when you open the rear power liftgate. If necessary, the rear seats can be folded in several ways, with the seatbacks split 40/20/40, with a maximum 1,510 L available with all seats folded.
Seeing as Jeff Wilson already covered the interior advancements in his coverage of the A4 Sedan, I’ll only briefly reiterate the appreciation for Audi’s delectable interiors. The gauges are fully digital, able to display maps or audio info between the simulated gauges, with an alternate view to minimize the gauges and offer a widescreen view of the maps or other info. The MMI system can be controlled via buttons on the steering wheel or the large central knob on the console. Conveniently, the transmission shifter serves as a pedestal on which to rest your wrist, allowing easier control on the knob, or when scribbling in letter on the touch-sensitive pad, whose hand-writing recognition allows you to write info into the menus (as when searching for a name in your contacts or entering destination in the nav system).
And of course, the seats themselves are comfortable, covered in quality leather to match the superb finish throughout the interior, with USB ports for charging or connecting devices, a wireless charging pad and storage underneath the adjustable armrest. While spacious in front, the rear seats are a bit short on legroom for adults, and the middle position suffers from a prominent and intrusive driveline tunnel.
On the Road
The A4 Allroad is an eminently practical wagon, but it is not without a hint of spice. As mentioned, the engine leaps to attention as you pull away, and that’s without even engaging sport mode, and the fierce pull of the engine is couple with a steering and suspension that is equally read to match your driving mood and the quick-thinking Quattro all-wheel drive to balance the power. The body and suspension have been revised to save weight, increase rigidity and improve both comfort and handling, coming in at a very reasonable 1,580 kg (almost 200 kg lighter, if anyone’s counting), so everything is better, from acceleration to bump absorption.
The steering is crossover light, ideal for the segment, though the adaptive steering firms up response at higher speeds or in the more aggressive sport mode. On the highway it is stable well above our speed limits, and also handles cornering and side-to-side transitions with the agility of a car. It’s not quite sport sedan handling, but will serve almost any adventurous cornering its customers are likely to take on. The A4 Allroad returns with the same great qualities it has long possessed, updated to the very forefront of the small luxury class, modest practicality in a manageable and appealing package, with Audi’s masterful refinement, quality and technology. While the general public flocks to crossover SUVs, a small portion remain loyal to the more car-like dynamics mixed with the convenience of a wagon, and this is the solution Audi is offering for this customer. Now bring back the S4 Avant, Audi.