By Kris Hansen
We’re Avant crazy here at AudiWorld, and always have been. This obsession began with the 5000s wagon (before they were called Avant) in the 1980s. Since that time, many Audi Avant models have come and gone, most recently the A4 Avant has (hopefully temporarily) left the Audi USA lineup. In its place is the A4 allroad, or simply allroad here in the US.
The last time Audi imported an allroad here it was the C5 A6 based allroad quattro (2001-2005), a slightly larger and more complex version of the car we’re looking at here in Colorado. The allroad quattro featured ruggedly handsome black plastic bumpers and fender cladding, with a sprinkling of aluminum “skid” plates. Standard equipment for the C5 allroad was the eager 2.7 liter twin turbo v6 engine, mated to either a 5 speed Tiptronic or 6 speed manual transmission, either with Torsen quattro drive. One feature that differentiated the allroad from other similar cars was the 4 level height adjustable suspension.
It’s worth noting at this juncture that the B8 A4 allroad does not have height adjustable air suspension, instead making do with steel coil springs. What this means is the ground clearance is not adjustable, but is fixed at 7.1 inches, a few inches shy of the C5 allroad quattro at level 3. The maximum clearance of the C5 allroad quattro at level 4 was 8.2 inches (For reference, the Audi Q5 SUV has 7.9 inches of ground clearance). Long time readers of AudiWorld, and indeed long time allroad quattro owners will feel free to chime in here, but we opine that the simplicity of a fixed height coil spring is preferred to a labor and cost intensive air suspension system long term.
While the higher ride height was instantly noticeable (especially after driving a regular A4), it in no way felt tippy or too tall. The standard tire size on the A4 is 245-45 17, while the allroad wears 245-45 18 as standard. That extra sidewall height gives the allroad a very plush ride on the highway, yet doesn’t make the car feel like its riding on balloon tires in the corners. Audi pushed the allroad’s wheels farther out as well, giving the a4 allroad over 1 inch wider track than the regular A4. Audi gave the allroad a slightly lower (numerically higher) final drive ratio.
The A4 allroad makes use of Audi’s excellent 2 liter 4 cylinder direct injected turbocharged engine. This sweet little mill churns out 254lb/ft at 1500rpm, and maintains that torque peak all the way out to 4200rpm. Meanwhile, it produces 211hp, which hangs on from 4300 to 6000 rpm. What that means to the driver is the allroad doesn’t mind being short-shifted and driven like a diesel, and it doesn’t mind being wound out either. The power delivery is very smooth because of the wide flat power curves though, this is a deceptively quick car. We do feel that it would be nice if Audi were to offer the 3.0TFSI (and 3.0TDI) engines as options down the road, for those who feel that the 2.0TFSI just isn’t enough, and we know those people are out there.
The allroad’s 8 speed Tiptronic transmission is wonderfully smooth and quick shifting. The spacing of the ratios is perfect as well. Even climbing through the high mountain passes of the Vail Colorado area, we were never frustrated by any large gaps in the ratios. Making full use of the Tiptronic control was the best way to keep the transmission in the correct gear to keep the torquey 2.0TFSI engine in its sweet spot was loads of fun.
The only thing we found to be noteworthy about the engine/transmission pairing was that in 8th gear on the interstate, at 70mph, the revs are well below the optimum for the 2.0TFSI engine. What that results in are frequent downshifts when the gas pedal is tickled at all. We were told by Audi product managers that the engine will compensate for altitude, and thanks to its turbocharger, will still produce most of it’s advertised power even at 12,000 feet. But we’re left wondering if the thinner air in Colorado had anything to do with the perceived lack of ultra low end grunt at cruising speeds, or if the car was truly happier in 7th than 8th much of the time. Either way, we never felt that the car was starving for air, and truth be told, the allroad had no problem passing cars going up the various pass roads we toured.
The allroad is wonderfully balanced, feeling very stable at highway speeds. Thanks to the long wheelbase and wide track (the track is roughly the same as the A5 coupe at 62.3 inches, over an inch wider than the standard A4), cornering is smooth and predictable. In the high mountain passes, the allroad was more than comfortable in the tight turns, even with the tall all season tires it never complained when pushed hard. Thanks to the new Crown Gear center differential, the allroad feels like it turns easier than previous B segment Avants. The new Electro-mechanical steering is incredibly good at pretending it’s a regular old hydraulic system. In fact, if we didn’t know it was electromechanical, we’d assume that it was an old fashioned hydraulic system. The allroad’s steering feel is as good, if not better, than any other Audi with similar suspension/tire tuning.
Our only gripe with the A4 based allroad is that it’s A4 based. Now, don’t go thinking that we don’t love the A4, because we do, but we know some owners will find that the back seat volume is less than adequate for family use. Cargo area is excellent, front seat room is also excellent. But if a front seat passenger is over 6 feet, the back seat will be compromised. We’ve compared the numbers from this allroad to the C5 allroad, and even though the difference on paper is only 2 inches, in real life it seems more significant than that. We’ll have to wait till we can try to stuff our test family into the allroad to see if everyone fits, stay tuned for that.
To bring the allroad into the current age of Audi, some changes were required inside. The MMI system received several updates, such as the streamlining of the menus, as well as the control layout on the center console. Audi also fitted the full B segment line, including the allroad, with Audi Connect. This allows the NAV system to overlay Google maps on the NAV screen. It also opens up the possibility for a wifi hotpot. We’ve loved this system, and are happy to see it trickle down to the full line. Audi also updated some of the look and feel of the interior, with subtle aluminum optic trim on window switches and vent bezels. The interior has a decidedly upmarket feel that, though while not completely lacking previously, thanks to some of the more recent designs on the larger platforms, the B8 did start to feel a little dated comparatively.
Suffice it to say that we like the a4 allroad tremendously. The standard look with the black plastic trim is aggressive and sporty, and with the optional full body paint, it’s elegant and sexy. The new touches inside bring the allroad up to the bleeding edge of Audi tech, and the driving dynamic is far from disappointing.
We’re certain that the allroad will fill a slot not currently occupied by any Audi model, and we fully expect to see them on the roads of North America very soon.