Road Test: Audi allroad
As people who love Audi’s Avant models, and have seen their ranks thinned considerably in recent years (remember when you could get an A4 or A6 Avant in the USA?) we were beyond excited when Audi brought the A4 Avant back in the form of the B8 allroad. Yes, it’s true that fans of the original C5 A6 based allroad (2000 – 2005) weren’t in love with the A4 version (the term faux-road was coined) mostly because of the lack of height adjustable suspension, smaller overall dimensions, and the comparably smaller engine and power output. But we weren’t deterred, because it was the only way to get a non-suv style Audi ‘wagon’ with quattro (i.e.: not A3). We were lucky enough to spend half a year with a B8 allroad, and we LOVED every second of it.
When we saw the first images of the B9 A4 allroad, we knew Audi was doing it right. We loved the new lines from the get go. To our eyes, it’s an excellent evolution of the A4 design, with tighter lines, but very familiar styling. Then we started looking at the other specs and features. 252hp from a 2 liter 4 cylinder? Hell yeah. 7 speed dual clutch? Ok! Bleeding edge infotainment technology? Sign us up.
This second generation of the A4 allroad continues along sans air suspension (which is fine with us, because air suspension is nothing but trouble the day after your warranty expires), but instead rides at a slightly elevated height when compared to the non-allroad A4, but not as high as the Q5. The ride height is not noticeable on the road, and there is none of the SUV feeling of tipsiness. An added benefit of the A4 allroad is the slightly wider track than the A4 sedan, made possible by the fender add-ons. In fact, the A4 allroad has the same track as the A5. Wider is better, and it all equals excellent road feel and handling.
We really liked the B9 A4 sedan we tested last fall, and the B9 allroad was all the more likable for us, because Avant. The longer roofline offers better headroom, the long panoramic sunroof lets in loads of sunlight, the long rear windows offer better outside visibility, and obviously it has a massively more usable cargo area. We love the styling of the Avant as well. Not that there is anything lacking in the sedan, it’s just a personal preference thing for us – we like the long roof.
Styling aside, the B9 allroad is a really great car. Our test car refreshingly did not have a black interior, and the light color really accentuated the beautiful design elements of the dash and door panels. The seats were comfortable, plenty of room for anyone in the front seat, and with compromise, the rear seats can be useful for normal sized adults. As an added benefit, it is less claustrophobia inducing than the sedan version.
As with everything Audi does, every re-release of a new model comes with newer and fancier way of doing things. We’ve already discussed and come to grips with the all new selector lever for the 7 speed dual clutch transmission and its need to relearn how to operate an automatic transmission (the pattern is R N D S with P being a button on the face of the lever’s handle) and honestly once you get used to it, it is no big deal.
The all new dash layout is gorgeous, and while we understand why a fixed MMI screen was attached to the front of the dash instead of a folding screen, we’re not in love with it. We wish at the very least it was detachable, especially on cars with the Technology package and the insanely cool fully digital Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster. Everything about the new MMI system is brilliant, we should point out. The controls are almost 100% replicated on the steering wheel controls (minus the touch pad), and with the Technology package you only have to glance down briefly for most functions, including nav.
The entirety of the interior of the B9 is a major improvement over the B8. The dash is much sleeker, much more modern looking. All of the various bits of lighting throughout the cabin are fun to play with on models with that option. The rear seat temperature control is nice to see in the A4. We really liked the wood trim a lot too.
On the road the B9 allroad is reminiscent of the previous generation allroad, but better. The extra power, fast shifting transmission, and the all new platform result in an all-around improved driving experience. When compared to the previous generation cars, the B9 feels oddly like it has a much larger turbocharger than it does, as there is a very satisfying surge of power when it comes on song, much more so than previously.
Audi tuned the allroad suspension less for sporty driving and more for comfort, that is quite apparent, but it doesn’t mean that the car isn’t fun to drive. It turns in well, and has great grip in hard cornering, with well controlled body roll. It seems to like being driven in a sporty way, but doesn’t punish you when you just want a comfortable drive. One thing we noticed, when in Comfort mode, the ride was a tad bouncy, so we kept it in Dynamic mode most of the time.
We feel the B9 allroad is a great update on what was already a tremendously good car.