2013 Audi A4 Allroad Road Test Review

Simon Hill - CAP staff
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Station wagons are a tough sell in North America these days, as Audi discovered with its A4 Avant. Practical, stylish and sporty, the A4 Avant has always been a big seller in Europe, while here in North America it had a small but loyal following … with the emphasis on small.

Crossovers, on the other hand, are big sellers in North America, and as Subaru has proven with its Outback (which is based on the Legacy wagon), if you can build a wagon with crossover appeal you can find sales success. Enter then the 2013 Audi A4 Allroad, which replaces the discontinued A4 Avant even as it carries on the Avant's genetic heritage.

You can tell the Allroad is a crossover because like the Outback, it has a raised suspension (37 mm taller than the dearly departed A4 Avant), roof rails, skid plates, an aggressive new grille, and rugged plastic fender flares (these are more than merely cosmetic, as they allow the Allroad to ride on the Q5's wider track, and they cover the Allroad's beefy standard 245/45 R18 tires and wheels).

The good news is that while the Allroad may indeed be a crossover (honestly), it is definitely a lot more fun to drive than most crossovers out there. The independent multi-link suspension has a fixed calibration specific to the Allroad and as expected this means it drives like a slightly raised A4 sedan, but the extra height doesn't extract a heavy toll: the Allroad is well-balanced with accurate, nicely-weighted steering, and thanks to Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive system it offers reassuringly sure-footed grip on all sorts of road surfaces.

Under the hood the Allroad comes equipped with just one engine choice, a direct-injected 2.0-litre 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder that serves up a decent 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Keeping things simple, in all cases the engine is hooked up to an eight-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission (so no, there's no manual transmission option, and while paddle shifters are listed as an option on Premium and Premium Plus models, my test car relied on the gear lever for manual shifting duties).

The Quattro all-wheel drive system is standard - for the technically-inclined, this is a permanent all-wheel drive system with a self-locking centre differential that normally sends power to the front and rear axles in a 40/60 front/rear split, but can divert up to 70 percent of power to the front wheels or 85 percent to the rear as conditions require.

Performance-wise the drivetrain is good for a 0-100-km/h run of 6.7 seconds, and in everyday around-town driving it has all the power you might reasonably need. On the highway it cruises along at low revs, providing a sublimely smooth, quiet, easy-going ride, together with reasonably good fuel economy: Rated city/hwy consumption is 10.4 / 7.4 L/100km, and in mostly city driving I got close to the rated number with a measured 11.2 L/100 km.

Inside, the Allroad will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has sat in an A4 sedan lately, because aside from the extended cargo area behind the rear seats it essentially is an A4 sedan. This is good news if, like me, you appreciate Audi's restrained sense of style and high levels of quality. The design strikes a nice balance between luxury and sport, with a combination of subtle chrome detailing, good-looking aluminum trim, and lots of tech features. Soft-surface materials are used wherever it counts, such as on the dash and door uppers, while the door lowers and lower dash are clad in more rugged, hard plastics. Standard across the range is a panoramic glass sunroof that keeps things bright and spacious-feeling, though my test car exhibited a bit of creaking from the roof area when driving on uneven road surfaces.

As expected for a crossover that's based on a compact wagon, interior room isn't quite what you might get in a taller SUV-inspired crossover, but I found the front seats superbly comfortable and plenty roomy for my 5-foot-11 frame, while the back seat fit my six-foot teenage son with no complaints (though admittedly without much room to spare, either). There's a trio of seatbelts in the back, but three across would certainly be tight. The cargo area is relatively commodious at 781 litres when the rear seats are up and 1,430 litres with the rear seats folded, and 40/60 split-folding seatbacks allow a variety of cargo/passenger configurations.

Overall, during my week of driving the Allroad I found it to be a capable, stylish, easy-to-live-with driving companion, and it also notched up one of the highest WAF ("wife acceptance factor") scores of any car I've tested recently - quite simply, my better half loved the Allroad. My only quibbles are that I sometimes found the controls a little overly complicated (for instance, to adjust the fan speed you first push the "fan" switch, and then rotate a separate dial that also serves for temperature control), and I didn't like the way the power tailgate fought me if I tried to manually override it. As for serious complaints I have but one, and that's the lack of a manual transmission option. I'm apparently in a shrinking minority on this, however, and it's unlikely to be an issue for most of the Allroad's target market.

Price-wise the Allroad starts at $47,095 (including $1,995 in destination fees) for the base model, which gets you a decent array of standard equipment including heated leather seating with power operated driver's seat, AM/FM/CD audio with satellite radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity, central locking, alarm, cruise control, fog lights, headlight washers and the previously-mentioned panoramic sunroof. Premium trim (as tested) bumps the price to $51,695 and adds a colour information display (instead of monochrome), auto-dimming mirrors, power-operated passenger seat, power tailgate, three-zone climate control (instead of single-zone), LED daytime running lights, bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights and a few other items. Premium Plus starts at $53,895 and adds things like advanced key with pushbutton start, Audi side assist and adaptive headlights. Additional cost options include a navigation system, Bang & Olufsen audio, paddle shifters, drive select, parking assist with backup camera, and adaptive cruise control.

With this range of pricing and options, the Allroad is competitive with vehicles including the new 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Touring (starting at $49,945) and the Volvo XC70 (starting at $44,115). Perhaps its fiercest competition, however, may come from across the showroom in the form of the Audi Q5, which starts at $41,895 (all prices destination in). The only question is, do you prefer your crossover to be closer in character to an SUV or a station wagon?

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Crossover, Wagon, Audi, 2013, A4 Allroad, $50,000 - $74,999,

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