Long before it launched the likes of the Q7 and Q5, Audi’s most practical model was the allroad. Essentially an A4 with more bits, different suspension and an estate wagon configuration, the allroad first appeared in 1999, and remains as one of the few all-wheel-drive wagons on the market.
Subaru has dropped its Legacy wagon, so that leaves the new BMW 3-Series Touring, the Mercedes E-Class and possibly the Cadillac CTS, but North American buyers don’t seem too keen on AWD station wagons, as Jaguar found out to its chagrin with the X-Type a few years back. As far as AWD wagons go, there isn’t much out there.
Which makes sense. If you want the sure-footedness of all-wheel-drive, with extra carrying capacity, the logical choice would be an SUV. More elbow room and a more practical body configuration. Station wagons remain a niche market in Canada, and Audi’s allroad is not one of the company’s best sellers.
But that doesn’t make it any less an Audi. Everything that you like about this company is here in abundance: a smooth and robust engine, unimpeachable assembly quality, superior ergonomics, refined styling and full-time all-wheel-drive. The allroad has Audi’s ubiquitous quattro setup mated to an eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic. No CVT here, thank you very much.
And a word about the name. At first glance, “allroad” seems vague and ambivalent. But, if you think about it, this car’s drivetrain is designed to handle any road you can throw at it. Not off-road, but on-road. So this is not a bush beast, by any stretch, and prefers its travelling surfaces to be graded and preferably smooth.
Power is provided by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that develops 211 horsepower. With a 1,765-kilogram curb weight, the allroad isn’t going to set any speed records, but Audi is claiming a 0-to-100 km/h time of more than six seconds, with an electronically governed top end of 209 km/h. Highway cruising is this car’s forte; not being flung through tight turns or drifted through corners. If those are your priorities, Audi has other models you may be interested in.
No, with the allroad, you put the dog in the back, make sure the kids are buckled up, grab a cappuccino and head for the nearest park. If there’s a little gravel on the way in, no problem – but this is genteel transportation. And for those who care, the allroad has a 750-kilogram towing capacity.
Inside, there is 782 litres of luggage capacity. Comparatively, the BMW 3-Series offers 495 litres. But the 3-Series has more horsepower, although both of these models have identical torque outputs and both require premium gas. With a 61-litre fuel tank, at today’s fuel prices, that adds up.
Still, the allroad has a built-in smoothness and refinement that distinguishes it from the Bimmer. That doesn’t make it a better automobile, but I have always found Audis to be a more relaxed driving experience than comparable BMWs. Less, oh, Teutonic and definitely more comfortable.
A few things about the allroad that annoy me. One: push-button start. Unnecessary and pointless. A key will work just fine. Two: electronic parking brake. Again, what was wrong with the tried-and-true lever-type brake? This is an automatic and most folks probably don’t even use the parking brake anyway. Three: too much plastic trim around the wheel wells and on the front fascia. This last item wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but it looks tacky – like some backyard customizer decided to just glue them on.
Being an Audi, and with a starting price in the mid-$40,000 range, the allroad comes well-kitted. Standard equipment includes leather interior, heated front seats, cruise control, a massive power sunroof and satellite radio. If you want extras, such as adaptive cruise control or a navi system, you have to order them – these two are options, as are rear side airbags ($500) and a tire pressure monitor display ($350).Step up to either the Premium or Premium Plus models and you get automatic range adjustment headlights, a power tailgate, and a three-zone climate-control system. By the time the dust settles, you can drop 50 large on this one, no problem.
2013 Audi A4 allroad Premium
Base Price: $49,700; as tested, $50,450
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder
Horsepower/torque: 211 hp/258 lb-ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.4 city/7.4 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: BMW 3-Series Touring, Mercedes E-Class Wagon, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
Correction: An earlier version of this story showed a photo of an Audi A6, not an A4 model. The error has been corrected.