Audi A4 Allroad review
A tougher, offroad ready A4 Avant, the Audi A4 Allroad it a step down from a full-blown SUV
For those not too fussed about on-limit handling, the softer, more refined Allroad is a more comfortable and versatile car for all seasons. The electric all-wheel drive system is clever, too.
The A4 Allroad is not cheap, however. The Audi Q5 is only slightly more expensive, if buyers want all-weather ability and SUV styling. In some ways, then, this is one of the best A4 family variants around, but you have to pay a price for it.
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Audi’s Allroad sub-brand is now a firmly established part of its range, even if the cars produced under it can be considered a bit niche. Since Allroad’s conception in 2000 we’d had three generations of A6 Allroad and just one A4 Allroad – until this second-generation model came on the scene.
The concept seems fairly straightforward: to bridge the gap between a conventional estate and a full-size SUV, simply take the former, jack up the suspension, add some rugged body cladding and a four-wheel drive system. The new A4 Allroad sticks rigidly to that recipe, although the permanent four-wheel drive been replaced by an innovative new part-time system that, in theory, acts in the same way as a full-time setup but is more efficient.
As before, the Audi A4 Allroad is available exclusively as an estate, unlike Volvo’s V60 Cross Country that can also be had as the S60 saloon. The range is more limited than that of the standard Avant, too, with just two trim levels available (SE and Sport) and four engine variants.
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From launch, buyers in the UK will have the choice of the familiar 2.0 TDI diesel with either 148bhp or 187bhp, a 2.0 TFSI petrol with 249bhp and the flagship 3.0 TDI diesel with 268bhp. Base models can be had with a six-speed manual gearbox, while most engines are saddled with a seven or eight-speed S Tronic automatic.
While the 2.0 TDI is expected to be the biggest seller, the sole petrol variant is the most significant in the launch line-up as it’s the first to come with a brand new ‘quattro with ultra’ part-time four-wheel drive system. In the past, all Allroads came with a capable (but thirsty) permanent set-up, but now Audi has come up with a system that uses a decoupling clutch at the rear to keep it front-wheel drive until it predicts that more grip is required. Audi promises that the rest of the range will come fitted with the quattro with ultra system at a later date.
Engines, performance and drive
The Audi A4 Allroad drives in the way you might expect. The additional 23mm of suspension travel, plus the extra weight of the four-wheel drive system, has translated into a car with considerably softer edges than the regular A4.
Yet that’s no bad thing. The regular A4 Avant is an accomplished car, but it’s not the last word in driving fun or involvement like a BMW 3 Series. Similarly, the Avant’s ride ranges from smooth enough to fairly firm depending on whether you opt for comfort or sport suspension. With the Allroad, there is no sport suspension option and Audi has introduced an extra level of comfort to the standard package.
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With the optional adaptive dampers the ride is better still, although selecting Comfort mode almost makes it almost too soft with a floaty feeling at speed. The auto setting is best, and it makes the A4 Allroad one of the best riding compact estates you can buy.
There is a trade off, however, as body control is looser than in the regular estate. It doesn’t change direction as quickly and won’t really entertain on a twisty road. There’s little else with off-road ability that drives better, however. The part-time four-wheel drive system is feels exactly the same as the permanent setup – on the road at least.
The Allroad gets a slimmed-down engine range compared to the regular A4. The range kicks off with the familiar 2.0 TDI diesel, which you’ll find in a variety of VW Group models. Its an excellent engine, with decent refinement, all the performance most people will need day-to-day and real-world efficiency no full-size SUV can match.
Part of the reason why it doesn’t feel underpowered is that the A4 is up to 120kg lighter than the previous model. The entry-level 148bhp version is available with a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch automatic. For those not asking much in terms of pulling power it’ll be adequate, but we’d opt for the 187bhp version which feels punchier and doesn’t harm efficiency too much. That will also help it with big loads and towing.
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The flagship diesel is the excellent 3.0-litre V6 TDI with 268bhp. It’s a superb engine in the standard A4, and it is here: Silky smooth, very fast thanks to 600Nm of torque and not as thirsty as you might expect. It also gets the impressive eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. If you want your A4 Allroad to feel like a car from the class above, go for this, but it does add a significant premium to an already quite expensive car.
The sole petrol option is a 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder with 248bhp. On paper it’s quick, with 0-62mph arriving in 6.1 seconds, but you have to work it harder than you might expect and it doesn’t feel much faster than the 2.0-litre diesel. It also doesn’t sound very inspiring; it’s very refined at low engine speeds but sounds gruff and strained the more you rev it.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
The A4’s lightweight new platform means a considerable decrease in weight and, therefore, better efficiency. Unfortunately, the only Allroad currently available with the frugal new ‘quattro with ultra’ four-wheel drive system is the 2.0-litre turbo petrol – our least favourite engine. The other variants will receive it at the end of 2016.
Still, the 2.0 TDI with permanent four-wheel drive is pretty efficient, albeit less so than a front-wheel drive A4. The 187bhp 2.0 TDI with the dual-clutch autobox claims 57.6mpg combined. That’s over 10mpg down on the equivalent front-wheel drive A4 Avant, so you’ll have to carefully consider if you need the Allroad’s off-road capability. CO2 emissions also increase from 106g/km to 129g/km, which compares well with a 4WD Volvo V60 D4 Cross Country emitting 149g/km.
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The 3.0 TDI suffers from the same fate in Allroad spec, with emissions increasing and economy falling. Both are at least a fair bit more efficient than the previous A4 Allroad. The 2.0-litre turbo petrol, with the fancy part-time four-wheel drive system, manages up to 44.1mpg and emits as low as 146g/km of CO2. The old 221bhp petrol Allroad managed just 39.8mpg and emitted 164g/km.
Interior, design and technology
Audi has taken the understated A4 Avant and subtly tweaked it to give those in the know a hint of its rugged capability. It’s still very conservative, so if you’re looking for outright style an SUV will suit you better.
Still, the Allroad’s plastic lower body cladding and raised ride height gives it an air of toughness. Audi will let you paint the body add-ons in body colour, but we think the black plastic items suit the car better and help distinguish it from the regular Avant. The metallic front and rear skidplates make it look premium, too. The A4 Allroads we drove stood out nicely in the Alpine White and Gotland Green paint colours on the launch.
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Inside the Audi A4 Allroad it’s all very familiar. Too familiar, you could say, as there’s not even any badging to differentiate the car from the regular A4 Avant. Some altered trim or unique upholstery would make it feel more special. Still, it’s easily the best compact executive cabin design around, with exceptional build quality and expensive-looking displays. The detailing is excellent, too, with neat ambient lighting and even minor items feel expensive.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The 12.3inch Virtual Cockpit instrument display is a £450 option, and one that’s well worth having as it really makes the A4 look and feel special. It lets you display sat-nav, media and driver assist functions in the centre of the instrument cluster with the wheel-mounted buttons, and adjust the size of the speedo and rev counter to suit. It’s so good in fact, that it makes the central 8.3-inch MMI screen largely redundant at times.
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That MMI screen is better than it’s ever been, however. It’s a touchscreen for the first time, and is very intuitive to use whether you prod at the screen or use the rotary controller on the centre console. It responds to functions like a smartphone would, so you can pinch to zoom or swipe to quickly move across the map. You can find and pinpoint locations on the map like on Google Maps, too.
The A4 is also compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Both are excellent systems that essentially mirror your smartphone’s functions and menus on the 8.3-inch display. Buyers can also opt for LTE mobile connectivity, which turns the car into a wi-fi hotspot.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Audi may have reduced the weight of the latest A4 Allroad thanks to the new MLB Evo platform but it has also improved space inside without making the car much bigger on the outside. For example, it’s the same height as the old model but the thinner seats and lower mounting means headroom is improved.
The additional wheelbase length of 23mm doesn’t sound like much but it means adults can really get comfortable in the back, too. The A4 is a bit taller and fractionally longer due to the rugged bumpers, but the only effect is an improved view out.
The new A4 Allroad is 25mm longer and 16mm wider than the old one, so leg and shoulder room are increased for all. The Allroad is 34mm taller than the Avant on which its based, although that’s divided up between the suspension and the new roof rails so there’s no space benefit.
The A4 Allroad is nearly 100mm longer than a Volvo V60 Cross Country, with a larger wheelbase, but its 20mm narrower and 50mm less tall. This size advantage is reflected in significantly better legroom than its rival.
Legroom, headroom and passenger space
The A4 Allroad is unchanged from the regular A4 Avant, which means its one of the most spacious compact exec cars around. That’s partly thanks to it being bigger than both the BMW 3 Series Touring and Mercedes C-Class estate.
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There’s plenty of room in the front thanks to the seats which are mounted lower than before, while in the back there’s plenty of head and leg space for two adults or three children. A large transmission tunnel limits space in the middle seat for adults, however.
For the driver there’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and wheel, so finding the perfect driving position isn’t difficult. Buyers can opt for sports seats for extra support and style, but the standard items are comfortable and supportive enough for most.
The Allroad’s boot is the same as the regular Avant, at a competitive 505 litres with the seats up and 1,510 litres seats down. That’s better than rivals from BMW or Mercedes, although a VW Passat or Skoda Superb will both carry considerably more. It’s easy to fold the seats, however, thanks to neat plastic levers embedded next to the bootlid.
Reliability and Safety
If the regular A4 Avant is anything to go by, then the equivalent Allroad model should have no trouble achieving a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating. There’s a wealth of active safety kit on board including pre-sense city braking, that can automatically brake the car to lessen the force of a collision under 53mph.
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Adaptive cruise control is also offered, which is able to drive the car for you at crawling speeds or keep itself in its lane at higher speeds.
There will be question marks over models fitted with the new part-time four-wheel drive system as it’s relatively unproven, but we’ve heard of no major problems with the regular A4 yet.
As standard, every A4 comes with a three-year 60,000-mile warranty. However, owners also have the option to increase that if they desire.
For £385 buyers can opt for a four-year warranty that extends up to 75,000 mile or for £905 a five-year 90,000-mile warranty.
The cost of a service on the A4 can vary depending on engine size. For models fitted with 2.0-litre engines, an interim service will cost you £159 while models powered by the higher-powered 3.0-litre diesels will set you back £199. A major service will cost you £309 and £399 for the different engine sizes respectively.