Heard the one about the Audi A4 that isn’t destined to spend its entire life sat two inches away from your rear bumper, blazing LEDs burning a hole in your retina? As unlikely as this may seem, the all-new Audi A4 allroad has the potential to attract a new breed of drivers in the UK.
PetrolBlog has recently returned from the 2016 Audi A4 allroad launch in Munich and is able to conclude that, right now, it represents the pinnacle of the current breed of jacked-up premium off-road estate cars. It’s a small but fiercely competitive niche segment.
This sector can trace its roots back to the Subaru Leone and the AMC Eagle, with the original Audi allroad quattro and Volvo V70 XC (latterly the XC70) laying the foundations for a more premium take on the off-road wagon. Since then, the likes of the Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, Skoda Octavia Scout and Vauxhall Insignia Country Bus have all tried to muscle in on the act, but Volvo and Audi have reigned supreme.
You could argue that the sector has had its day in the sun. Today, buyers are all too keen to get their hands on a weird crossover type thing with a daft name, not realising that it’s creating a me-too culture on the streets of suburbia. Who on earth would want a stylish, practical, well-equipped and dynamically-sorted estate such as the Audi A4 allroad?
Er, now that you put it like that…
It really is that good. The headlines are compelling enough: Up to 90kg lighter than the previous A4 allroad; CO2 emissions down by 21%; quattro all-wheel drive as standard; ground clearance up by 34mm compared to the standard A4 Avant; a new planet-saving quattro ultra all-wheel drive system.
Ah yes, about that quattro ultra all-wheel drive system. In short, it creates the world’s first front-wheel drive Audi quattro, engaging all four wheels only when required. It’s more intelligent than you and uses a three-stage strategy of proactive, predictive and reactive. In other words, it knows, long before you, when to switch to all-wheel drive.
Audi claims it saves 4kg in weight and “significantly reduces” fuel consumption. And it’s true that, when out on the road, it’s impossible to detect whether you’re in front- or all-wheel drive. There’s no light on the dashboard to let you know you’re channelling your inner Hannu Mikkola or doing your best to help the polar bears. And that’s a good thing.
But right now, it’s only available on the 2.0 TFSI petrol version, which means you have to make do with traditional quattro if you want to drive a diesel-powered Audi A4 allroad. And, believe it or not, you really should drive a diesel version.
Audi told us the entry-level 2.0 TDI is likely to be the best seller in the UK, with buyers attracted by its 128g/km CO2, 57.6mpg, 25% BIK and zero road fund license in the first year. There’s also the small matter of the £35,560 price tag, which just happens to be the ‘cheapest’ way to get your hands on a jacked-up A4 Avant.
But here’s the thing. Unlike the common or garden A4s, the Audi A4 allroad quattro will be driven by retail customers and user-choosers, not those who are looking to steal an edge over Jason in Sales. The A4 allroad looks and feels like so much more than a sales-rep special and private customers should look beyond mere figures and statistics. Leave that to fleet managers and company car drivers.
All of which means the A4 allroad should be driven by careful and considerate drivers, rather than those in a rush to sell their next paper clip. Or to grab an Early Starter at the Little Chef. It’s like going back in time, to when Audi drivers were free-thinkers. People who appreciated good engineering and common sense.
You’ll have read elsewhere that the new Audi A4 offers a masterclass in interior fit and finish. Believe everything that’s been said, because it really is… cliché alert… a fine place to be. And that optional Virtual Cockpit thingy? It’s not really an option at all. It’s a must-have feature.
But the most unexpected and welcome revelation is the excellent ride quality. Even on the optional 18-inch alloys (standard on the top trim Sport quattro), the A4 allroad glides along the road in a manner that will seem alien to drivers of standard Audi A4s.
Of course, the raised ride height contributes a great deal, as does the optional comfort suspension, but you’ll be amazed at just how good it is. On motorways, the ride is composed, almost pillow-like. On back roads, the payoff is a touch of lean when cornering, but it’s well-mannered and actually quite pleasant.
Throw into the equation a hushed cabin and you’ve got the makings of the most PetrolBloggy car Audi has built since the A2. But the specification is everything.
Let’s start with the engine. You simply must have the full fat 272bhp 3.0-litre TDI. Not only does it offer the best soundtrack of all the engines, including the petrol, it has the ability to get the best from the allroad in any given circumstance. On a motorway it’s composed, quiet and most in-keeping with the allroad’s luxury feel. It also eliminates the mild clatter and vibrations you feel in the 2.0 TDI.
But give it some beans, as they don’t say in Germany, and the V6 rouses up an orchestra to deliver a surprisingly good symphony. Double cliché alert – this has the hallmarks of a proper wolf in sheep’s clothing. Who is going to expect a rural warrior to be able to mix it with the urban tearaways? Crucially, it’s also the only engine in the allroad range to be offered with the 8-speed tiptronic transmission.
Highlights of this transmission include the coast in neutral function, two driving modes and shift paddles on the steering wheel. So that’s a 3.0 TDI engine and 8-speed tiptronic transmission – what about the colour?
Firstly, a word on those wheel arch extensions. Audi will supply them body-coloured, but anyone who orders them as such needs a good talking to. The allroad just looks plain wrong without the black arches, giving it a look of a standard A4 Avant with a weird suspension problem. The black arches give the car character. They also tell other drivers you’re a person of fine taste.
Audi hasn’t released details of UK colours, but the Germans laid on a trio consisting of Alpine White, Gotland Green and Manhattan Grey. The A4 allroad is definitely a car that can wear green without fear of ridicule, but it also looks great in white. Not only does it showcase the cosmetic upgrades, it’s also one of the most common colours you see in Austrian Alps. So it’s authentic. And that matters.
OK, there are some reservations, some aspects we’re yet to discover. How will it drive on UK roads? What’s it like off road? Just how expensive will it become after you’ve spent some time with the list of options? In fairness, it’s already well-equipped, with 3-zone climate control, multi-function steering wheel, electric tailgate and rear parking sensors just a few of the highlights.
But the likes of the Virtual Cockpit, matrix LED headlights, head-up display, wireless phone charging and what sounds like a brilliant trailer-assist system will increase the price. By how much, we’re yet to find out.
As you might have gathered, PetrolBlog rather likes the new Audi A4 allroad. Unlike other Audis in the range, it plays its cards close to its chest, whispering and never shouting. Based on what we know about the list of options, it’s unlikely that a person with zero taste will be able to ruin an allroad. No matter how large their wallet.
The A4 allroad is also the perfect antidote to the increasing number of crossovers, which, while you were dozing, have become the default choice for many British buyers. We must stand up against the relentless march of the crossover, defending our right to buy a wagon. In years to come, our children will thank us for our efforts.
Encourage your friends to buy an Audi A4 allroad and then congratulate them on a job well done. More A4 allroads sold today means a greater the choice of used cars tomorrow. Forward planning, you see. Forward planning. See you back here in 10 years.