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Car reviews - Audi - A4 - Allroad

Our Opinion

We like
Ride, outstanding grip levels, quality cabin, styling, steering, body control
Room for improvement
Price premium over Q5, tight rear seats, momentary engine lag

12 Oct 2012

NO SOONER did we arrive at the drive loop for the new Audi A4 Allroad in the north of Queensland than torrential rain started to fall.

Audi Australia should thank its lucky stars, because surfaces like slippery bitumen and soggy gravel were where this all-wheel-drive crossover came into its own.

As a concept, the Allroad makes a lot of sense for Australia. The regular A4 Avant sells in limited numbers here, with the overwhelming majority of buyers opting for the higher-riding Q5 – the equivalent version of which is more than $7000 cheaper than the all-new Allroad.

This trend is a wider one, with SUV sales through the roof and now comprising close to 40 per cent of total new vehicles sales here.

Therefore, it seems a natural fit to create a vehicle that offers some of the higher ride and promise of adventure at the core of vehicles like the Q5, but retains the dynamics and premium style of the A4 wagon and is styled for buyers after something a little rare and unorthodox.

Those signature Audi black plastic wheel arches won’t be to all tastes – to our eyes the look a touch cheap – but they at least serve to differentiate the Allroad from its more tarmac-bound siblings.

Our drive loop took a wide selection of winding bitumen, gravel, mud and even the occasional water crossing – in other words, just the kind of territory for which this kind of crossover was made – and the Allroad scarcely missed a beat.

It’s no hardcore off-roader, but more than capable of reaching that slightly out-of-the-way picnic spot, hiking trail or – perhaps more importantly – snow resort.

The first thing you notice behind the wheel is the extra 37mm of ride height – not much in the grand scheme but enough to give the jacked-up A4 a more commanding view of the road. Audi has offset the dynamic downsides of this marginally higher centre of gravity by widening the wheel tracks by between 19mm and 23mm.

While the damping is firm for a crossover, the extra wheel travel afforded by the higher ride still affords an extra level of bump absorption over the regular A4. As a result, the ride is excellent and soaks up bumps without being thrown off-line by them either.

The quattro all-wheel-drive system gives the Allroad excellent traction in the wet and the car felt assured and planted in slippery conditions. We didn’t think twice about progressively ramping up the power delivery mid-corner or taking-on a gravel chicane with gusto.

The quattro drivetrain’s rear-axle bias also helps the engine puts its power down without axle-tramping like many front-drive Audi’s we’ve driven, and while plough-on understeer can be provoked without fuss, it remains fairly nimble for a vehicle of this type – noticeably more so that the bigger A6.

As with the rest of the recently facelifted A4 range, the Allroad gets a more efficient electric steering system in place of the old mechanical version. We think this version felt better than the similar system in the A6, offering more weight and speed off-centre.

This more nimble and dynamic feel over the A6 is no doubt assisted by the reduction of weight over the front wheels, with a smaller four-cylinder diesel in place of the A6’s oil-burning V6.

The 130kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine fitted as standard is a good match for the Allroad, taking a brief and laggy moment to respond but offering flexible power delivery from around 2000rpm and a pleasantly deep – but not gruff – note in the process.

The seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is a good match in D mode, but as with many VW Group units is prone to holding onto gears for too long in sporty S mode.

The cabin is pure A4, meaning excellent build quality, a logical layout and soft-touch materials, coupled with excellent seats and a clear and high-mounted MMI screen.

We were less enamoured of the fiddly air conditioning dials and the lack of a standard USB point – the latter a feature of many circa-$15k light cars, so why not a circa-$70k Audi?

As with the regular A4, rear seat legroom is tight for taller drivers and the rear bench is too firm, but cargo space is better than most compact SUVs. It would be better, however, if the rear seats folded completely flat.

First impressions of the Allroad, then, are pretty positive. Audi attempted to create a more dynamic and offbeat alternative to the mainstream compact SUV, and has, by and large, nailed it.

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