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Car reviews - Audi - A4 - Allroad

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4 May 2015

IS THIS the return to the essence of the off-road family wagon – a concept brought successfully to market and thousands of Australian driveways with Subaru’s L Series all-wheel drives of 1972?If so, embrace it. Audi this week officially – for it’s been on the market for a couple of weeks – launched its A4 Allroad, a vehicle that epitomizes the function of the L Series but with more luxury.

It is, of course, not alone. The A4 Allroad arrives in its second generation having followed its predecessor’s rather stunted 2012 appearance that was restrained by a limited 150 units.

It joins similar cross-country wagons like the new-generation L Series, now the Outback, and others like the Skoda Octavia Scout, Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, Volvo XC70 and V40 CC.

Based on the A4 Avant, the 2015 Allroad picks up a new turbo-diesel engine with more power, better economy and a clean Euro-6 emission rating.

The seven-speed dual-clutch drives through a Haldex 5 drive system that is the most recent in Haldex’s range. This system, which for economy is biased to the default front-drive design, is also fitted to the Scout and goes into the forthcoming Golf Alltrack.

The A4 Allroad doesn’t inherit the height-adjustable air suspension of its rich sister, the A6 Allroad, though has been overhauled with better reinforcement and increased wheel travel.

This specifically benefits off-road traction by keeping the wheels in contact with the ground. It’s aided by the Haldex 5 system that allocates torque to individual wheels.

Further assistance for demanding off-road tracks is a more sensitive electronic differential lock that is more astute and is quicker at sensing traction needs.

Audi has then raised the ABS sensitivity to make it more suited to poor-surfaced roads.

It now has, in fact, all the ingredients necessary to face Australia’s outback.

Which is exactly where it went for its launch.

At a shade over 4700mm long, it is 22mm longer than the bitumen-biased A4 Avant thanks to new front and rear bumpers and valances.

It is also 59mm higher, the result of ground clearance raised by 37mm to 180mm plus roof rails. By comparison, the Audi Q5 has a 200mm ground clearance and is 20mm taller.

The A4 Allroad also has a wider front and rear track than its donor and has extensive underbody cladding to minimise damage.

New for 2015 is the diesel engine. It stays at 2.0-litres but compared with its predecessor, lifts 10kW to 140kW and adds 20Nm more to 400Nm. Audi claims 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres for its official fuel consumption figure, remarkably, the same as the 3.0-litre A6 Allroad – from a 61 litre tank.

As part of its low-emission rating, the engine relies on a liquid ammonia formula to react with noxious gases. For 2015, this AdBlue liquid is stored in two tanks rather than one, giving a 20-litre capacity and lasting 15,000 kilometres or more before needing a top up.

On the bitumen the Allroad gives few hints that it is taller than its donor vehicle. The solidity on the road is partly attributable to the wider track – up 23mm at the rear and 19mm up front – that make it feel part of the road and make it corners with so much confidence.

From Darwin to Kakadu’s Mary River, the roads are a simple series of straight lines. GoAuto searched out some corners to give a better sense of how this off-bitumen wagon handled and came away partially unimpressed with the Northern Territory’s uncreative road design but pleased with the grip and fun factor of the car.

It is quiet, smooth, very responsive in the mid range of the engine’s delivery and very comfortable. But it will be remembered more for how nimble it felt and how quickly and effortlessly it could build up speed, especially when overtaking.

In the soft gravel and dust, the drive system plays each axle off against the other in search of the one(s) with the most traction. The system is very clever but the success of forward momentum falls to the available ground clearance and the ability of the tyres to be partially deflated.

The tyres are new to the wagon in 2015 and designed for more dirt work. But with a 55-profile (tyre height is 55 per cent of the width) there isn’t a lot of room for deflation.

Cabin life is simple but the equipment offered is first class. The list of standard gear includes a touchscreen with sat-nav, upgraded connectivity and a 10-speaker audio.

It has Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, leather upholstery, three-zone air-conditioning and electric seats.

The safety inventory includes eight airbags, reversing camera, parking sensors and driver attention detection.

The A4 Allroad costs $70,500, a rise of $600 on the previous model. To this buyers can add an extra safety pack with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot side monitoring for $2146. There is also a Comfort Pack with electric tail gate, memory seats and mirrors, and alternate 18-inch alloys for $2923. Upgrade this pack to 19-inch alloys for $1000 extra.

And for buyers wanting more in-car infotainment, the Technology Pack costs $2308 and includes internet connectivity, a 14-speaker 505-Watt Bang & Olufsen audio, a digital radio, cornering headlights and high-beam assist.

The A4 Allroad has room for five adults – though better with four – and a boot capacity of 490 litres that can be expanded to 1430 litres by folding down the rear seats.

Buyers wanting a prestige wagon with the ability to cover some dirty ground may be short in number but they would be enthusiastic about the concept.

There’s a lot of attraction in the A4 Allroad. It’s a brilliant long-distance cruiser, hauls a lot of luggage, is very quiet and sumptuously comfortable.

But rivals like the Subaru Outback – at half the Allroad’s price – go bush just as well and even Volkswagen’s Passat Alltrack shares much of the A4’s running gear for a similar experience.

That leaves the A4 Allroad primarily as a prestige family wagon with a little bit extra flexibility when away from a city environment.

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