First Drive: 2017 Audi A4 Allroad
It might be a niche model, but Audi’s newest A4 Allroad is the ultimate middle ground between wagon and CUV
Kudos to Germany’s road system. Forget the high-speed autobahns, which well-disciplined drivers (for the most part) use to get hither and yon as quickly and conveniently as is (mostly) prudent. Even the country roads are well maintained, blessedly free of the potholes and frost heaves that, comparatively speaking, make the typical Canadian road look like the aftermath of an airstrike. The most dilapidated crap-can of a car would feel like a limo on these silken strands of tarmac.
The downside is the lack of any challenge for the likes of Audi’s brand-new A4 Allroad quattro. Undefined by the automaker but realistically a cross between a station wagon and a crossover, it’s a variant of the A4 Avant wagon, which is not sold in Canada. Yes, this second-generation version is more about looking the part than acting on it, but there is a portion of utility to back up the added machismo hinted by the flared wheel arches, the underbody guard, the rear diffuser and the raised roof rails.
Ride height has been increased by 23 millimetres and, when combined with the larger diameter wheels, provide an additional 34 millimetres of ground clearance over the Avant. This is just the thing for avoiding structural damage from navigating cratered and rutted streets, maybe even a cottage road.
OK, most consumers shopping for crossovers at an Audi dealership will end up with either a Q5 — the automaker’s most popular selling vehicle in Canada — or the new, compact Q3. But the discerning few who go for the Allroad, which traditionally accounts for about 10 per cent (about 550 units) of the A4’s annual sales, will find themselves with a smooth, quiet, quick and comfortable family vehicle.
A4 Allroads arriving in Canada this fall — as 2017 models — will have a single powertrain: the estimable turbocharged 2.0-litre TFSI gasoline-powered four-cylinder. Mated to a seven-speed S-tronic automatic transmission, the engine turns out a solid 252 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. Considering a base Allroad has a curb weight of just 1,580 kilograms — some 200 to 300 kg less than would be found in many equivalent-sized crossovers — it has plenty of scoot.
Finding a lightly travelled section of unrestricted autobahn, I gave the European-spec Audi a healthy prod, the car pulling steadily to 200 km/h without complaint as wind noise was quite subdued, even at that speed. More pragmatically, Audi posts a 6.1-second, zero-to-100-km/h time for the Allroad. It also claims a combined fuel economy rating of 6.6 L/100 km, though that’s Europe’s testing procedures, not Canada’s.
Again, thanks to the excellent condition of the roads, the Allroad’s suspension wasn’t given much of a workout. There are, however, changes underneath: The front axle features a redesigned five-link suspension, while a five-link setup replaces the trapezoidal-link rear suspension used previously. And thanks to the judicious use of lighter-weight materials, the weight of the axle components has been reduced by 12 kilograms. As for handling, at prudent speeds the Audi felt completely at ease negotiating the twisting, hilly country roads south of Munich, near the start of the Alps.
The Allroad’s cabin is a tasteful blend of function and luxury, the main focus being the dash area and the high-tech nature of the über-cool virtual cockpit, a fully digital instrument cluster replete with a 12.3-inch display that depicts information in high resolution. Classic mode gives priority to the speedometer and tachometer, while infotainment mode displays additional functions such as the navigation system, telephone, Audi connect and media more prominently. Displays for the outside temperature, time, fuel economy as well as warning and information symbols have a fixed position along the bottom edge of the cockpit in both modes.
If Audi offered the A4 Avant in Canada, there would be those looking at the Allroad and asking the question, “Why?” But the Avant isn’t available here, so the question becomes, “Why not?” The Allroad might be trying a little too hard to be something it’s not; still, it has the heart and soul of the new A4 – no bad thing.
Pricing for the 2017 Allroad won’t be announced until closer to its launch date, but the current model starts at just over $47,000 – any major price increase is not expected.
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