Road test: 2016 Audi A4 Allroad
WANT a premium SUV but don't want to conform with a standard school-run ride?
Dare we say wagon. Seeming that's a dirty word around the school gates these days where SUVs dominate. Although when it comes to the high-end Europeans, wagon isn't not even in the automotive vernacular.
This is an Avant. Or if you are feeling more run-of-the-mill, call it an estate. Or a touring if you must.
Yet this is no basic, cough, wagon. Audi's A4 Allroad is much more under is typically understated skin courtesy of a sublime drivetrain which can send up to 100% drive to either the front or rear wheels - that makes it capable to drop off the kids, and then school some gravel roads with Quattro style.
There are two models, a diesel as well as the petrol tested here, both starting from more than $70,000.
Basic A4 Avants start from $63,900, but these variants get the tricked-up all-wheel drive system along with 23mm of additional ride height and improved wheel diameter which offers 34mm of extra clearance.
You can spot it via the flared wheel arches and different rear bumper, and it also gets satnav, leather trim along with a Bang and Olufsen sound system.
Our test machine was bolstered by the Technik pack which included the cool virtual cockpit and head-up display for $2200, metallic paint ($1420) and the load area rail system ($350). That took the total cost to just shy of $80,000.
Feeling smooth and quiet, there are small hints of the sophistication which lies within. You get the usual drive mode selection, like comfort, efficiency, automatic and dynamic, but they key inclusion is offroad for when the going gets slippery.
The drivetrain offers all-paw grip on demand. Clutches at each end of the tailshaft can completely isolate the rear differential to cut drag and improve economy.
Everything happens without human intervention, and the system analyses the conditions every 10 milliseconds. All the driver needs to do is steer and hammer the pedals with drive sent to the wheels where you need most grip. The ground clearance means it is restricted to gravel and dirt tracks...which is probably the most challenging terrain the majority of SUVs face anyway.
One of the benefits of a wagon, sorry Avant, is improved fuel consumption compared to an SUV. We were close to the official figure, which is a miserly six litres for every 100km.
Five-star protection is included courtesy of the traditional suite associated with traction and stability control, as well as autonomous emergency braking that can lessen the severity of an accident, plus eight airbags.
You do need to fork out extra coin to get the latest safety gizmos, with the $2470 Assistance package including lane keeping technology, radar cruise control, extended frontal collision warning as well as crash avoidance assistance.
Given this is a small-volume seller, there isn't many other players in this genre - most of the plush competition comes from the SUV segment, including Audi's own Q5, but Mercedes-Benz is about to launch the E-Class All-Terrain ($109,900).
A mainstream rival includes the Subaru Outback 3.6 Premium ($48,740), while there is also the Volvo V60 Cross Country T5 ($60,990).
Undertaking some heavy-duty family duties, the A4 Allroad did a stellar job. Some longer travels included five on board with a few suitcases, which were easily handled by the 505-litre boot.
For many the Quattro system would be unrequited technology. It provides peace of mind for those who regular face tricky conditions, whether they be muddy or slippery bitumen, or for those who make gravel a regular occurrence.
Colour choice is pivotal. The white with the plastic guards looks tough with a premium edge, whereas our champagne coloured test vehicle looked boring in comparison.
Quiet, refined and spacious, it's a lovely machine for those with adventurous intentions, but for most the basic A4 Avant would do the job equally well.
Audi A4 Allroad Quattro 2.0 TFSI S tronic
Details: Five-door five-seat all-wheel drive wagon.
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol 185kW/370Nm.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic.
Thirst: 6.7 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 6.1 seconds.