When the good folks at Audi planned the press launch of the 2013 Allroad at the end of June in Denver, Colorado, we’re sure that they didn’t anticipate the temperature to break the 100-degree mark. But such was the case when journalists from around the country landed at the Mile High City to put the new Allroad (and a few other Audi models) through their paces on a spirited drive up into the mountains. Fortunately, we didn’t have to contend with any of those massive forest fires along the way and high enough up, there’s still plenty of snow.
|1. New for 2013, the Allroad replaced the A4 Avant and is 0.5-inches wider and gains 1.5-inches of ground clearance.
2. Allroad models come exclusively with a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder with 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Quattro AWD is standard.
3. Options include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system and the Audi Drive Select system.
4. Pricing starts at $39,600.
The proscribed route would take us on a combination of interstate highway and some of the most beautiful serpentine mountain roads in the entire country. The Allroad proved to be a pleasant partner in our journey.
AN AVANT REPLACEMENT
The Allroad reprises the nameplate last seen about seven years ago, only this new model is based on the A4 platform, rather than the larger and much heavier A6 chassis of old. But this all-wheel-drive A4 based wagon is a bit longer, wider, and 2.5-inches taller than the A4 Avant that it replaces.
And while this new Allroad has more ground clearance than the Avant, and is fitted with skid plates front and rear, it is more suited to handling a gravel driveway or dropping the kids off in the grass close to the soccer field than it is for any serious off road excursions. However, with the fulltime all wheel drive feature, we can also easily appreciate the security that it will provide when tackling those steep mountain roads with tight corners and switchbacks, (and without guardrails in many places) while covered with winter snow.
The Allroad comes in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. All use the same intercooled, direct-injection 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. This engine makes 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Gas mileage is listed at 20-mpg city and 27-mpg highway on premium fuel. Audi claims 6.6 seconds from zero to 60, but it didn’t feel like it on our test drive. And at times on our mountain driving, the Allroad felt downright sluggish when traveling uphill, even using the paddle shifters in second and third gears to keep the rpm above 3000 where the power begins.
We didn’t experience the same feel with the A4 sedan, so we can only surmise that the nearly 400 pounds of added weight that the Allroad carries over the sedan is to blame. We’d love to see another 25 horses from the 2.0-liter engine. Having said that, we didn’t have any complaints when accelerating on level ground, or passing slower traffic.
The 8-speed manumatic transmission is excellent. Sport mode pushes the shift points higher up on the tach dial, and the Tiptronic mode provides the ability to hold each gear, and it is programmed for immediate and crisp up and down shifts. Smooth and slick are the two words that best describes the unit. The brakes feel strong, with good pedal feel, and no hint of fade when used hard on the downhill mountain runs.
COMFORT OVER SPORT
The Allroad has the same independent suspension and electric power steering as the basic A4. The steering is responsive with just enough feedback. The suspension is tuned more for comfort than sportiness. There is a lot of body lean when pushed hard through twisties, but plenty of grip from the 19-inch tires and the all wheel drive system with stability control gives the driver the confidence to push the car hard. In a bow to the off-road side of the vehicle, the tires have an aggressive tread pattern which prove to be a bit noisier on the pavement than those fitted to the A4 sedan.
The interior of the Allroad is the same basic layout as the sedan, which means it is refined and sophisticated, and all of the materials are executive level. The standard leather seats are all-day comfortable and 8-way powered so you can find just the right seating position. The Sport Interior Package adds even more supportive leather seats with lumbar support, and paddle shifters behind a three spoke steering wheel. The dash, door and console have a new and unique woven aluminum trim, which looks rich and high tech, and contrast nicely with the black and charcoal leather seats and soft touch dash and door materials.
LUXURY, TECHNOLOGY, SPACE
The improved (simplified) MMI infotainment functions are placed around the shift lever. The Nav system now features Google’s 3-D look. We weren’t overly impressed with that feature until we got up into the mountains, where it was helpful and interesting to be able to see just how twisting the road ahead was as it cut through the terrain. The Allroad is one of several 2013 Audi vehicles to utilize the Connect suite of telematics. For a monthly fee, Audi Connect customers can tap into a built-in 3G connection that turns the Allroad into a rolling wireless hotspot for up to 8 devices, and to enable Google local searches via MMI. Also available are links to satellite data for real-time traffic and weather info.
Intuitive HVAC controls are located on the center stack, along with the CD/DVD controls, the layout and design of which is well thought out and well executed. And in a nod to European sensibilities, there’s even an ash tray and lighter. Everything seems to be where you’d want it, and where it should be. The entire interior is nicely styled without looking fussy or overdone.
The huge panoramic moonroof bathes the cabin in light, and the abundance of glass around the rear almost makes you think you’re in a convertible. Sound deadening is excellent, thoughat times you can hear those tires. It’ll be hard to hear anything but the subtleties of your favorite tunes, however, with the exceptional Bang & Olufsen sound system cranked up.
Rear seat room is ample for two, but a bit tight for three – this is an A4 after all. Fold those rear seats down and you get a full 51 cubic feet of cargo capacity, and 17 with the seats up. And the front passenger seatback also folds flat for those really lengthy items from the lumber yard. This station wagon nicely fills the gap between the larger crossovers, and the standard sedans in terms of cargo space, and you get the added bonus of car like ride and handling.
BUILD IT: FROM $39,600
The base price for a Premium edition is $39,600 and it comes well equipped with 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, leather seats, cruise control, panoramic moonroof, auto climate control, tilt and telescope steering wheel, 8-way power seats, 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio and CD player.
For $3,300 the Premium Plus edition adds an auto-dimming Interior mirror with compass, auto dimming heated outside mirrors, i-Pod interface, Bluetooth, driver info system, heated seats with driver memory, Home Link, Xenon headlights with LED running lights, 3-zone climate control and a power tailgate.
The Prestige model adds keyless ignition and entry, blind spot warning system, adaptive headlights and navigation with a 14-speaker B & O sound system. And on this model only, you can order the optional Adaptive cruise control and Audi Drive Select which lets you personalize the settings for steering, throttle, shocks, and transmission.
Some loyalists may decry the less sporty ambitions of this new model, but it’s likely far more will appreciate its added functionality and more comfort-oriented ride. An improvement over the Avant, it splits the difference between the A4 sedan and Q5, offering a different sort of luxury crossover with rugged yet luxurious good looks and a German heritage. And starting at a reasonable $40,000, the price for both for those who “get it” and those who insist on being different, is more than reasonable.