A few months ago, in my review of the new-for-2013 Audi Allroad for The New York Times, I was lukewarm in my praise for the A4 Avant-sized wagon. But now, after spending more time with it, I have to admit the car’s cult appeal is easier to see.
The Allroad’s appeal is subtle, to say the least. It doesn’t have any “wow” features, to speak of. But it is a pleasing companion. It’s a station wagon that minimizes the dork factor of owning a station wagon.
My initial impressions were based on a thorough, but scripted, test drive of the reborn Allroad (it was discontinued in the U.S. after the 2005 model year, due to lower-than-expected sales volumes) through a section of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It was a fair test, but it left me wondering if the Allroad had enough unique about it to re-establish a following.
Recently, I spent a full week with it, driving it from California to southern Nevada, northern Arizona and Utah – and back. These are roads that I frequently drive to test cars, and I have benchmarks on these roads for how cars should perform, relative to each other. For good measure, I sampled wagons from two other German automakers.
While I found much to like about all three, and strengths evident in each that the others might not have, the Allroad seemed a better “road trip” companion. The others definitely felt like station wagons, although traveling in them was hardly a Griswold family-caliber slog.
Although the Allroad’s ride height is just an inch-and-a-half higher than the now-discontinued (in the U.S.) A4 Avant, the Allroad does give the impression of a more elevated ride – something more akin to a crossover-type SUV.
The Allroad’s styling is well-integrated and well-proportioned. Quite handsome, actually.
Overall, the Allroad might lose a drag race with its competition but it felt peppier, despite output of just 211 horsepower from its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. It seemed to handle more nimbly and responsively, and felt lighter on its “feet” (245/45/18 all-season tires) on challenging roads. Fulltime all wheel drive added a measure of confidence that you could drive it almost anywhere.
And, for an AWD vehicle, it got decent fuel economy (premium fuel is recommended), although I don’t think I quite achieved the promised 27 m.p.g. highway.
Inside the car, it was very comfortable. The driving position was good for all-day touring; the seats firm but nicely contoured for optimum support. The controls were logically presented. The optional navigation system with its Google Earth display is an industry standard right now. There was ample legroom in the back seats – something its larger rivals have issues with. The cargo area was designed for maximum usability; the rear seat backs fold down to create a huge load space.
In fact, on a recent starry night it was possible to make a cozy bed back there, open the huge sunroof, and watch the Perseid meteors streak overhead.
Yes, at that moment, the Allroad’s enduring appeal made a lot more sense.
[Editor’s Note: The Audi Allroad starts at about $40,000; a Prestige package of options is a rather sobering $9,200; but even at $50,000, the Allroad was significantly less than wagons from two competitors.]
August 11, 2013