It may not be the prestigiously-badged, sensibly-sized 4x4 you dreamed of but it could be the one you actually need.
Audi’s allroad concept is pretty straightforward. Take one of their standard quattro all-wheel drive Avant estates, then give it a bit of extra ride height and some body cladding to protect the bodywork. That and a few electronic tweaks are enough to make the car suitable for mild off road use.
Audi has been perfecting the concept for years, initially with the large A6 allroad model that took on executive offroad estates like Volvo’s XC70. Audi’s A4 allroad model sits in the wider, slightly more affordable sector of the market. Here, it’s a plusher alternative to tough all-wheel drive estates like Subaru’s Forester and Skoda’s Octavia Scout.
The A4 allroad’s springs have been lengthened for extra off road ground clearance, with an added 26mm of travel upfront and 13mm at the rear. The by-product of this is a huge improvement in ride quality over a standard A4 Avant. Firm damping and a 20mm wider track that compensates for the increased ride height mean that bodyroll is well contained too. If you are planning to throw the car round a bit on tarmac, there’s also the option of Drive Select, a multi-function software system that can control everything from the suspension to the gearbox and from the steering to the throttle mapping, via ‘Comfort’, ‘Auto’ and ‘Dynamic’ settings.
Audi reckons that very few of this car’s customers will ever take it off road, with 180mm of ride height – 37mm more than a standard A4 Avant and just 20mm shy of Audi’s fully-fledged Q5 SUV – improving both approach and departure angles and stainless steel under-body protection, you quickly find that this car has enough capability to deal with anything but situations you shouldn’t have been in in the first place.
It helps here that the ESP stability control system has been engineered for off road conditions, incorporating an ORD Offroad Detection system that monitors the level of grip available at each wheel and allows an extra degree of wheel slippage in muddy or low traction situations to help the car maintain forward momentum. In these conditions, the ABS won’t cut in quite so easily, allowing the wheels to lock up earlier, so building up a dirt buffer in front of the tyres that will stop you quicker.
The engine range is loaded with familiar Audi units. You can choose a 141bhp 2. 0-litre TDI option but the majority of buyers choose the 168bhp 2. 0-litre TDI diesel, which has a 6-speed manual gearbox, whilst there’s a larger 237bhp 3. 0 TDI that boosts torque from 350 to 500Nm of torque if that’s not enough. Pulling power of this kind is just as well, given that this model must carry around 35kg more than a standard A4 Avant quattro. Like the 208bhp 2. 0-litre TFSI petrol model, the 3. 0 TDI engine comes with Audi’s clever S Tronic twin-clutch 7-speed semi-automatic gearbox which, if you’re quick with the steering wheel paddles, will get this particular A4 allroad through the 60mph barrier in a brisk 6. 4s, half a second quicker than the petrol variant.
Audi’s A4 allroad gets plastic cladding, redesigned grille and under-bumper section, side sills and tough-looking wheel arch extensions that certainly lend it a purposeful air that’s continued inside where shiny sill plates, special upholstery and various unique dashboard applications give it a slightly more rugged ambience.
Basically of course, this car shares the standard A4 Avant cabin design which means decent amounts of space, classy design and levels of build quality that rival marques are still doing their utmost to match. Providing you’re only transporting four adults, there’s plenty of head and legroom at the front, and in the back. Luggage-wise, the well-shaped 490-litre boot is a decent size and features a useful reversible floor, one side offering a wipe-clean surface for muddy boots and dogs. The rear seats fold down to increase luggage space to 1430-litres but it’s a pity that they don’t fold completely flat.
If you’re after a true multi-purpose vehicle, the temptation is to look at the various SUV options but Audi’s allroad could actually prove a more agreeable everyday companion for many drivers. Residing somewhere between a compact executive estate and a compact SUV, it aims to balance road-going competence with light off-road ability. Factor in the big boot and Audi’s quality interiors and you have what should be a convincing product. And an eminently sensible one.