Audi has given the latest A4 Avant the Allroad treatment by raising the ride height and adding some butch cladding. But is it just a load of marketing rubbish? And why wouldn’t you have a Q5?
What’s involved in turning an Audi A4 Avant into an Allroad?
It’s essentially the same trick Audi began using on the A6 nearly a decade ago: chunky plastic cladding to protect the bodywork (or more likely let people know that it’s not a normal Avant) and cover a 19mm wider track, plus there’s a 37mm hike in ground clearance. But unlike the air-sprung A6 Allroad, the A4 has conventional steel springs so the ride height is fixed at that level. An Allroad costs around £1500 more than an A4 Avant Quattro SE with the same drivetrain but does come with 18in alloys and a boot organiser thing as standard.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powertrain options are more limited than in a regular A4. The only petrol engine is the latest Golf GTI’s 207bhp 2.0-litre turbo four, available with manual or S-tronic (DSG) gearboxes, both featuring six speeds. It’s actually quicker than the GTI, reaching 62mph in 6.9sec, 0.3sec sooner, and can return 35mpg. Diesel fans looking for similar performance can choose the beefy 3.0-litre TDI six but most will likely settle for the 2.0TDI.
Is it actually any good off road?
Surprisingly so. Audi laid on a mild off-road course that the Allroad cruised through with no problem – and which an A4 Avant with the same Quattro transmission probably could have tackled equally well. But a couple of quite serious ascents and descents proved not just the level of traction but also the surprisingly generous approach and departure angles. A proper SUV would certainly be able to do more, but the Allroad is capable of handling anything most of us would ever ask of it. Audi mentions research that suggests only 2% of SUV buyers actually ever venture off road.
>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi A4 Allroad first drive
And on road?
You’re never really aware of any compromise having been made to make the Allroad more suitable for off-road driving. It’s not a hugely exciting car to drive but it’s a very competent one, body movements are still well contained and the ride comfort is superior to a regular A4’s. The steering’s not much fun though. Our car had the optional Drive Select system that allows you to flick between Sport, Automatic and Comfort settings for the steering and suspension. In Sport the steering is precise but leaden; in Comfort it’s simply too light.
What about performance?
The Allroad’s stout 1630kg kerb weight means the 168bhp 2.0TDI doesn’t feel quite as effortlessly quick as it does in a two-wheel drive A4 saloon but the 2.0-litre petrol is revvy, and, with as much torque as the TDI, doesn’t need to be thrashed to perform.
But the 3.0TDI is a real guilty pleasure. Despite weighing in at 1730kg it’s genuinely fast and emits a deep growl when pressed while remaining smoother and more hushed than the four-pot diesel. There’s also 110lb ft more torque available than in the 2.0 TDI and its available over a wider range too. Sixty two flashes by in 6.6sec and flat out it’s good for 148mph, but can also return 40mpg.
Wouldn’t you just buy a Q5 instead? That’s the crucial question. We probably would, particularly since it costs less than £100 to step up from the Allroad to the small SUV. The Q5 is very slightly less green but drives almost as well, has a bigger boot and feels a bit more special.
But if you like your cars to look like cars, even those that can cut it off road and want something a little more stylish than the Subaru Forester, then the Allroad is probably right up your farm track. Far more likely though is that buyers will choose it like a trim level on the A4, perhaps instead of the sporty S-Line.