The original Audi allroad Quattro, sold between 2000 and 2006, was one righteous automobile. Built like a tank, powered by big horsepower numbers, designed for actual rough terrain, and with creature comforts and an actual height-adjustable suspension, the first allroad still garners respect from the automotive cognoscenti. Though a decent number were sold in both V6 and V8 form, it’s not often you see one on the road these days. Now, a new breed of allroad has been introduced by Audi. Though it bears the same name, the 2013 Audi allroad is a vastly different car. We got behind the wheel in Denver to test it on high mountain roads and compare it to its beloved predecessor.
Read the full review and see photos after the jump.
The station wagon in America is going the way of the Dodo. Once hugely popular in the 1960s and ’70s, wagons are now viewed as dowdy Family Trucksters that no longer capture the American automotive imagination (or the modern American waistline, for that matter). We like our SUVs, our cross-overs and our wagons on lifts. Heck, the Europeans at least got the name right by calling wagons “shooting brakes” or “estates”. At least those are better than our term, which sounds like a large rusty wheelbarrow that’s just been let out of a very hot, very dark tool shed.
If you care to see evidence that the American station wagon is on its way out, take note of the wonderful Volvo V70, which stopped selling in the states in 2010. Only the XC70 Cross Country, a stilted all-wheel-drive crossover version, is sold now. Before that, the handsome and understated Subaru Legacy wagon got the axe in 2008, leaving only the somewhat bloated Legacy Outback wagon.
But probably the worst example of Americans soiling the wagon like a bespoke suit after a Mexican repast is the swap of the BMW 5-Series wagon with the 5-Series GT, a crossover that should be chased by villagers with torches and pitchforks. Ghastly.
Heck, the europeans at least got the name right by calling wagons “shooting brakes” or “estates”. At least those are better than our term, which sounds like a large rusty wheelbarrow that’s just been let out of a very hot, very dark toolshed.
Audi’s seen fit to follow suit by pulling the A6 Avant (Audispeak for “wagon”) and now the smaller A4 Avant from its American lineup — sending Audi customers to the Q5 and Q7 instead. That is, until now, with the release of the 2013 allroad. But make no mistake, the new allroad doesn’t echo much of the original A6-based wagon. Essentially, the new allroad is a re-badged A4 Avant with lifts in its shoes and some ornamental goodies to distract you from the fact that it’s not truly an all-new vehicle. But Audi doesn’t purport the new allroad to be the second coming of the hiking-boot-turned-station-wagon (with its adjustable height suspension and low range gearing for hill climbs) that the first allroad was. What it does deliver, however, is the kind of “I’m a soccer mom with money who can tackle that speed bump in the Starbucks parking lot, and throw some gravel at me while you’re at it” appearance many consumers are looking for.
We brought these justified grudges to the Audi Drive Progress event, where the sheer number of cars was staggering. The A4, A5, S4, S5 and the allroad were all on display and available to drive through the sweeping roads of Denver on our way to the Beaver Creek Resort Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch. After getting our speed fix in the S5, we opted to give the allroad a whirl in the higher altitudes.
The new allroad surely doesn’t take power cues from its older, bigger brother. Instead of a V8 with 300 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque, the new version makes use of the A4′s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder that spits out 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. The car’s no slouch, though. 0-60 in the low sixes isn’t bad for 3,900-lb wagon. At higher Colorado altitudes, the forced induction engine produced its own airflow, so we didn’t notice any apparent reduction of output. The allroad felt solid, and the 8-speed automatic gearbox performed well, but didn’t necessarily wake us like a mouthful of chocolate covered espresso beans. And though we didn’t find the allroad’s driving dynamics scintillating (probably due to its higher center of gravity and electrically boosted steering), the car handled decently with a bit of extra body roll, and road feel was pretty good. The allroad more or less went in the direction you pointed it and stayed on center at highway speeds.
The allroad felt solid, and the 8-speed automatic gearbox performed well but didn’t necessarily wake us like a mouthful of chocolate covered espresso beans.
We Americans do like our tasteful body cladding, and the allroad doesn’t let us down. With the elevated ride height and wider stance comes contrasting body trim, an attractive gilded allroad grille and front and rear skid plates that are more decorative than practical. Don’t scrape it on a stranded shopping bag in the Nordstrom parking lot. The optional LED-trimmed headlights are all new, with the most noticeable feature found in the tube bulbs. The uniform tube light beam supplants the individual LED bulbs and will make its way throughout the Audi lineup as optional equipment. Though the look is unique, it ends up resembling the white neon sign at your neighborhood barbershop.
The interior, as all Audi cabins do, speaks volumes of quality — rich leather-trimmed seats are decently bolstered and very comfortable, and great ergonomics along with wood and metal trim make you feel richer than you are. As part of the interior updates carried over from the Avant, the allroad also has a revised MMI system and available Audi Connect, which provides internet connectivity and the always-entertaining Google Earth application.
Speaking of rich: since Audi has decided to nix the Avant version, you’ve got to pay a premium for the allroad if you don’t want to move up to an Audi SUV. The allroad will cost you about $3,200 more than the A4 Avant, but you do get heated seats, wood trim, rear side airbags, LED headlights and a lovely convenience package that throws in an iPod interface and Bluetooth connectivity. Sorry, there’s no navigation in the basic package. Start adding packages like Premium Plus or Prestige and the prices climb like Sir Edmund Hillary on a snowcapped mountain, eventually approaching a solar-plexus-jabbing $60K.
But as Audi North America CEO Scott Keough so aptly put it, luxury buyers expect to pay a premium price for premium cars. And that’s exactly what you get with the allroad. It’s not so much for all roads as much as it is for the mildly rugged — if that means kicking up some small road debris on the way to the L.L. Bean store.