Versus the competiton:
As luxury wagons go, the 2013 Audi Allroad could stand to be less expensive and more roomier, but its drivability and high cabin quality rescue this remake.
Not many people will remember the last Audi Allroad — a beefier, all-wheel-drive version of the A6 Avant wagon — that was sold in the U.S. from 2001 to 2005. The recipe returns here for 2013, but this time it’s based on the more popular A4, making it the only wagon version of the A4 now sold, as last year’s A4 Avant has been discontinued in the U.S.
Like its forebear, the Allroad rides higher than the Avant did. Compare the two cars here. The Allroad comes in one trim, with Quattro all-wheel drive, a turbocharged four-cylinder engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission standard.
Besides a host of visual updates that mimic the 2013 A4 sedan — a deeper grille, optional light-piped LED daytime running lights and more — the Allroad gets wider fenders, exposed front skid plates and a raised suspension. It could look cluttered, but it manages to work. Our test car’s LED-piped running lights showcase Audi’s know-how with the technology, particularly as other automakers string their cars with jeweled LEDs. The piped technique looks much cleaner.
The exterior changes make for an extra half-inch of width and 1.5 inches of greater ground clearance, for 7.1 inches total. That approaches SUV territory: The Lexus RX 350 has 7.3 inches’ clearance, and Audi’s own Q5 has 7.9 inches. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, with 19s optional. The fender cladding can come in contrasting paint or be the same color as the rest of the car.
Inside, the Allroad has 27.6 cubic feet of cargo room behind the backseat — more than double the A4’s small trunk — and 50.5 cubic feet with the backseat folded. The resulting cargo floor is unbroken, and it should compare to BMW’s forthcoming, redesigned 3 Series wagon (for which exact specifications aren’t yet finalized). Others have Audi beat, however:
| Luxury Wagon Utility Compared
|| Base price
|| Cargo behind
rear seats (cu. ft.)
cargo, seats folded (cu. ft.)
| 2013 Audi Allroad
| 2012 Acura TSX Sport Wagon
| 2013 Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon
| 2013 Volvo XC70
Like its A4 sibling, the Allroad displays Audi’s penchant for consistent interior quality. Materials from the dashboard to the doorsills have a similar, low-gloss finish, but I’d like more elbow padding on the upper doors. The front seats are comfortable, but the backseat is tight and doesn’t adjust.
The Allroad’s optional navigation system comes with Audi’s MultiMedia Interface and six months of Audi Connect, which overlays navigation maps with Google Earth satellite renderings. You can send destinations from a web browser to your car or even browse Google Street View images when the car is stopped. It’s pretty slick, though the satellite images take some time to load as you zoom in and out. The maps stream through a SiriusXM Traffic subscription, which comes with the car for four years. Audi Connect also enables in-car Wi-Fi, real-time weather, fuel prices and streaming news via a T-Mobile subscription. After the six-month subscription, however, Audi Connect runs about $30 a month.
The Allroad gets the A4’s staple drivetrain: a 211-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic transmission. It suits the car well. Characteristic of many German luxury cars, the experience starts off with a bit of accelerator lag, but the drivetrain’s 258 pounds-feet of torque sling the Allroad to highway speeds in short order. The eight-speed automatic does little gear-hunting, as some modern transmissions do; it kicks down two or three gears at once then holds whatever gear results and lets the engine’s stout torque muscle you forward.
Audi says the Allroad hits 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. That puts it well ahead of the six-cylinder Volvo XC70 (6.9 to 8.4 seconds, depending on drivetrain), but the forthcoming BMW 328i wagon blows past everyone, making the sprint in the high 5-second range. Acura and Cadillac provide no performance figures, but the naturally aspirated Acura TSX wagon is no muscle-car, and the V-6 CTS wagon suffers from an unresponsive transmission.
Sport mode holds lower gears longer and downshifts even quicker, atoning for some of the Allroad’s accelerator lag around town. Those who want optimum control can get Audi Drive Select, which varies steering and drivetrain response among three modes.
Ride quality with our test car’s 18-inch wheels and P245/45R18 tires was good, with sufficient highway isolation and precise, jolt-free cushioning. Unlike the original Allroad, an active air suspension isn’t included. Indeed, the new Allroad may not be as off-road capable as the original, whose adjustable suspension was good for up to 8.2 inches of ground clearance.
Like so many Audis, the Allroad steers with a light touch at low speeds but firms up on the highway. Enthusiasts will cry foul, but it’s a more linear transition than some Audis, including the Q5 SUV: The wheel progresses smoothly from loose to firm. Throw the Allroad into a corner, and the wheel exhibits good feedback and turn-in precision. Dynamics still lean toward early understeer, but the Allroad’s standard electronic stability system reins things in without feeling too intrusive.
The heightened suspension renders little body roll, but it does hurt gas mileage. Combine the diminished aerodynamics, bigger dimensions and a little more weight with the transmission’s tweaked gearing, and gas mileage for the Allroad is 20/27 mpg city/highway, 23 mpg combined. That’s down from 24 mpg combined in last year’s all-wheel-drive A4 Avant, but it beats the CTS wagon (21 mpg) and XC70 (20-21 mpg). The 25-mpg TSX wagon, which lacks all-wheel drive, still leads the group. As of this writing, the EPA has yet to rate the 2013 3 Series wagon, but it’s worth mentioning that the Allroad, 3 Series and TSX recommend or require premium fuel. The CTS and XC70 recommend regular fuel, which mitigates their mileage shortfalls.
The Allroad has yet to be crash-tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it earned five out of five stars in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s side-impact tests. NHTSA hasn’t evaluated the Allroad for frontal crashes or rollovers. Because of structural differences, results for the A4 from either agency do not apply.
Standard safety features include head-protecting side-impact airbags, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags for the rear seats are optional, as are blind spot and forward collision warning systems. Click here for a full list, or here to see our evaluation of child-safety provisions.
Reliability for the A4 has been average, which tracks with the competition.
The Allroad starts at just over $40,000. Standard features include power front seats, leather upholstery, single-zone automatic climate control and a panoramic moonroof, but basic technology features like Bluetooth and a USB/iPod input are optional. So are seat heaters, sport seats, dual-zone climate control, a navigation system, keyless access with push-button start, and the A4’s Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Check all the boxes, and the Allroad tops out around $57,000.
BMW’s redesigned 3 Series has impressed, and the model line’s forthcoming wagon may have the Allroad’s number. But the Audi is still a worthy option, with quality and drivability that make up for so-so utility and value. The last Allroad was a niche player, selling only about 26,000 in the U.S. over its five-year tenure. Audi sold roughly twice that many A4s and S4s in 2005 alone.
It’s hard to predict whether the new Allroad can rise above niche status. The Avant it replaces, after all, never caught much sales fire. But that was a wagon, and the Allroad looks at least a little more like a small SUV — a class that’s much healthier in the U.S. Can a rechristened nameplate attract more shoppers? We’ll see. The summer sequel season is over, but this one could still be a hit.