You may remember the Audi allroad quattro, a beefed up A6 wagon that made up in off-road ability what it lacked in proper capitalization. Now the allroad is back -- smaller, trimmer, and simpler, a sports car among CUVs with a $40,495 price tag and a 4 year/50,000 mile warranty. But does the 2013 Audi allroad belong in your driveway? Let's drive it and find out.
The original Audi allroad was an impressive machine -- while it may have looked like nothing more than Audi's take on the Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70, in truth, the old allroad was a lot more. With its height-adjustable air suspension and twin-turbo V6, the old allroad did what many crossovers claim (and fail) to do -- it combine the best elements of a car and an SUV, able to burn up twisty Alpine roads one minute and tip-toe over rocks and fallen trees the next. Were it not for the outrageous price, Audi probably would have sold a lot more of them; as it happens, the allroad was pulled from the US market after 2005.
Now the allroad is back, and aside from the gramatically-incorrect name, a lot has changed. The 2013 allroad is now based on the smaller A4 Avant; in fact it replaces that car in Audi's lineup. Unfortunately, the new allroad also lacks its predecessor's abilities -- now it really is Audi's answer to the Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70, except it costs more and does less.
To be fair to Audi, they didn't just throw some extra body cladding onto an A4 Avant and call it a day. The allroad uses suspension parts from the A5 coupe, giving it a wider stance. The air suspension is gone, but the allroad does have 7.1" of ground clearance (2" more than a standard A4) thanks to a modified suspension and taller (45-series) tires.
In the Driver's Seat
The A4 got an interior revamp for 2013, and the new allroad comes along for the ride. I used to criticize Audi for their dark and dreary interiors, but a lot has changed. The allroad quattro has lots of metal trim to brighten up the all-black dashboard, and both material quality and fit and finish are excellent. Audi has simplified the dial controller (which they call the MMI, for Multi Media Interface) that controls the stereo, climate controls, and optional navigation system, and there are also redundant buttons and dials for tunes and A/C. All in all, it's rather user-friendly by German standards, not a bad accomplishment for a country that apparently values complexity.
That said, the complexity is worth it: Among the nifty gadgets you can get in your allroad is 3G internet connectivity, which provides Google Earth and Street View images for navigation (the latter useful, the former not so much) and Internet-enabled searches, plus a WiFi hot spot for up to 8 devices.
Unfortunately, when it comes to more basic technology like the back seat, things aren't so good. The space back there is tight by car standards and downright stingy by SUV standards. Legroom is just okay, and it's hard to make the most of it since there's little space under the front seats for your toes. At least the luggage capacity is decent: 27.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and 50.5 with the seats folded down.
On the Road
The allroad is powered by Audi's venerable 2-liter turbocharged direct-injected four-cylinder engine. (This is technology that many automakers are just now developing; Audi's been using it for well over a decade.) Acceleration is strong; Audi says 0-60 in 6.5 seconds, and while I'm inclined to agree, it was the mid-range passing power that really impressed me. But the fuel economy is disappointing: EPA estimates are 20 MPG city/27 MPG highway on premium fuel. An all-wheel-drive Honda CR-V hauls more stuff and scores 22/30, and it runs on regular.
Out on the open road, the allroad drives like a dream: It feels virtually identical to the A4 sedan, with only a slight loss of precision in the steering (due, I would assume, to the taller tires). Audi's well-sorted Quatto all-wheel-drive system comes standard, although it's set up for severe weather rather than severe trails. The A4 doesn't even get a hill descent mode, although it does have an off-road/loose surface program for the electronic stability control system. But Quatto does wonders for the allroad's on-road handling; if the idea of swerving in an SUV makes you nervous, the allroad is your car. It's unflappable in the curves, but it also lacks the high-and-mighty driving position offered by most SUVs and CUVs.
Here's the punchline: Audi is asking $40,495 for the base-model allroad. That's $7,000 more than the A4 sedan and $4,000 more than the more practical Q5 CUV. It doesn't take many options to drive the price well past $47,000, and a top-of-the-line Prestige model with all the options lists for $57,150.
For comparison, Volvo charges between $35,825 and $54,165 for the all-wheel-drive XC70, which has a lot more usable space. Ditto for the Subaru Outback; it may lack the Audi's high-lux appeal, but it has more interior room and an equally sophisticated all-wheel-drive system -- and you can get a fully loaded Outback 3.6R for just under $37k.
Audi is one of my favorite luxury automakers; their cars are beautifully appointed, solidly engineered, and great to drive, and they (usually) offer excellent value-for-money compared to other German cars. That certainly applies to the A4 and the Q5, and it applies to the 2013 allroad on all counts but the last. Still, something about this car triggers my inner cynic: It feels as if Audi has simply tacked on some extra body and suspension bits and jacked the price way, way up. Worse yet, they've and killed of the A4 Avant model so that buyers who want a wagon will have no choice but to pay the premium for this cash cow. If the new allroad were as innovative as the old one, I'd say it justifies its price -- but it isn't, and in my opinion, it doesn't. -- Aaron Gold