As Audi fans, we all know the original A6-based allroad quattro that was brought across the pond roughly a decade ago. With its "ugly duckling" looks, it was a love it or hate it kind of vehicle. Its only real European competition at the time was from Volvo's now extinct all-wheel drive "Cross Country". With its adaptive air ride suspension, toughed up underpinnings, and overall rugged looks, the allroad became one of the first successful European crossovers in the United States. It was the Avant for the modern parent, and while popular with many Audi fans, it sadly stopped coming to our shores in 2005. In doing so it left a gap in the market which Audi filled with their first SUV, the much larger Q7, and then eventually the more midsize Q5.
But, rather surprisingly, the US is finally getting its allroad back. This time though on a very different platform. The new A4-based allroad quattro is coming to market as a replacement for the "normal" A4 Avant. This latest iteration of the allroad is reported to be hitting showrooms in June of this year, coming over as a 2013 model with a beefier (yet non-adjustable suspension), front and rear skid plates, and those recognizable "allroad gray" flared fenders and lower bumpers as standard. For those not digging the two-tone look, you can opt to have those pieces color-matched to your vehicle's paint.
To generate buzz and excitement about this new car, Audi has sent five Euro-spec allroads to North America for various PR events. They're currently traveling the circuit form dealership to dealership. One of those cars ended up at Ed Carroll Motor Company
in Fort Collins, Colorado, who gave us a call to come check it out for ourselves. Never one to turn down a test drive, come sun or snow, I headed right over. I was eager to see if this new allroad could fill the shoes of its older brother.
Initially, when I read the press release, I was less than enthusiastic. I personally love the Avant line of the A4s, and wasn't big on the idea of simply flaring it out and raising it up. In press photos the fenders looked too much like dried out versions we see on older allroads, and as some have said, it just looked "puffy" or "bloated". But, as is often the case with press photos, those feelings quickly passed when seeing the vehicle in person.
To be quite honest, it's a beautiful car. From the headlights back, the curves and lines of the car just felt as if they belonged together. Even the flared fenders felt right when I looked at the whole picture. Much more so than the C5 allroad before it. In terms of stance, it was aggressive enough to still stand out in a crowd but didn't feel as if it needed to be lower like the sedan version of the A4. It just all fit together.
The interior was typical Audi fashion. Much like the exterior, it had great lines and materials. A smooth dash laced with a fine wood grained trim. The first thing I noticed when getting in was just how easy I slid into the seat. At 6' 2", I didn't have to drop way down to get in as I do in many cars. And, once in, it was a comfortable feel with everything in order as is typical of the Audi instrument panels and controls. From the previous B8 A4's I've driven, it didn't appear that much had changed in regards to the overall look and feel inside.
I didn't come to the dealership to just look however, and couldn't wait to get it out on the road. With snow coming down, and wet roads ahead, I knew it would be the perfect time to see just what I thought of this new wagon. I must reiterate that this was a Euro-spec vehicle, so there are quite a few options on this example which added to the driving experience and sadly wont be available when they hit North American showroom floors, such as the convex side mirrors. Other features we were not able to confirm were the five different ride settings and its park assist feature. Time will soon tell.
The now very familiar 2.0 turbo motor started up smoothly, and after we'd loaded in the camera gear and crew, things were properly warmed up and off we went. The acceleration was smooth and drama free, even when pressing the pedal hard. The gear changes were as buttery as ever, and road noise was next to none even with the hefty all-season tires.
As we headed up to the hills, going over a varying range of terrain, it became apparent that this was neither a car nor SUV. Much like the original allroad in its highest suspension setting, it rolled with the corners both on and off the paved road. With barely a bump felt even when hitting the rougher patches of dirt it certainly didn't bring that sporty feel now common with newer Audi cars. But the whole time, I still had the physical feeling that I was in a car, not sitting so high up off the road that I felt disconnected from the asphalt. It was comfortable, smooth, and never put me in a position to feel as if it would lose control as I headed up and down the wet and icy roads.
Overall, this new allroad is a nice step back into the crossover arena for Audi. While it doesn't have some of the niftier features found on the original model, such as adjustable air ride, it's only owners of that previous version (and us Audi enthusiasts) that will know what's missing. Because of maintenance concerns and price-point issues, we can understand why Audi chose to bring over this allroad instead of the larger more feature-laden A6 version. This allroad still delivers on its intent as a do-all, go most places kind of car that can get there not only in style and comfort, but do so while still providing great gas mileage that a bigger heavier SUV just can't deliver.
The 2013 allroad is a dramatic looking vehicle, and while that drama doesn't necessarily transfer to the paved twisties, it's a safe vehicle able to command the elements without the driver ever breaking a sweat. With wagons disappearing from North American dealerships across most of the European brands, it's fantastic to see a successor to the original allroad back on our showroom floors. Thank you, Audi.