2013 Audi A4 allroad quattro review
The classier, better alternative to an oversized, bulky SUV.
- Pleasant, almost sporty handling
- Space of a wagon
- Audi quality interior
- Not as much space as most SUVs
- Awfully pricey
- Audi's reliability issues
Wagons, wagons, wagons — why can't you people accept that station wagons really are cool? American car buyers have been running from wagons since the end of the disco era, first to minivans, then SUVs and now crossovers. We're guessing the memory of cruising around in a faux-wood-paneled 1970-something behemoth is too much to bear. We say get over it, and are advocates for the good old wagon, citing the utility and fuel economy benefits as primary reasons.
Unfortunately, it's going to take a series of new cars with eye-catching styling to change the public's opinion. Enter the Audi A4 allroad quattro.
The new allroad is essentially a raised wagon that combines the utility of a small utility vehicle with the dynamics of a car in an attractive, classy package. It's a far cry from those station wagons that embarrassed us so many years ago.
But is it enough to change public opinion?
The 2013 Audi A4 allroad quattro comes in just one trim level, the $39,600 Premium, with several available packages to add equipment. Standard features include leather upholstery, automatic climate control, 10-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, auxiliary input jack, satellite radio, panoramic sunroof, and P245/45R18 tires on alloy wheels.
A Premium Plus option package adds heated front seats, auto-leveling xenon headlights, iPod interface, universal garage-door opener, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio, 3-zone automatic climate control, and a power tailgate.
A Prestige package gets blind-spot alert, a navigation system with voice recognition, a rearview camera, rear park assist, HD Radio, and a Bang & Olufsen 505-watt 5.1 surround sound system with 14 speakers.
Also available are sport seats, a flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters, 19-inch wheels, Audi Drive Select, and adaptive cruise control that can bring the car to a stop below 20 mph to avoid or mitigate accidents.
Under the Hood
The 2013 Audi A4 allroad quattro is offered with only one powertrain: a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability. The engine makes 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings are 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway. The allroad also comes standard with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, which routes 60 percent of the power to the rear wheels in normal driving conditions and can send up to 100 percent of the power to either axle when it detects slip.
The 2013 Audi allroad shares its dashboard and interior design with the Audi A4, making it one of the more attractive cabins at its price point. It features quality soft-touch surfaces on all the major touch points, and a modern aesthetic. The control layout is highlighted by Audi's MMI control interface, which uses a rotating knob on the center stack to navigate around the dashboard screen.
The MMI knob is surrounded by four buttons that act as shortcuts to the various entertainment, navigation and communications functions. Like other systems of this type, MMI will take some time to learn and adds steps to formerly simple controls, but it will become second nature to owners after a month or two. The placement of the controller on the dashboard, however, makes it less convenient and harder to control than versions placed on the center console where a resting hand is more stable.
The allroad's interior is comfortable and just big enough for a small family. Getting in and out is quite easy, thanks to a ride height that's 1.5 inches higher than your typical A4. The base front seats are comfortable and supportive, but the optional sport seats offer more bolstering for better lateral support through turns. Front seat passengers have plenty of headroom and legroom, and the rear seat offers enough space for average-size adults. If front or rear passengers are any taller, however, rear legroom becomes cramped.
The compact footprint also means that the cargo space isn't quite as large as most SUVs or crossovers. The cargo area is easy to access, thanks to a power tailgate and a flat load floor. It has a useful 27.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up and with them down that expands to 50.5 cubic feet. That's 10 to 20 cubic feet less space than its larger, more SUV-like rivals.
On the Road
Mechanically, the allroad is basically a raised A4, and on the road it feels like it. That makes it a fine alternative to today's bulkier SUVs and crossovers, thanks to a more controlled, almost sporty character. Responses are agile, the steering is light but direct, the ride is smooth, and the vehicle feels smaller than its size. Every SUV will be far less fun to drive in comparison, and the same goes for just about any crossover.
Buyers who choose the optional Audi Drive Select package can determine just how sporty the driving experience is. The system has Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual settings that adjust the steering ratio and effort, throttle mapping, suspension damping, and transmission shift points. Those who want a more engaging driving experience with quicker reactions will use the Dynamic or Individual settings. The Individual mode also allows drivers to pick the sportiness of each of the above traits. For example, they could choose quicker, heavier steering because they like the feel, but can also opt for less aggressive shift points for better fuel economy. The Dynamic setting isn't too harsh. Similarly, the Auto and Comfort settings are softer, but not too soft. We also like the default settings of the controls without Audi Drive Select, though we prefer the added heft of the steering in the Dynamic mode.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine provides sprightly acceleration from a stop, with zero to 60 mph arriving in 6.5 seconds. It's impressively smooth and quiet for a 4-cylinder, and it works well with the 8-speed automatic transmission, which shifts smoothly and responsively to provide willing passing response. Buyers who opt for the sport seats also get a chunky flat-bottom steering wheel that feels good in the driver's hands and offers the added control of steering-wheel paddle shifters.
Right for You?
The 2013 Audi allroad is an excellent choice for families looking for the space and utility of an SUV or crossover, but don't need the bulk or ultimate off-road ability. It is more fuel efficient and offers a far better driving experience than any SUV or most crossovers, but it doesn't have quite as much cargo space as those vehicles, and the rear seat is smaller than most, too. That space will be plenty big enough, though, for active-lifestyle singles and couples, and they also get the added bonus of an attractive, classy vehicle.
(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitate this report.)
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.