The promise of mildly enhanced off-road ability and a slightly more rugged appearance proved sufficiently attractive to buyers for the first generation of Audi A4 Allroad to be considered a significant success. Its replacement, still pitched as a halfway house between Audi’s conventional A4 Avant quattro model and the Q5 SUV, doesn’t attempt to alter the winning formula – but it is new from the ground up, including an updated engine line-up and the introduction of the next generation of quattro all-wheel drive system.
The new quattro technology – which will roll out across Audi’s line-up in due course – is intended to make the manufacturer’s famous four-wheel drive set-up more economical and allows the A4 Allroad to function as a front-drive car when circumstances permit (i.e. when at a steady cruise). However, this part-time four-wheel drive system, dubbed quattro with ultra technology, is initially twinned only to the 2.0 TFSI engine – a bit player in the UK, but popular outside Europe.
The rest of the range, including the 188bhp 2.0 TDI we tried, still gets permanent mechanical four-wheel drive for the foreseeable future. Our car also came with the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox in place of the standard six-speed manual. This model starts at £38,640; the two 3.0-litre V6 diesel engines, including the impressively frugal 215bhp version, cost from £40,375, while the popular 148bhp 2.0 TDI will join the range later this year.
What's the 2016 Audi A4 Allroad like to drive?
The Allroad is based heavily on our Car of the Year, the A4, sharing the basic size and shape of the Avant version (albeit with some extra body cladding). However, thanks to its taller suspension, the model does drive a little differently. In place of the A4’s tight body control and firmly supervised ride quality, the Allroad we drove – equipped with optional adaptive dampers – offered a slightly more supple response, especially to bigger undulations. It's not seamless enough to be considered a waft but the leggier pliancy befits its gently elevated appearance. Naturally, there is a tendency for the model to lean over in the corners more conspicuously than an A4 Avant would, although a less emphatic keenness for changing direction isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Instead the Allroad feels like a machine built to go at its own pace. Certainly not ponderous – the all-round, rumbling enthusiasm of the 2.0-litre diesel engine sees to that – but not hopelessly impatient either, as the A4 can sometimes seem. Either quattro system (the difference between new and old is indistinguishable in everyday driving) provides a tremendous amount of security and the steering remains direct.
What's the 2016 Audi A4 Allroad like inside?
Fabulous, really. We’re on familiar ground here: the Allroad carries over the A4’s cabin – which means it’s wonderfully put together, superb to look at and, for the most part, sleekly stylish. The car only adds around 23mm of extra height (the rest of the ground clearance is made up by chunkier tyres) so the driver’s vantage point is not dramatically taller than that of the standard Avant – but we found no cause for complaint.
None either in the space offered. This too is basically the same as you’d find in the current Avant, meaning it’s a little roomier than the previous Allroad. Most adults will make themselves comfortable in the back, and the boot, of course, is as square and as flat and as voluminous as you’d hope to imagine a claimed 490 litres of load space to be.
Should I buy one?
The reasons for doing so have always been a tiny bit tenuous. Clearly there are about two finger widths worth of extra ground clearance underneath (plus a new off-road drive mode and underbody protection to go with it), but anyone with even a half-serious intention of heading off-piste would be advised to look elsewhere.
The best excuse is that the Allroad, as before, offers a slightly more leisurely driving feel than the standard A4. It is also, thanks to its raised height and body adornments, more conspicuous-looking than the everyday A4 Avant, yet equally it is less efficient than its stablemate, slower and around £1800 more expensive than a top-spec S Line model. Likeable, then, but not the logical choice in the A4 range.
What Car? says...
Volvo V60 Cross Country
Audi A4 Allroad quattro Sport Engine size 2.0-litre diesel Price from £38,640 Power 188bhp Torque 295lb ft 0-62mph 7.8sec Top speed 136mph Fuel economy 56.5mpg CO2 132g/km