Audi A4 Allroad long-term test

These days, it can feel like every other car is an SUV, but the A4 Allroad is a more distinctive choice that promises many of the same strengths. We've added one to our long-term fleet to see if...

Audi A4 Allroad
Audi A4 Allroad
  • The car Audi A4 Allroad 3.0 TDI 218 quattro Sport
  • Run by Alan Taylor-Jones, new cars editor
  • Why it’s here To see if a practical family holdall with moderate off-road ability can mean something other than an SUV
  • Needs to Provide good long-distance comfort and SUV versatility, while being refined, comfortable and frugal

Price £42,945 Price as tested £52,805 Miles 6645 Official economy 55.4mpg Test economy 40.4mpg Options fitted Technology Pack (£1395), Parking Assistance Pack (£1350), Comfort and Sound Pack (£1295), electrically adjustable front seats with driver’s memory (£950), damping control (£900), folding towbar (£850), 19in alloy wheels (£750), front sports seats in Milano leather (£750), matrix LED headlights (£650), Quantum Grey solid paint (£645), folding door mirrors with auto-dimming and memory function (£325)

10 October 2018 – baby's first holiday

If you have kids, I suspect you remember your first holiday as a parent. I’ve just had the pleasure (or should that be ordeal?) and I can’t imagine I’ll be forgetting it in a hurry.

First problem? Getting to the destination. We decided to keep things simple by going to a family holiday home in the Dordogne, South West France. The weather’s usually warm in mid September (thankfully it was again) and because I’ve been there with my wife many times before, we hoped there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises.

We usually fly, but with a four-month old in tow and enough baby paraphernalia to set up a branch of Mothercare, we really needed to drive. But the usual be 10-hour door-to-door journey from Surrey with a couple of pit stops would no doubt have become a 15-hour epic with a feeding stop at every other service station. And besides, I’m told the experts now recommend babies spend a maximum of an hour at a time in a child seat.

Audi A4 Allroad

The solution we eventually settled on was that I’d drive and my wife would fly out the following morning. Even without baby, I still needed a big car to transport all that baby clutter, several suitcases and (I was secretly hoping) my bike. Alan Taylor-Jones was kind enough offer the keys to his Audi A4 Allroad, a car that would be perfect for that sort of long, mostly motorway drive – except it quickly dawned on me it might not be big enough.

Then I had an idea: what about a roof box? Audi offers two sizes: small and medium. I opted for the larger (which cost £442 plus £235 for the required roof bars) and was pleasantly surprised to learn the extra height didn’t push up the cost of my already booked Eurotunnel. The 360-litre box is rated to carry 90kgs and I managed to squeeze in a couple of smaller suitcases and two further soft bags. That meant I could slot my bike in the main boot (rear seats folded) without taking it to pieces.

As expected, the roof box didn’t  do fuel economy any favours; I averaged about 36mpg whereas Allroad has been delivering more than 41mpg during its time with us. And the extra wind noise created by the box was more noticeable that it would be in many other cars because everything else – the V6 engine and the rolling tyres – are so remarkably muted.

The super-smooth ride, brilliant infotainment system and classy interior also helped while away the hours, so I didn’t feel too weary when I arrived. There really are very few cars on sale that are so well suited to long journeys, and while the Allroad isn’t the sharpest handling thing in the world, it’s much more composed along French country roads that countless SUVs I could name.

Audi A4 Allroad

It was all going surprisingly smoothly until I arrived back a Calais a week later. A helpful chap directed me where to go, and although I raised an eyebrow as I came to a height restrictor, the Allroad passed beneath without issue. As I approached the train, another chap stopped me and asked: ‘Are you sure it’s gonna fit?’. I shrugged and explained that I’d been directed here and the fact the roof box hadn’t been ripped off by the height restrictor I’d just driven through suggests it would fit.   

Another couple of yards, a sudden shout of “stop” and the same man appeared at the window to inform me the train’s height sensor said the car wouldn’t fit, so I’d have to pull to the side and wait for an escort to take me to another part of the train. But by the time that was all sorted, my train was full and ready to leave.

And guess what? The next couple of trains had been cancelled, so there was an hour and a half wait in no man’s land. Not what you want after you’ve already spent eight hours behind the wheel. The moral of the story? Do consider a roof box if you want a relatively compact car but need to carry loads of luggage on the odd occasion. Just make sure you ask lots of questions if you ever find yourself at a Eurostar terminal.  

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