2017 A4 Allroad Review: Audi’s Counter to Crossovers
Audi wasn’t messing around when it came time to prove the 2017 A4 Allroad is about more than looking classy — and moderately rugged — in a fancy shopping mall parking lot. Based on the new 2017 A4 sedan, the Allroad continues the German automaker’s blend of station-wagon style and maneuverability, along with a dollop of SUV attitude and all-terrain prowess.
A Ford F-150 Super Duty, this is not. Despite traveling to the wilds of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for our test drive, no amount of muddy roads or moose sightings can hide the fact that this Audi is designed for a less rugged existence. For starters, the base price of $44,950 (including $950 destination fee) is nothing to sneeze at — even when it snowed, and it did several times during our drive.
The leather-lined cabin and Audi’s typical business-class interior appointments are top notch, though we were almost physically pained whenever we’d track gobs of gooey mud and muck into our car. It was all part of the adventure, apparently, even if a gift card to Saks or Nordstrom’s is more in keeping with the mission statement of this Audi wagon.
Audi is playing it safe across its lineup when it comes to exterior design. The 2017 Allroad is no exception, even if the 1.3-inch bump in ride height (compared to the standard A4 sedan) adds a small amount of machismo. Cladding around the wheel wells and along the sides of the car don’t add anything in terms of utility, they’re simply there to look cool. If you can live with them — and have a preference for chunky-looking roof rails — the Allroad is sure to please. Then again, Audi does offer an optional paint job that colors the body-cladding to match the rest of the car, though it’ll cost you about $1,500 extra.
Exterior pros and cons
+ The Allroad comes with attractive “V-spoke” 18-inch alloy wheels and higher profile Continental all-season tires. This doesn’t make the car look like your eccentric uncle’s old AMC Eagle wagon, and that’s a good thing.
+ Vertical chrome bars in the front grille add character and visual height to the Allroad. Clever Audi, very clever.
+ Front and rear LED lighting is nice, though pretty much everyone has them now. A better surprise are the “dynamic” tail-lamps that have a strobe effect when you hit the turn signal. It’s very modern Mustang, or 1967 Mercury Cougar!
– Cynics will point out that this is nothing but a high-riding A4, or possibly a pygmy Q5. The spec sheet doesn’t exactly prove them wrong.
– Those bulkier side sills are great at collecting road grime. No big deal, right? Except every time you step out of the Allroad, the back of your pants gets caked with grime. Nitpicking? Perhaps. But annoying all the same.
There is only one choice of drivetrain in the 2017 A4 Allroad, so you can’t get too creative here. Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. On the road, this engine is extremely smooth and refined — we’d love to describe the noise, but it rarely made any. The EPA estimated fuel economy of 23 city/28 highway is solid for a car that weighs in at 3,825 pounds, too.
The Allroad’s seven-speed S-tronic, dual-clutch automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive hardware is a great pairing. New for the 2017 model year, the A4 Allroad’s Quattro system is in updated “Ultra” format. This includes an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch up front, and decoupling rear differential in back. During many driving conditions, the A4 Allroad is in fuel-saving, front-wheel-drive mode. Onboard sensors determine everything from a driver’s throttle and steering inputs, along with the outside temperature, to determine when and where the AWD system should transfer power and torque.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ Audi makes some deliciously smooth engines, and this turbo four-cylinder does the company proud.
+ Five drive modes are available: Comfort, Dynamic, Auto, Individual, and Off Road. Thankfully all of them are useful and don’t upset the Allroad’s fine balance.
– Audi quotes a zero to 60 mile per hour time of 5.9 seconds. That’s good, except the A4 Allroad ran out of breath during quick, two-lane highway passing maneuvers. Blame high altitudes, and the car’s porky curb-weight.
Classy and elegant sums up the Allroad’s insides. There is a good reason Audi has a target on its back when talk turns to luxury car cabins; with about 8 cubic feet of extra cabin room over the outgoing Allroad, the 2017 model offers a bit more shoulder room and rear legroom. We tried out the backseat, between snapping photos of elk and moose, and found it roomy for two adults — though three would be a tight squeeze.
Standard features include a panoramic sunroof, three-zone climate control, split-folding 40/20/40 rear seatback and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Worth the extra outlay is the quick and crisply detailed 12.3-inch center display screen that comes with the “Audi virtual cockpit” system. Combined with an available full color head-up display and 4G LTE Wi-Fi, the A4 Allroad hits all the right buttons when it comes to in-car tech.
Granted, you have to tick some boxes next to option packages too.
Interior pros and cons
+ Audi stays at the head of the class in terms of interior layout and materials.
+ Linked to Google Map images, the incredibly detailed navigation system is so good, you’ll find yourself using it even when you know exactly where you’re going. It’s just that fun to watch in action!
– This is a wagon, not an SUV, so overall cabin space is sufficient, but not cavernous.
– There is a price to be paid for some of the cooler cabin tech features.
Tech and safety
Every A4 Allroad comes with a full suite of airbags, stability and traction control, not to mention the assurance of the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive hardware. It’s not easy to pick and choose options, however, and adding some of our most recommended features means starting with the Premium Plus ($47,000) trim level. This allows access to the Technology option package ($3,250) that includes blind spot monitors, rear collision detection, and Audi’s virtual cockpit system.
Starting at $51,400, the A4 Allroad in the Prestige trim level comes with everything you’d want in a luxury wagon. We’ve already touched upon the in-car connectivity, navigation display, and head-up display. The Prestige trim adds other goodies, from intelligent cruise control to the full 12.3-inch touchscreen display, along with a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen surround sound stereo, MMI touch with hand-writing recognition, and rear cross-traffic alert. If you’re going for this car, the Prestige trim is the pick of the bunch if the base price doesn’t scare you away.
Tech pros and cons
+ The A4 Allroad is bristling with safety and convenience features.
+ Available Cold and Warm weather packages make the Allroad a comfy traveling companion in all climates.
– Why does Audi charge $350 extra for rear side airbags on all trim levels?!?
Audi wasn’t bashful about proving the A4 Allroad is capable of tackling more than a crowded shopping mall parking lot. Our meandering route through Wyoming in the shade of the Grand Teton mountain range included plenty of dirt and gravel roads, some of which had been truly bomb-shelled and cratered by Mother Nature. On paved roads, we opted for Dynamic or Auto driving modes, for the best mix of throttle response, ride, and handling.
When the pavement did end, the Off Road drive mode shut down Audi’s “pre-sense” safety features — so errant rocks or trees wouldn’t sound alarm bells — and softened the throttle response while optimizing the Quattro all-wheel-drive. It worked, and we made it out alive. Except that the steering becomes too vague and light for a German luxury car: This might be a deal breaker in, say, a pickup truck. But let’s be honest, how many A4 Allroad owners are going to drive 60-plus miles on dirt and gravel?
Wrap up and review
Credit where credit is due, Audi isn’t giving up on the station wagon. Yes, the company’s own Q5 and Q7 get far more attention and glory — mainly because they grab a boatload more sales. This is the era of the SUV and crossover, after all, so Audi’s continued presence in the premium wagon segment is commendable. However, we’re not giving the A4 Allroad the equivalent of a “Participant Award” simply because it exists; this Audi wagon earns praise for being an attractive, refined, efficient, and capable machine. The tech and safety amenities are world class, even if you have to shell out extra cash to get them on the Premium and Prestige trim levels.
The ride and handling balance is extremely comfortable and composed, even during our bizarre day of driving that saw a mixture of sun, clouds, rain, and snow. Audi managed to pack a year’s worth of weather forecasts into one 24-hour period. Well done!
While the turbo four-cylinder is smooth and quiet, it did lack urge when passing other vehicles on two-lane highways. Blame the horsepower-sapping high elevations of our route, or the simple fact that the A4 Allroad is a pretty heavy car at 3,800-plus pounds. Personally, we’d be tempted to visit a BMW showroom for some cross-shopping with a 330i xDrive wagon, though it doesn’t have the Audi’s level of off-road design or capabilities.
But as we pointed out, how many times do you see German luxury cars on the Rubicon Trail?