What is it?
Take one Audi A4 Avant, add lashings of black plastic cladding, an imposing grille, a pair of faux skid plates and put it on inch-and-a-half stilts. What do you get? the A4 Allroad, of course. Although it may not sound like the most appetising recipe for those interested in driving, there’s plenty of the population that will – and have – opted for one of these from Audi’s menu.
Compared with the previous generation, the new Allroad is up to 90kg lighter, 13% greener and 12% more powerful, depending on engine choice. Naturally, the 2.0 TDI is destined to be the big seller here, with two versions available. From launch, you can only have the 187bhp engine, although the familiar 148bhp variant is on the horizon.
There’s also a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol, which will account for few sales over here, and a pair of V6 diesels. These produce either 215bhp, or 268bhp in the range-topping model that we’re looking at here.
What’s it like?
While an additional 34mm of ride height seems insubstantial, the Allroad feels very different to the A4 Avant on which it’s based. Not only are the coil springs longer but they feel softer, too. This gives the car a more relaxed, supple gait that makes for comfortable cruising.
Happy to lollop over big crests and compressions it may be, but potholes and expansion joints generate a thump that can be felt through the seat of your pants. And while we might normally say wheel size won’t have helped, the 18in rims of our test car still carried a tyre with a generous sidewall.
With no clever active anti-roll bars or air springs, the softer set-up generates more body roll in corners than the regular A4. It’s no 1970s Cadillac, but you do find yourself at angles of lean that won’t be familiar to those in lower-slung saloons and estates.
Adaptive dampers are optional and can be firmed up using Audi’s Drive Select system. There’s no doubt the Allroad resists roll far better in its Dynamic mode, consequently feeling far keener to turn in and change direction. The downside is a harshness to the ride that can become jarring over a crumbly B-road or urban stretch of pockmarked asphalt.
The steering is typically Audi, meaning it’s precise and nicely weighted (unless in its Dynamic mode) but bereft of feel or feedback.
You could argue this full-fat V6 diesel is a little much for the Allroad. We may not have figured it yet, but we can fully believe the performance claims.
When combined with the smooth-shifting eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission, the Allroad effortlessly gains speed and often deposits you at the entry to a corner travelling considerably faster than you might have expected. It’s also very refined for a diesel engine.
Even near the top of the rev-range, the noise is more V6 purr than clattery tractor. Likewise, it’s pleasingly creamy at idle, with little intrusion when the stop-start system springs into life. The thing is, we’ve found the lesser diesel to be just as refined and more economical to boot.
As for the interior, it’s virtually the same as that of the standard A4 Avant. You’d be very hard pushed to notice the extra ride height and there are no obvious changes to the décor. That means one of the best dashboards at this price point, comfortable seats with plenty of adjustment and reasonable amounts of space in the back.
Equipment levels are adequate rather than generous, and while you get three-zone climate control, xenon lights, a powered tailgate and a 7.0in colour infotainment screen, sat-nav is an optional extra even on our near-£40,000 test car. At least Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard.
Should I buy one?
The A4 Allroad remains something of a halfway house. It can’t offer the commanding driving position of an SUV and it isn’t as sharp to drive as a regular estate. Even so, it is a likable thing in the majority of situations. But is it worth around £1800 more than the regular A4 Avant? We’d probably say no, unless that 34mm extra ground clearance will prevent you from ripping your sump off on the commute home, or if you fall in love with the plastic add-ons.
If you are smitten with the idea of an Allroad, we’d stick to one of the less-powerful models. The 2.0 TDI is quick enough for most people, while the 215bhp V6 is the chef’s recommendation for those seeking a little more refinement.
Audi A4 Allroad 3.0 TDI 272
Location Gloucestershire; On sale Now; Price £39,630; Engine V6, 2967cc, diesel; Power 268bhp at 3250-4250rpm; Torque 442Ib ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1805kg; 0-62mph 5.5sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 53.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 139g/km, 27%
What is it?