A familiar formula here as Audi creates the rough-and-tumble version of its A4 Avant and calls it the 'allroad quattro'. With body cladding, quattro all-wheel drive and a raised ride height, we've seen it all before, but Audi has underplayed it on the second-generation of its smaller 'soft-roading' estate. The thing is, the ride the allroad possesses is anything but rough, and for that reason alone it is well worth checking out.
In the Metal:
Right, we have the black cladding over the wheelarches. And yes, the allroad rides higher than a regular 'B9' Audi A4 Avant, to the tune of 34mm - 23mm coming from the suspension and the rest from larger wheels and tyres. On top of that there's some aluminium effect trim lower down on the car at the front and back. This is all standard 'soft-roading' stuff. Yet the all-new, second generation of A4 allroad is a surprisingly understated machine. It looks a lot like the regular A4 wagon on the outside and inside it's identical - Audi has done nothing to mark the newcomer out compared to a standard Avant. However, neither the reserved exterior styling nor lack of adventure within are major failings, as the current Audi A4 is a neat, handsome motor on the outside and is possessed of a glorious cabin, so the allroad remains a fantastic thing to look at and sit in.
Wow. The allroad is worth checking out for the ride and the ride alone. The regular A4 Avant glides along most roads smoothly, but that modest increase in the Audi's stance has made the car's comportment almost impossible to fault. It's so quiet and comfortable all of the time that you could easily consider doing hundreds of kilometres - and maybe even thousands of them - in one hit behind its excellent three-spoke steering wheel. The 2.0-litre TDI engine, part of a totally diesel A4 allroad line-up (here in Ireland, at least), is a gem too, although revving it past 3,000rpm sees it start to lose its composure - it gets a bit coarse when closing in on the redline. Stick to 60 per cent throttle openings and no more, and you'll find it hushed and powerful enough to hustle the 1,715kg allroad along with ease; on that score, the new A4 off-roader is up to 90kg lighter than its predecessor.
Everything else we've already discovered about the fifth-generation of Audi A4 Avant holds true in the allroad iteration, so there's tidy road holding, good steering, a superb seven-speed S tronic gearbox and the peace of mind of quattro traction. Talking of which, there's a solitary petrol model in other markets, the 2.0 TFSI with 252hp and 370Nm. This one isn't going to be sold here in Ireland, yet it's of interest because it has the new quattro ultra fuel-saving drivetrain we told you about in February. This means it can mechanically decouple its rear axle and run in front-wheel drive mode as required, with the quattro system ever on standby to help you out if things get hairy. So imperceptible is this in operation that we had to have an Audi bigwig with an app-toting iPad in the car, showing us how the ultra drivetrain was working at any given moment. And, on a dry, sunny and warm day in southern Germany, the A4 allroad was using the front axle only for 86 per cent of the time over a 40km section of country roads. This 'ultra' quattro system will make its way into other (read: diesel) allroads in the very near future.
One thing we can't tell you about is how good - or otherwise - the A4 allroad is off-road, because Audi AG kept us on the snooker-table smooth routes surrounding Munich. We're guessing it should be more than capable enough for most owners' needs, given the most challenging thing these allroads are likely to see in their lifetimes are a few gravel car parks.
What you get for your Money:
The specification of the allroad builds on the SE, bringing a few nice toys like auto wipers and an electrically opening/closing boot, plus of course the body styling. Just three models, all diesel, will be offered here, starting with a 163hp 2.0 TDI. This 190hp TDI is €1,400 more and well worth the extra outlay, we reckon, while for buyers craving the ultimate A4 allroad experience, the €60,150 3.0 V6 TDI offers meaty outputs of 272hp and 600Nm. Compared to a 190hp SE 2.0 TDI Avant S tronic quattro, then, which comes in at €50,850, the equivalent allroad is €3,400 more than its lower-riding sibling; whether you think it's worth it for the better ride and marginally increased exterior presence is purely going to be a matter of personal taste.
BMW 320d Touring xDrive: similar power 2.0-litre engine and four-wheel drive, but no body cladding or increased ride height. Really, the X3 is the only option as an A4 allroad alternative.
Volkswagen Passat Alltrack: mechanically, this is extremely similar to the A4 and it's also a classy product. Yet the Passat, try as it might, isn't quite up to A4 standards, is it?
Volvo V60 Cross Country: Sweden dilutes its CC brand by offering the vast majority of models as front-drivers only, something Audi will never do with its allroad vehicles.
The Audi A4 allroad isn't cheap and, on first glance, it's not massively differentiated from the normal Avant models either. However, the ride is sublime and the whole car feels a suitably high-class product. The first-gen A4 allroad was always a lot weaker than the A6 allroad quattro overall, but this second stab at the process sees the junior Audi soft-roader become hugely competent. Given it doesn't really have any direct rival machines from the traditional competitors either, this enormously civilised wagon is absolutely assured of class-leading status for a long while yet.