Audi A4 Allroad

The SUV for a sensible head and rough terrain

JOHN CAREY

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

AUDI’S new A4 Allroad quattro makes the company’s own Q5 seem flabby, slow and inefficient.

Comparing versions of the raised all-wheel-drive wagon and SUV both powered by a turbo 2.0-litre petrol four highlights the Q5’s shortcomings. It’s 180kg heavier, nearly a second slower to 100km/h, and burns around a litre more fuel every 100km.

Yet none of these things deter Australians, apparently. In 2015 Audi’s hugely popular mediumsize SUV outsold the outgoing version of its high-clearance allwheel- drive wagon by better than 20 to one.

The arrival of a new A4 Allroad quattro in September could alter this ratio a little. Like other members of the latest B9-generation of the A4, it’s built on Audi’s MLB Evo architecture.

While the outgoing B8 version of the A4 Allroad is imported only with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, Audi will offer customers a choice with the new model.

The 140kW 2.0-litre turbo-diesel of the B8 A4 Allroad will be joined by a 185kW 2.0-litre turbo-petrol.

Both are teamed with Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch ’box and quattro all-wheel-drive. But while both wear identical quattro badges on their tailgates, there are big differences in hardware.

While the A4 2.0 TDI Allroad’s quattro is essentially carried over from the outgoing model, the A4 2.0 TFSI Allroad debuts something new. Audi calls it, clumsily, “quattro with ultra technology”. The key change is the replacement of the previous-gen quattro’s centre differential with an electronically controlled clutch pack. There’s a second clutch, installed on the rear differential’s input shaft. This means the propshaft running down the car’s centreline can be isolated.

This spells a reduction in drag in driving conditions when quattro traction isn’t needed.

During straight-line cruising on dry bitumen, for example, the 2.0 TFSI Allroad drives only the front wheels, while the rear wheels spin only their axle half-shafts.

Our brief drive of the new 2.0 TFSI Allroad quattro wasn’t long enough to fully analyse its upgraded all-wheel-drive tech.

But what was obvious on Bavarian backroads and autobahns was that the Allroad loses none of the things that make the new A4 Avant so likeable. The interior is spacious and beautifully crafted, the level of electronic tech – driver aid and infotainment – is impressive, refinement and ride comfort outstanding.

Best of all, the A4 2.0 TFSI Allroad quattro’s unique selling proposition – its extra 34mm of ground clearance – has little effect on handling. Which means, obviously, that it’s a better drive than its Q5 equivalent. ed.

PLUS & MINUS

Capable rather than involving to drive; cautious exterior design Turbo 2.0-litre petrol four; interior; refinement; comfort; space Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Allroad quattro 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 185kW @ 5000-6000rpm 370Nm @ 1400-4500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1580kg 6.1sec (claimed) 6.7L/100km (EU) $75,000 (estimated) September

Dollars versus sense

Audi Australia aims to price the new A4 Allroad quattro models around $75,000, roughly $2000 more than an A4 2.0 TFSI Avant quattro.

Sounds like a reasonable premium, but price is one reason so many Australians prefer the Q5 instead.

Four-cylinder versions of the SUV are more than $10,000 less costly than their Allroad equivalents.