- Strong power delivery, impressive handling
- Rakish wagon stance
- Shapely sport seats
- Nicely appointed interior
- Excellent connectivity
- MMI takes too many 'clicks' for common tasks
- Pricier than many alternatives
- Tight back-seat legroom
The 2015 Audi Allroad isn't just the best family car in the A4 lineup; it's an altogether better driver's car than most tall crossovers.
The 2015 Audi Allroad a family-sized wagon that features brawny styling, perky performance, and a little more all-weather toughness than a typical sedan. It truly is a model whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
While the previous edition of the Allroad had been built on A6 underpinnings, the current Allroad is built on the same platform as the A4, and it's a tidier vehicle for it. It's still a station wagon with a slightly taller ride height—earning it some of the advantages of an off-pavement SUV, without compromising too many of the driving dynamics found in a sports sedan.
The Allroad pushes the rugged look on the outside, but purchasing an off-road permit for it might be a little much. There aren't chops here for more than casual off-pavement driving—a gravel road sounds about right—but the Allroad's stability control includes a special mode which allows for more wheelspin, in case it's stuck in muck and needs to extract itself. Ground clearance is 7.1 inches—less than the Subaru Outback, but about the same as some 'soft' crossovers—and the Allroad has some modest skid-plate and underbody protection for light trailblazing.
Inside, the Allroad is accommodating for most passengers, albeit a little cramped in the back seat. The front seats—even in base trim—are supportive for long highway trips, with just enough side bolster support too. The rear seats are dug in a little bit and ride low. There's good support and contouring in the cushions, but not enough room for feet and knees for taller adults. The cargo area swallows 27.6 cubic feet of cargo with the seats up, or 50 cubes with the seats folded forward, enough space for weekend projects or moving detail.
The 2015 Allroad is based on the A4 architecture, and while it hasn't yet been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it's earned five-star frontal and side impact ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Noteworthy safety options include adaptive cruise control that can stop the car completely from speeds up to 19 mph; blind-spot monitors and a rearview camera are also available, as are rear-seat airbags. Visibility, however, is pretty good, thanks to the tall glass areas, but even with the rear parking sensors and rear camera afforded to most of the lineup, the bulbous hood obscures where the front corners are.
A raised ride height, cladding, and a little trail-focused armor help distinguish the Allroad from the A4 Avant wagon. We don't get the latter version in the States this year, only the Allroad makes its way across the pond. But the Allroad visually connects the dots between the A4 line and the Q5 crossover. The Allroad's profile is sturdier than a normal wagon and from the front the Allroad looks the business too—probably thanks to the vertically ribbed grille. LED headlights get a little luxury treatment with chamfered top corners for elegance; wide fog lamps down low add more substances. Most models will have a matte finish around the lower body for a butch look, but a higher-gloss finish is available.
Inside, the Allroad is virtually indistinguishable from the A4 sedan—at least from the front seats. The analog gauge cluster is a simple take on vital functions, and Audi's infotainment system, dubbed "MMI," dominates attention in the middle of the dash. The look is burnished with aluminum trims, but several shades of wood trim are available if that's not your thing. Overall, the A4's dash, controls, and material are befitting of a luxury-branded car.
Audi's approach under the hood is similarly simple. There's only one powertrain available, but thankfully it's a good one. The 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 makes 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It's paired to an 8-speed automatic, which features a sport mode that holds gears longer, and Audi's latest all-wheel-drive system, which they call "quattro," is fitted underneath. For 2015, the engine gets a modest bump up in power that knocks a tenth off it's 0-60 mph time—officially it takes 6.4 seconds to make the sprint. The 3,900-pound wagon doesn't argue much with drivers; plenty of power is under foot, even if the transmission won't hesitate to shift up if you're not asking for the revs. According to the EPA, the Allroad manages 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined. In an extended test, we noted 24 mpg in a 1,000-mile mix of city and highway drives, and we've seen more than 30 mpg on relaxed highway cruises too.
Initially impressions may lead to some happy head-scratching after you've taken the Allroad through some tight esses, or any back road. Despite its stockier stance, it seems to handle a bit better than the A4 sedan. Big 18-inch wheels and taller-profile tires give it better stability than the standard A4 can offer. Though it rides about 1.5 inches higher, the Allroad's suspension loads up more predictably, and the quattro system can send up to 85 percent of torque to the rear wheels (60 percent in normal driving). Like the four-door, the Allroad can be fitted with dynamic variable-ratio steering and Drive Select, which tailors its electric power steering, transmission, throttle and shock settings for sporty or soft driving.
At the base level, for just over $40k, the Allroad's standard equipment set includes leather upholstery; aluminum interior trim; power front seats; a power tailgate; a panoramic sunroof; satellite radio; and MMI, Audi's multi-media interface. Options include iPod/USB connectivity; 19-inch wheels and tires; adaptive headlights; Bluetooth; wood interior trim; 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio; sport seats and shift paddles; and a navigation system. The Convenience Package, with its Audi music interface, HomeLink universal garage-door opener, the so-called driver information system, and Bluetooth connectivity, has been packed in as part of the Allroad's standard equipment for 2015.
Audi Connect is another noteworthy extra; the feature allows customers can tap into a built-in 3G connection that turns the Allroad into a rolling wireless hotspot for up to 8 devices, and to enable Google local searches via MMI. The connection also feeds input to the navigation system (with traffic and weather information) to render maps from Google Earth and Google Street View in stunning, crisp detail. The interface isn't as slick as we'd like, but taken together, the unit is a must-have for new cars.