Back in the days when we were allowed to roam free on the highways and byways, I took our Audi A4 Allroad test car on a weekend trip from Scotland to southern Wales and back. Over 1,000 miles taking in motorways, A and B roads, it convinced me that it’s pretty much all the car anyone needs.
Sitting alongside the standard A4 Avant estate, the Allroad is what a crossover used to be, with all-wheel-drive, a small suspension raise and a bit of cladding added to a standard model. It’s the sort of car you buy if you need lots of luggage space and occasionally encounter a rutted track or muddy field in your day-to-day life.
The 3.5cm suspension lift and quattro drive is enough to give the car some useful additional clearance and confidence on rough terrain without the stilt-like feel of a full-fat SUV. And while the taller ride and thicker tyres give a softer ride than the standard A4, it still feels more composed on challenging roads than a tall SUV, thanks partly to a wider track than the regular A4. For munching up mile after mile of motorway, it is ideal, providing the kind of relaxing refinement that takes the pain out of long distances.
The engine matches that refinement, despite being the smaller, less powerful of the diesel options. Its 187bhp, 2.0-litre four-cylinder loses out to the 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 but still impresses. It is almost as smooth and quiet as a V6 and while it lacks the bigger car’s punch, it never feels inadequate, getting the power to all four wheels with minimal fuss and only occasional hesitation at low speeds from the seven-speed auto transmission. Official testing pegs the economy at 44.1mpg but I saw a nice round 50mpg across my time with it.
Inside, the Allroad continues Audi’s tradition of producing a top-quality environment for driver and passengers. Its clear, logical layout, top-quality materials and classy presentation make it a pleasure to spend even long periods of time in it. Controls are where you’d expect them to be and fall immediately to hand, and, thankfully, Audi persists with physical heating controls - the loss of them in some cars is a personal bugbear for ease of use and safety reasons.
However, in an act of madness, the A4 has ditched the rotary dial control for the media and navigation screen. Small beer, you might say, but everything is now controlled via the 10.1-inch screen with touch or gesture, or by voice control. The feature-rich MMI touchscreen system is a good example of its kind but jabbing at it while on the move is still harder than the intuitive operation of the old wheel. And gesture control remains nothing more than a gimmick.
Audi A4 Allroad Sport
- Price: £40,825 (£49,800 as tested)
- Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
- Power: 187bhp
- Torque: 295lb/ft
- Transmission: Seven-speed DCT automatic, four-wheel-drive
- Top speed: 137mph
- 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds
- Economy: 44.1mpg
- CO2 emissions: 168g/km
Away from the screen, the sports seats are an odd pairing with the car’s off-roady vibe but are still comfortable for drivers of all shapes and sizes thanks to a huge range of adjustments. There are plenty of spots to store everything from phones to road trip sweets and rear leg and headroom are decent, if not class-leading. The boot is a generous 495 litres, although not as generous as the 529 litres in the rival Volvo V60 Cross Country or VW Passat Alltrack’s 639l.
The Allroad line-up is pretty simple - you can have Sport or Vorsprung trim and a choice of three engines. Our Sport model starts at £40,825 and there’s plenty of equipment as standard, from auto-dipping LED headlights and a power tailgate to Audi’s virtual cockpit and three-zone climate controls. A hefty £9,000 worth of options on our car included a panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charging, parking assistance, clever Matrix adaptive LED headlights and a “Tour” pack with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and enhanced pre-collision detection.
Taken as a complete package, that high-tech spec, practical and comfortable interior, and refined driving experience is hard to fault. Compared with an Audi Q5 with the same engine, the Allroad is more economical, cleaner, is nicer to drive, quicker and has almost as much luggage space, so if you can see past the current fad for SUVs the A4 Allroad might well be all the car you need.
This article first appeared on The Scotsman