First Drive: 2013 Audi allroad [Review]

Audi revives its allroad badge for a rugged-lite version of its A4 Avant. We go double mile high to check it out.

Iconic. The word is bandied about with such insouciance these days that it has almost managed to lose its value.

Except when you talk about items that were coveted by a small but cult-like group of owners anxiously awaiting the return of the Audi allroad for 2013.

Audi invited us to the Colorado Rockies to test the latest coming of the vehicle that manages to handle the best and worst any surface can offer.
Is Audi living in the past or playing footsies with the future?

Where have you been all these years?
It has been seven years since the allroad badge was last seen on these shores, and then it was applied to an A6 wagon with a lift kit. In that time, the market has shifted toward tall crossovers like the Audi Q5 and Q7.

But Audi thinks there's still room for a ruggedized version of the A4 Avant (Audi-speak for wagon), which, incidentally, leaves our market for 2013. In part, Audi is chasing the "holy grail" of consumers - namely, those who are younger, more affluent and possessing higher education. The old allroad met those demographics, even if it was a niche player.

With a more refined look, it diverts from the normal single frame Audi grille to now feature a custom vertical waterfall-style grille. Other changes include what Audi calls a 3D bumper, and a raised roof with standard roof rails. Matte finished lower bumpers and wheel arches are standard, while full paint finishes are available with specific color choices. The front and rear undercarriage is equipped with stainless steel skid plates where possible contact might occur with steep angles of attack, should buyers venture beyond pavement.

The allroad is powered by the automaker's ubiquitous 2.0 TFSI turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinderengine. Seen in virtually everything Audi parent Volkswagen makes, in this engine bay it makes 211-horsepower at 4,300 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 1,500 rpm. Longitudinally mounted, it is mated to a new eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with quattro all-wheel-drive. Tracking is through a five-link front suspension with stabilizer bar that has been recalibrated for occasional off road use. Zero to 60 mph ticks off in 6.5 seconds.

Thirty pounds of weight has been removed from the electromechanical steering system. The standard Quattro configuration calls for 40:60 front-to-rear drive bias, but with instant variability between axles. Torque Vectoring, which applies fine braking corrections to swing a car into a turn better, is now part of the allroad's kit. The available Audi Drive Select allow drivers to customize the steering, throttle mapping, shift points, and dampening of the suspension.

Added ground clearance has always been the hallmark of the allroad, and the 7.1-inches of fully-laden air-under-frame found in the 2013 model are no different. That's an increase of an inch and a half over the last allroad that appeared here. The 110.4-inch wheelbase, and 185.9-inch overall length vehicle has a curb weight of 3,891 lbs. The EPA tags it with ratings of 20/27 with a combined average of 23 mpg.

On the safety side of the equation, adaptive control is available to slow down or speed back up as traffic conditions permit. Audi's Side Assist blind spot warning system is now available and Audi City Stop helps halt the allroad under 19 mph. Above that speed, it slows the vehicle's down and now kicks in at 19 miles per hour rather than the previous 30 mph threshold.

Newer tech
The interior of the allroad is a typical Audi affair, meaning the accommodations are top-shelf. A new, third generation (third in six years) Multi-media interface (MMI) makes its way into the mix, this time offering even more refinement over the previous generations. New for 2013 is the Audi Connect function with its Wi-Fi hotspot and the ability to take up to eight wireless devices online at one time. At this point, it works exclusively with the T-Mobile network, which might add an extra layer to your communications portfolio, like it or not.

Google Earth is also onboard with the navigation system, supplying images and info for topography and realistic images of the actual streets, highways, roads and all the buildings that you are likely to encounter during a stint behind the wheel. The system comes with a complimentary subscription for the first six months; should you decide to opt out after that time, the map imagery reverts to a more traditional Garmin-style view.

Also included with the Google Earth functions is a new Google Street View capability. Finally, a Point of Interest function now finds the latest info on restaurants and retailers, as well as real-time weather, gas prices, and news feeds.

Standard seating offered relative comfort for average drivers. An optional sport seating package is available for the bargain price of $500, which includes bolstered sport front seats and a three-spoke sport steering wheel with paddle shift levers.

Rockin' in the Rockies
Given that the allroad is a warmed-over A4, it was as though we had returned to an old friend. That old friend could use a little more rear seat legroom, however.

Driving the allroad on all roads (sorry, couldn't resist) in the Colorado Rockies showed us a prime example of a driver's car, albeit one that rides a little taller than any other A4 variant. Even riding on more all season-oriented tires than a typical A4, the allroad displayed great road feel through the steering wheel, transmitting exactly what the road is doing for additional driver confidence. A firm ride is the hallmark of a vehicle that handles well, and the allroad delivers in spades.

At 10,000 feet, or about a mile above the Mile High City, we noticed significant turbo lag from the 2.0-liter engine; using passing lanes found us counting before the engine committed itself to a strategic move. Closer to sea level, the turbo became more familiar once again, with its typical strong performance.

Regardless of altitude, the attitude of the suspension took over and made everything from tight switchbacks to long leisurely sweeping turns seem like mere child's play. We think the allroad will perform admirably at most regular altitudes, whatever your definition of regular may be.

Leftlane's bottom line
Perfect for urban and suburban adventures alike, it offers great utility and capabilities for a day where the wild things are.

We're glad to see that Audi is still at least somewhat committed to the wagon market in North America, even if it has to gussy up a standard A4 to do so.

2013 Audi allroad base price, $39,600.

Words and photos by Mark Elias.