The raised and cladded Allroad version is the best and most balanced version of the Audi A4, particularly in turbo petrol 45 TFSI guise.
If there’s one type of car that generally gets a pragmatic car enthusiast going, it’s a cladded station wagon like the 2021 Audi A4 Allroad. And there’s little surprise to that: based on low-slung cars and not high-set SUVs, these slightly raised estates retain good handling while giving the kind of practical clearance bump and paint protection that city life demands.
Volvo’s Cross Country series kicked off this niche in the nineties, and Audi’s Allroad badge soon followed. And while it’s the Subaru Outback that has become firmly entrenched as the archetypal cladded wagon in Australia, Audi persists in selling two superb Allroad models down under.
The larger, circa-$100K A6 Allroad is based around a laid back six-cylinder diesel, but the smaller and substantially more agile A4 Allroad is 20-30 per cent cheaper and offers a choice of either petrol or diesel for its turbocharged four-cylinder motors.
On test here is arguably the best Allroad of the bunch – the updated and facelifted-for-2021 A4 Allroad 45 TFSI ($72,600). That’s the petrol, using a similar 183kW tune of the 2.0-litre unit as cars like the VW Golf GTI or Skoda Octavia RS. Except here, it’s also endowed with all-wheel-drive for ski trips or gravel roads.
Buy an A4 Allroad with the turbo petrol TFSI motor and you’ll be jumping into a beautifully balanced and resolved family car straight out of the box.
While Audi’s Allroads offer a modest ground clearance bump and some rather masculine body cladding, this is still a classic A4 Avant station wagon at heart and that’s the way it drives – albeit with a suspension tune that is about 15 per cent softer.
In the actual driving that we tend to do in Australia – commuting across sharp concrete city roads before the occasional trip onto poorly maintained country B-roads – the Allroad’s friendlier suspension tune on sensibly-sized 18-inch alloy wheels is a breath of fresh air.
The ride is compliant and absorbent but still communicates enough about what is happening with the A4 Allroad’s body such that you can be confident punting it down a country road at pace.
And pace is at hand, because the Audi’s two-litre turbo petrol engine is a good one. This is the Volkswagen Group’s long-running EA888 motor; tried and tested it may be, it still feels fresh and competitive with the likes of the BMW 330i and Mercedes-Benz C300 station wagons.
Producing 183kW of power and 370Nm of torque, the 2.0-litre (badged 45 TFSI here) distributes go to the road via a seven-speed wet dual-clutch automatic gearbox and an “Audi Ultra” all-wheel-drive system.
Unlike the faster, lower Audi S4 wagon, which has permanent and rear-biased AWD, the A4 Allroad’s Ultra system is front-drive in relaxed cruising but any demand beyond very light constant throttle will see torque split and deviated rearward.
Find a slippery surface and you’ll see that the AWD system engages quickly and consistently, though for extended high-intensity off-roading you’ll be better off with the Subaru Outback. That said, if you’re engaging in that kind of work, a true 4×4 like a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado would be more appropriate anyway.
The A4 Allroad’s rugged aspirations are more suited to the annual ski trip or journeys on Australia’s vast rural network of gravel highways, where the system works with aplomb – in concert with a well-tuned electronic stability control system.
There is also a two-litre turbo diesel on offer making 150kW of power and 400Nm of torque in 40 TDI guise. The diesel delivers stellar fuel economy (about 6L/100km plays the petrol’s 8L/100km in real-world driving) but it’s considerably laggier just about everywhere.
Classic Audi steering feel is present here, with a mid-weighted tiller that loads up quickly and demonstrates an intuitive ratio. Plotting a line through bends is easy, and the view out of the A4 is good.
The cabin is refined, too, and the leather seats are firm in a supportive way, with four-way electrically adjustable lumbar to provide back support.
Oddly, compared to the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, you have to option up most advanced safety systems onto the A4 Allroad. Out of the box, you get forwards and reversing AEB, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a reversing camera, but that’s about it.
The $3,770 Assistance Package Plus is a good buy if you’ll be doing extended country touring, as the lane keeping assistance, higher-speed AEB, front cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and 360-degree camera will all help to ease fatigue and take a load off on interstate drives.
The Audi A4 has a well-made, functional and handsome interior.
It’s certainly not as showy in here as a Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and nor is the Audi’s cabin technology quite as intuitive as that of a BMW 3 Series Touring, but this is still one of our preferred interiors of the midsize luxury segment.
Colour-wise, it’s a little cold with standard black leather and aluminium. It’s understood that more interesting palettes, including beige or tan leather, and open-pore wood trim, are available for special order, but sadly, almost all of the stock in-country sports the conservative standard interior.
That concern aside, though, there is little to complain about here. Audi are traditionally regarded for the quality of their interiors, and the A4 is a perfect vanguard of this reputation, with tight shut lines, knurled switchgear, supple leathers, cold metals and a general tank-like feeling. The A4 comes off as safe, solid and expensive inside.
We have spoken in recent months about our concerns that newer-generation Audi interiors are stepping back in terms of quality, but the A4 is not afflicted in this way. The A4 has been on sale in Australia since 2016 and continues to make use of a slightly older interior design that is assembled more tightly than newer Audi products like the Q8 and revised Q7.
One change that has occurred in the A4’s cabin is the upgrading of the central infotainment screen. It has been stepped up to ten inches in size, the processor is snappier, and touch capacity has been added. But Audi has also taketh away: the intuitive old rotary MMI controller that allowed precise control of the tech on a bumpy Australian road is gone. Thankfully, the touch targets are reasonably big and easy to hit.
Satellite navigation, internet-connected digital radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto are all standard on the Audi A4. The car is equipped with a Telstra 4G data connection with three years of service included to power a range of web-driven services, like Google destination searches and live fuel prices.
The crowning technical glory of an Audi interior – the big, crisp, high-def Virtual Cockpit ahead of the driver – carries across virtually unchanged. You still get excellent satellite mapping here, as well as intuitive views for media and trip computer information. A decade after the Virtual Cockpit was introduced, rivals still haven’t caught Audi’s expertise here.
Seating up front is firm and comfortable in that Germanic way, with superb support on offer for really long drives. This is the kind of car you get out of after six hours on the road feeling fresh. Leather and electric adjustment with memory is standard; seat heating, oddly, is not.
While Audi makes a range of large SUVs, the A4 Allroad is more than sufficient as family transport if only having five seats doesn’t faze you. Legroom, headroom and shoulder room are all acceptable in Row 2. Climate control vents, an armrest and soft-touch plastics all carry through to the back seats.
A large boot sits behind a power tailgate, offering 495 litres of cargo room. Smart netting, cubby holes, a retractable cargo cover and levers to remotely drop the rear seats all make life easy back here.
It’s worth noting that the A4 station wagon strikes a really good balance between being usefully compact and agile while still being big enough to take a reasonable amount of cargo space in the boot. It’s smaller than a Volkswagen Passat wagon but not much smaller in terms of cabin and cargo space.
The Audi A4 Allroad is surprisingly fuel efficient and service costs aren’t too bad – but like all Audis, the car continues to be afflicted by an uncompetitive three-year warranty. Mercedes-Benz offers five years of coverage as standard.
On that point, it’s widely understood that an extended warranty can be negotiated with Audi, either for a small cost or as an incentive to purchase. We’d push hard for that.
With regards to fuel consumption, the petrol A4 Allroad is decently frugal. Equipped with Volkswagen’s widely used two-litre turbo engine, there’s real punch here, yet driven normally, the 45 TFSI engine will return around 9L/100km – more in traffic but less on the open road.
If you do long country miles with regularity, the 40 TDI diesel will make a lot of sense – it uses around 20 per cent less fuel than the petrol in all circumstances. It’s also worth noting the petrol requires 95-octane premium fuel at a minimum.
Service intervals for the A4 Allroad are 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first.
Servicing costs are relatively high for the A4 Allroad, though these can be managed by purchasing an up-front Service Plan when you buy the car.
A five-year Service Plan for a petrol-powered A4 costs $2,880, which averages to $576 per service. For the 40 TDI diesel version, the cost is $3,380 (average of $676 per service).
The Audi A4 Allroad is one of our preferred premium family cars, and we recommend it.
Available with a frugal diesel, or a punchy and refined turbo petrol, the A4 Allroad distils a luxurious Audi experience into a practical and usable shape with a bit of extra ground clearance.
With its standard all-wheel-drive, agile handling, good ride quality and handsome lines outside and in, this is a family car we’d choose to seek out road trips in.
It’s also worth checking out the BMW 330i Touring if you don’t need the ground clearance (or Audi’s own lower-riding A4 Avant).
But if you’re loath to move to a tall SUV but slightly more pragmatism from your family wagon, the A4 Allroad makes a great deal of sense.
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