2013 Audi Allroad first drive

2013 Audi Allroad first drive

They say fortune favors the bold, and if any automaker can attest to this it’s Audi. The German automaker has steadily gained a foothold in the luxury sphere by putting perennial leaders like BMW and Mercedes-Benz to the sword with a compelling combination of innovative design language and refined engineering. Looking to capitalize on that momentum Audi has released the 2013 Allroad, a luxury-imbued, sophisticated offering that will serve as a replacement to the A4 Avant wagon.

Up until now the choice between a station wagon and an SUV has been relatively straightforward for American buyers. While our European counterparts have generally embraced the former, buyers in the U.S. remain unenthusiastic. This isn’t exactly anything new to Audi, nor is it the first time it has utilized the Allroad nameplate. The original Allroad made its debut more than a decade ago, but failed to capture the imagination of American buyers bedazzled by the SUV craze sweeping the nation.

Driving down a familiar Allroad

Sitting 2.5 inches taller, the Allroad is slightly longer, wider, and more imposing than the A4 Avant. But don’t let its name fool you; the Allroad isn’t meant for serious treks off the beaten path, and is more at home on paved/gravel roads with only a modest amount of skid-plate and underbody protection.

Traditionally, wagons have been about as chic as a Blackberry at an iPhone party — and about as stylish too. The 2013 Allroad bucks this snooze-inducing trend, and instead is one stylish, sharply designed set of wheels. Unlike the A6, which served as the platform for the original Allroad, the 2013 Allroad takes its cues from the A4 sedan with a few notable differences sprinkled throughout.

The front end features an all-new attention-demanding grille with vertical ribbing and flared fenders flanking each side. Audi’s signature LEDs are ever present (as they should be) and are accompanied by low-lying fog lamps sitting directly underneath. Sweep around back and the Allroad’s dual exhaust help lend an even sportier vibe to the Allroad’s already piercing profile.

Inside, the 2013 Allroad is every bit as sharp as the outside and doesn’t miss a beat. The cabin is both spacious and comfortable with little touches like aluminum trim, leather-adorned seats, and a panoramic sun-roof further adding an executive aura to the car. While some automakers feel the need to bombard the steering console with incessant buttons and dials, Audi has kept the dash controls intelligently placed, and we particularly enjoyed how uncluttered the steering wheel was without feeling too barren.

When done right the inclusion of navigation systems are very much welcomed in our driving experiences. Thankfully Audi’s MMI system is both intuitive and easy to use. Our test drive through the serpentine mountain roads outside Denver was greatly aided via Audi Connect, which deliver detailed renderings of Google Earth and Google Street View maps, as well as real-time traffic and weather information. The Allroad even comes with six months of free, built-in T-Mobile 3G hotspot service for up to eight devices, with an added $25 to $30 per month fee after that.

Power and prestige

Powering the 2013 Allroad is a solitary 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder delivering 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The Allroad utilizes an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport-shift mode and standard all-wheel-drive.

Unlike most of our test drives, our time with the Allroad was rather substantial and in almost every aspect delivered an engaging drive experience. Our initial desires for the Allroad to afford a modicum of agility and speed were quickly dashed when we read how hefty the car is: roughly 3,900 pounds. Much to our surprise (and pleasure) the added weight doesn’t hinder the Allroad too much. And we were thoroughly pleased to learn first-hand how nimble and punchy the re-imagined wagon truly is.

On the road, everything comes together nicely. The Allroad possesses a workman-like ability to grip the pavement, staying planted and sturdy with minimal sway thanks to its independent suspension. What’s more, guiding the luxury-wagon in and out of turns requires minimal effort courtesy of its A4-sourced electric power steering.

On the speed front, it’s truly impressive how powerful the Allroad can feel — sadly, though, this isn’t always the case. While the Allroad does a fine job of keeping pace and accelerating while in motion, we were left stranded when calling upon that 2.0-liter turbo from a standstill. Once in motion, the Allroad is a beast, but waking that sleeping giant can be a chore. That this is virtually the only blemish in an otherwise stellar drive performance speaks volumes of how well Audi has done with the reincarnated Allroad. Still, should Audi deem the Allroad worthy of further iterations down the line, we would like this sorted out.

A speed-bump here and there

While there is much to like about the Allroad it isn’t without a blemish or two. Cabin space up front is commendable and cargo space provides an ample 27.6 cubic feet. But the rear quarters feel somewhat cramped and limited for the average adult passenger, marring and otherwise luxurious interior.

The Allroad easily delivers a compelling ride courtesy of its perky powertrain; unfortunately, that powertrain, coupled with the car’s weight and design, limits the Allroads fuel economy, which the EPA has rated at a 20 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway, and 23 combined, putting it just on par with Audi’s Q5 crossover.

Will it take?

In the end we walked away from the Allroad feeling both captivated and disenfranchised. Why such polarizing emotions? It’s simple really. While the Allroad offers a host of luxury at a relatively reasonable price (base model starts just under $40,000) we’re not convinced it will find its footing in the American auto market where high-riding SUVs tower over the competition — a shame considering how much Audi have gotten right with this Allroad remix. If, however, you’re looking to break away from the domineering crossover craze, and into a ride that is equal parts luxury, utility, with fine-tuned handling and (mostly) responsive powertrain thrown in for good measure, your options are severely limited. It might not be built for serious — or even moderate — off-road jaunts (how many SUVs and crossovers truly are these days, anyhow?). But if your bank account permits — and you want a much more captivating drive experience — you’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative than the 2013 Allroad.

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