As the old adage goes, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Well, that’s exactly what Audi is doing. The German luxury automaker already tried back in 2001 to introduce a wagon to the North American market, but ultimately withdrew its A6 Avant after just five years despite the car’s critical acclaim. With popular Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs) like the Mercedes-Benz GLK, The BMW X3, and Volvo XC 60 occupying the market, it might appear that Audi is setting itself up for failure once again by trying to bring yet another wagon to American shores; this time based on the smaller A4 sedan. While our cousins beyond the sea have taken a shine to the round-rumped automobiles, wagons on ‘Merican soil continue to prove less popular.
Nevertheless, if Audi has exhibited anything in recent years, it’s an affinity toward innovation and leadership rather than simply nipping at the tailpipe of its luxury rivals. With wagons’ continuing popularity in Europe, can Audi finally make Americans fall in love with wagons, too?
Not your typical wagon
Notions of style and sophistication are typically forgone conclusions in the luxury segment where pampering drivers and passengers is of the utmost importance to automakers. While wagons, even luxury ones, might fail to conjure up notions of modernity, one would be remiss to label the Allroad as anything other than refined.
On the inside, you can tell Audi’s engineers aimed for a near perfect balance of comfort and style. There is an almost Apple-like minimalist approach to the cabin; everything is straightforward with no real design gimmickry to be seen – although some design choices fail to impress, specifically the cluttered buttons on the center console and the iPod connector inconveniently tucked away in the glove box. It’s important to note, however, that models with navigation (ours did not include nav) have a slightly different layout, so your experience here will vary.
Material quality is decidedly top-shelf – nothing short of what you’d expect from a luxury brand. And we really appreciated the panoramic sunroof and aluminum trim, both of which help liven up the cabin’s darker tone.
While it’s clear the Allroad is an exceptional vehicle, the lack of a navigation system at this price point is soul-crushing
Passengers seated in the back will be comfortable, too, as there is an abundance of head, leg, and shoulder room up for grabs. Cargo space is equally substantial: 17 cubic feet with the second row of seats up. That number swells to 51 cubic feet with the seats folded down, which marks the Allroad as a vehicle not only for families but for weekend warriors, too.
Putting the Audi in audio
Our review car consisted of the Premium Plus model ($42,900), which slots in between the Premium ($39,600) and Prestige models ($48,800). Sadly, it did not include Audi’s gorgeous Google-Earth navigation system, which connects to a constant stream of 3G data for downloading satellite images directly to the car – or the recently added Google Street View feature, which gives you an actual image of your destination. So we’ll have to focus for now on what we did get – which isn’t much.
We have to say that we’re extremely disappointed with Audi on the tech front. While it’s clear the Allroad is an exceptional vehicle, the lack of a navigation system at this price point is soul-crushing.
What we did have access to – namely, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and audio streaming via a $1,100 “convenience package” – proved to be anything but convenient. While pairing our phone via Bluetooth was simple enough, performance was extremely shaky, and getting it to stream music from our device was more difficult than it needed to be. If you decide to not go the Bluetooth route and simply connect your iPod, you can do so, but only by placing it in the glovebox where you’re then at the mercy of Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) dial.
MMI can be hypersensitive and cumbersome to use, especially if you’re music collection spans many artists and albums like ours does. Thankfully, Audi’s system offers limited voice-command functionality, and the convenience package adds steering wheel controls, which helps a little.
Of course, placing the iPod connector in the glovebox is fine for distracted driving zealots, but this proves extremely inconvenient, especially if you’d like to charge your phone. And let’s not forget, you can’t actually stream music through Bluetooth if you’re phone is cabled to the car. In the future, we’d like to see Audi change this setup by moving the USB connector closer to the driver, possibly inside the center armrest console.
Our Allroad also lacked a number of onboard driver assistance tech, like a backup camera, lane departure system, and proximity key entry. This is particularly odd because Audi offers some of these in other models and – as is the case with blind spot detection – offers it on Allroads outside the U.S. We did have an automatic liftgate, though, which helped soften the blow of feeling left out. And because you’ll likely be hauling around a great deal of cargo, having that automatic liftgate is a huge help.
Audi is in vogue right now, and with one look at the 2013 Allroad it’s not hard to see why. Wagons aren’t sexy – but the Allroad is.
Here, there are few complaints to be had. Audio fidelity is sharp, with very little tinkering needed in the settings department to produce accurate tones and deep bass levels. In fact, upon reading our spec sheet, we were surprised to learn it was indeed the stock system. Audi’s music interface might be difficult to navigate, but once playing, it’s an absolute treat to the ears.
High-riding and handsome
If Toyota is the nerdy kid that could never escape the “friend zone,” gets good grades, and one day goes on to develop some ingenious app that turns him into a millionaire overnight, Audi is the chisel-jawed, muscle-armed quarterback with the hot girlfriend and legions of friends. Audi is in vogue right now, and with one look at the 2013 Allroad it’s not hard to see why. Wagons aren’t sexy – but the Allroad is.
For 2013, the Allroad takes its cues from the A4 sedan with a few notable differences thrown in. According to Audi, it’s 2.3 inches taller, slightly wider, and sports a longer wheelbase. The front end features an all-new attention-demanding grille with vertical ribbing and flared fenders flanking each side. Audi’s signature LEDs wrap around the front headlamps almost entirely, and are accompanied by low-lying fog lamps sitting directly below. Around back, dual exhaust tips help lend an even sportier vibe to the Allroad’s practical profile.
Hands down, the Allroad is just a good-looking car; a car that blends form and function into one eye-pleasing set of wheels.
One powertrain to rule them all
For the 2013 Allroad, Audi opted for a single drivetrain and transmission layout. Sending power to the wheels is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport-shift mode and standard quattro all-wheel drive.
The car’s ability to grip the road is remarkable thanks to Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system
That said, don’t expect to rocket down the road in a blaze of glory; the Allroad is painfully lazy out of the gate, leaving its turbo to kick in later than we’d like. But most drivers will hardly notice this, and it’s not a dealbreaker by any means. Just make sure you’re taking advantage of its get up and go while moving and not at a standstill.
As for fuel economy, the 2013 Allroad puts up some respectable numbers. EPA-estimates place it at 20 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway, and 23 combined. Compare that to a 2013 A4 quattro with its 20/30/24 numbers and that’s not too shabby for the larger, heavier, Allroad. It’s also on par with the 2013 Q5, so that’s something to consider. Drivers weighing the pros and cons of a CUV and the Allroad won’t necessarily find compelling arguments for the latter regarding fuel economy.
Allroad, not off-road
At a full 3,900 lbs, the 2013 Allroad might be a big gal, but she sure knows how to dance. Now, that’s not license for you to go exploring off the beaten path; rockier terrain will topple the Allroad. The stylish wagon might sport a 7.1-inch ground clearance, but even with its steel skid-plate and modest underbody protection, pointing its nose towards rocky roads will end in utter disappointment.
Off-road hijinks aside, there isn’t a corner the Allroad can’t tackle. Mashing down on the accelerator during the most arduous turns will see you comfortably through. The car’s ability to grip the road is remarkable thanks to Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, which allows power to be transferred to all the wheels equally when the Allroad is on a smooth surface. That power, however, can shift depending on driving conditions, so if, for example, the front passenger side wheel starts to drift off the road onto gravel, power – or more resistance, in this case – can be sent to the front driver side to compensate.
Drivers familiar with the Audi A4 will be happy to learn that the Allroad features the same electric power steering and independent suspension, although we feel the A4 doesn’t handle as confidently as its round-rumped counterpart. Still, cabin sway is respectable given its slightly higher ride height, and feedback from the electric steering is far from numb, providing a lick of kick when needed and minimal effort during turns.
We live in a society where we want it all: style, sophistication, functionality, and convenience. Most of the time we need to make compromises. But with the 2013 Allroad, practicality and luxury walk hand in hand without missing (too many) steps. We add that qualifier because the Allroad’s base model doesn’t afford the tech savvy with the amenities they would appreciate – namely, navigation and Bluetooth audio streaming. The fact that our Premium Plus model at $44,000 doesn’t include the former is disappointing, too. And we can’t help but feel a little nickel and dimed by the Germans in this regard.
The 2013 Allroad has all the characteristics to succeed, though. It’s a mechanically sound machine, providing a comfortable cabin, excellent driving dynamics, and a stylish exterior. Cargo space is abundant. And in a sea of crossovers, the Allroad provides a different, less sleepy experience. With a wealth of competitors to choose from, the Allroad might not even cross your mind, but it’s a vehicle that – at the very least – deserves to be near the top of your shopping list.
- Stylish exterior; you’ll quickly forget it’s a wagon
- Excellent handling courtesy of Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive
- Lots of cargo space, perfect for a family and weekend trips to the mountain
- Limited cabin tech at lower trim levels
- Vehicle price skyrockets easily with add-ons and options
- Gas mileage is nothing to write home about