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2013 Audi Allroad first drive road test: When a wagon is not a wagon

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Americans won’t buy station wagons and that’s simply why the 2013 Audi Allroad is going on sale in North America. The Audi A4 Avant—“Avant” is Audi-speak for station wagon—drops from Audi’s North American lineup for the coming year. Instead there’s the new Allroad, Audi’s entry into the B-segment crossover battles.

To Americans, the 2013 Audi Allroad is the revival of the same-named vehicle offered in the U.S. from TK to TK, going on a seven year hiatus. That was just here, however, the Allroad continuing for other markets. Meanwhile, Audi of America soldiered on with the B-segment Audi A4 Avant, trying to sell Bach to a Sousa appreciation society.

That’s all changed now. While the A4 Avant remains on sale in Europe, the Allroad is Audi’s sole wagon-type vehicle left in Audi’s U.S.-available B-segment lineup, which includes the Allroad, as well as A4 and S4 sedans, and A5 and S5 coupes.

The new Allroad, however, does everything that a B-segment wagon would do and more. Consider, the 2013 Audi Allroad has the typical layout of a four-door wagon, with four doors and a rear hatch, and generous cargo capacity, with 27 cubic feet with the rear seatback raised, and with the rear seat folded, a healthy 50.5 cubic feet. That’s a whole ten cubic feet more than the old A4 Avant with the rear seat raised and equal to the previous model with the rear seat lowered.

The 2013 Audi Allroad, however, has a ground clearance of 7.1 inches, 1.5 inches more than the Audi A4 Avant it replaces. The Allroad can do just what it suggests, travels over all roads…with no pretense of going offroad. Audi has the Q5 and Q7 for those wanting to leave behind the road, however minimal. That cabin at the end of a muddy two-track? The A4—and other sedans—want you to walk in. The Allroad is game.

Most other crossovers have a higher ride height than their automobile platform mates. But not all crossover vehicles, however, have all-wheel drive, which the 2013 Audi Allroad has as standard equipment.

The only engine offered with the Allroad is Audi’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with direct injection. So much good has been said about this engine it’s futile to try to say more, but will just repeat that its performance is more than the 211 horsepower rating would suggest because it makes 258 lb-ft of torque at an incredibly low 1500 rpm. This is an engine that doesn’t have to be spun at the upper reaches of its rev range to deliver a solid wallop. The low rpm torque delivery also means casual oomph around town for getting away from traffic lights or merging into traffic…or just playing.

The Allroad joins in the can-you-top-this transmission ratios with eight. Do I hear nine? No one…yet. Manual shifting is standard, though paddle-shifting is available only with $500 Sport Interior package that also includes front sport seats with four-way power lumbar adjustment.

Suspension calibrations are unique to the 2013 Audi Allroad, and despite the higher ground clearance, it doesn’t have the tippy SUV feel, though coming from an Audi A4, the extra height can be felt. And although it won’t go around corners like an Audi A4 or A5—and particularly not the high-performance S4 and S5—the Allroad’s handling is more than adequate for day-to-day driving. Ride is smooth and quiet, the Allroad pitterpatting over highway expansion joints.

The wheelbase is longer than the Audi A4 Avant’s, which all things being equal means a smoother ride, and it also oddly enough provides greater headroom.

The 2013 Audi Allroad isn’t just A4 on short stilts. Audi designers gave the Allroad its own look, with a large single-frame grille with vertical chrome slats. Appreciate those slats. Audi’s designers worked to get them as thin as they are, the chrome layer adding thickness they didn’t want. The Allroad also had slim headlights, with a LED light strip when equipped with xenon-plus headlamps (LED taillamps are optional as well).

The Allroad also gets an off-roady treatment at the lower edge of the front end, plus contrast color fender extension. The rear end gets the same kind of treatment plus a stainless steel skid plate.

Inside, it’s an Audi, with the carbuilder’s attention to design and quality. Audi’s MMI navigation is optional, with a control knob and buttons on the center console. And rather having a big blanked-off area that other carmakers often leave to punish you for not upgrading, all Allroads have LCD screen at the top of the center stack for audio and other controls.

Of course the upgrade stuff is really neat, including “Audi connect”—please carmakers, name your stuff with capital letters—with online services. Rather than static and sometimes limited information, Audi MMI navigation can search for points of interest using Google live data. The B-segment Audis also get Google Earth—including the satellite terrain view—as an option for the first time. Our first drive was of a base car without the toys, so we didn’t get to sample their effectiveness or capacity to distract.

We also didn’t get to try out the Allroad’s “side assist” blind spot monitor or Audi drive select. The latter provides variable boost for the steering system, alters shift characteristics and engine response, with settings of Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual which allows the driver to set each element individually.

Also available as an option is a 550-watt Bang & Olufson sound system with 14 speakers. We didn’t get a listen.

But we did check out the cargo compartment, one of the big reasons someone might buy the 2013 Audi Allroad. The max volume falls somewhere short of an Audi Q5 crossover, which has a 57 cubic foot cargo capacity. With the rear seatback folded forward, the Allroad’s load floor isn’t completely flat, making loading large boxes and such a little more difficult than if it went all the way down.

The 2013 Audi Allroad , however, has the clever combination of cargo covers from the A4 Avant. The cover rolls back and forth like most do, but it also slides up with the hatch when opened. The Allroad also has a mesh screen that can be raised when the rear seatback is up and the cargo compartment stacked to the ceiling, keeping the all the stuff from flying into the backseat—or further up—during hard braking.

Pricing for the 2013 Audi Allroad starts just under 40 grand, at $39,600 for the lowest priced “Premium” trim level. No, it doesn’t make sense to start at a “premium”, but talk to Audi, not to us. Add $3,300 for the Premium Plus trim, or the Prestige at $9,200. And then there’s a BMW-like list of individual options and accessories that can drive the price of an Allroad above $50 k.

It’s a shocker, our Audi Allroad, but that’s the market these days, and it’s not really more than a similarly equipped wagon would be. We know that Americans won’t buy one of those, but a Allroad? It’s not a station wagon, so why not?

2013 Audi Allroad Premium, price and key specifications as tested

Body style/layout: 5-door crossover wagon, front engine/all-wheel drive

Base price: $83,000

Price as tested: $100,825

Engine

  • Type: 2.0-liter 16-valve DOHC turbocharged I-4
  • Displacement, cc: 1984
  • Block/head material: cast iron/aluminum
  • Compression ratio: 9.6:1
  • Horsepower: 211 @ 4300 rpm
  • Torque: 258 @ 1500 rpm
  • Recommended fuel: premium unleaded
  • Fuel economy, EPA est.: 20/27 mpg city/highway
  • Fuel economy, observed: n.a.

Transmission:8-speed automatic manual-control

Chassis/Suspension

  • Suspension, front/rear: five-link / trapezoidal link
  • Wheels: 18 x 8.0-inch alloy
  • Tires: 245/45R18
  • Brakes: 4-wheel disc; 12.6-inch dia. front/11.8-inch dia. rear
  • Steering: electromechanical power rack-and-pinion
  • Turning circle: 37.7 ft.

Dimensions

  • Wheelbase: 110.4 in.
  • Length: 185.9 in.
  • Height: 58.0 in.
  • Width: 72.5 in.
  • Curb weight: 3,891 lbs
  • Trunk volume, min/max: 27.6/50.5 cu. ft.
  • Fuel tank: 16.9 gal.

Safety

· Airbags: Front, front side, side curtain

· Anti-lock brakes: Yes Traction control: Yes Stability control: Yes Electronic brake-force distribution: Yes Brake assist: Yes

· Other: crash sensor unlocks doors, turns on interior lights, turns off engine and fuel pump, hazard lamps turned on

Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile bumper-to-bumper; 4-year/50,000 mile powertrain;12-month/5,000 mile first scheduled service

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