Official Photos and Info
Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, was the unlikely celebrity that Audi chose to help introduce its 2017 Allroad Quattro at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. What does the 81-year-old Cernan have to do with an all-wheel-drive luxury wagon for people who find Subarus too cheap? Not much, except that Audi is sponsoring a German-based competitor for the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize, a race to land a privately funded robot on the moon. Audi’s Berlin-based team plans to land an all-wheel-drive rover on the moon by 2020, in the valley of Taurus-Littrow, where Cernan and crewmate Harrison Schmitt touched down on December 11, 1972.
Now, about the car: The 2017 Allroad marks the return of the Audi’s do-it-all wagon on the new modular MLB platform, or the guts of the freshly redesigned A4 sedan. The hiking-boot styling cues carry over, with exaggerated wheel arches that can be painted a choice of institutional gray or body color, and the ride height rises 1.3 inches compared to the base A4 Avant wagon’s. The lift is due to 0.9 inches of suspension jacking and larger wheels, in sizes up to 19 inches.
To facilitate off-road maneuvering, Audi supplies a new Offroad mode in the Drive Select menu that tweaks the throttle, transmission, and shift settings for inclement terrain. Not that you’ll want to run the Rubicon in this vehicle, but it wants to be ready for when the snow piles a little too high in Aspen or the antique armoire you’re chasing takes you down a rutted farm track. The cargo area swallows up to 18 cubic feet of horse tack (or whatever) behind the back seats, and 53 cubic feet with the seats down.
Prices shouldn’t move up much from the 2015 Allroad’s starting tariff of $43,325, though the power jump for 2017 is significant, from 220 horsepower to 272.
Now that diesel is a dirty word in the Volkswagen Group, Audi would only confirm that the 272-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder gasoline engine will be offered in the U.S., making 20 more horsepower than the regular A4’s 2.0. Most likely it’ll pair with the eight-speed automatic. Whether the 2.0-liter diesel comes stateside is an open question now that Audi has been dragged into the emissions cheating scandal. Indeed, during the entire press conference, the word “diesel” was not uttered once by anyone onstage, the executives preferring to instead discuss the three plug-in hybrids that are coming (versions of the A6, A7, and Q7) and the h-tron Quattro concept, a dreamy crossover SUV with an even dreamier hydrogen fuel cell.
All that plus the Allroad plus the silver-haired Gene Cernan plus a model of a lunar rover prototype on a simulated lunar surface made for the most non-diesel press conference Audi could possibly have devised. Well done, gentlemen.