Photo: Audi A4 allroad quattro Photo 1
The Allroad is a step up from the A4 Avant
The second-generation Audi A4 allroad quattro arrives in the U.S. later this year with a 2.0-liter turbo gasoline engine and a new twist on all-wheel drive called “quattro with ultra.” We don’t get the A4 Avant — wagon in Audi-speak — so the Allroad is our only ticket to an A4 with 17.8 cubic feet of luggage space and a powered tailgate.
Compared with the sedan, there’s a unique front bumper, underbody guards front and rear, raised roof rails and textured plastic cladding painted on request. The ride height is hiked 1.3 inches, a combination 0.9-inch extra suspension and 0.4-inch fatter sidewalls, making navigating speed bumps in the REI parking lot a cinch.
The interior is stock A4, meaning plush materials, excellent fit-and-finish and the available, class-leading Virtual Cockpit with its driver-configurable digital instrument display.
Rated at 247 hp/243 lb-ft the 2.0-liter TFSI is smooth, quiet and plenty eager enough for normal driving. You’ll just wish it thrashed a little less and moved a little more during full-bore overtakes.
Quattro with ultra is designed for longitudinal engines (it is not a Haldex system) and activates all-wheel drive only when required, reducing drivetrain losses and saving gas in front-wheel drive. It uses a multiplate clutch with an integrated decoupler to engage and disengage all-wheel drive in “a split second.”
Photo: Audi A4 allroad quattro Photo 5
Audi describes the system as proactive, predictive and reactive. Proactive engagement occurs roughly 0.5 second in advance of predicted wheel slip, based on data taken from sensors analyzing steering angle, engine torque, lateral and longitudinal acceleration, etc. The predictive element adapts to driving style and the Drive Select controller, giving more rear-bias and more all-wheel drive to keener drivers. Should all the sensors be taken unawares — a low-speed drive in a straight line onto sheet ice, for instance — quattro with ultra will mechanically react like the old days.
The new system works seamlessly. Under heavy acceleration through turns you can clearly feel all-wheel-drive traction lending a hand with no discernible lag in activation. You also feel that the Allroad is a softer, rollier proposition than the stock A4.
There’s no display to show quattro with ultra working, but an engineer’s iPad told us we were using all-wheel drive only 20 percent of the time. That’s despite a conservative activation threshold: Quattro would kick in even during very low-speed turns on a roundabout.
There’s a lot to recommend the Allroad. The exterior is subtly and likeably rugged, its interior is a beautifully crafted cocoon, and it drives with great comfort and refinement. It’s also much more versatile than the A4 sedan, with its extra load space and light off-roading capability. That’s it’s not a fully fledged SUV increases its appeal to some.