By on November 10, 2016

2017 Audi A4 Allroad Glacier White lobster trapsThe Land Of The Free America may be, but the American car buyer’s right to buy wagons is increasingly encroached upon by government overreach. Or perhaps it’s just automakers’ collective desire to sell you a high-margin crossover.

Affordable wagons? There are a few left: the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, the Toyota Prius V, the Mini Clubman (if the definition is stretched). Premium wagons persist at Volvo. The BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon continues. (For now.) Mercedes-Benz does an E-Class Wagon.

But if wagons that were available in the relatively recent past — TSX, A6, CTS, 5 Series, Magnum, Focus, Taurus, Elantra, C-Class, Lancer, 9-3, Legacy, Passat — were to return to the United States, they would likely have to do so in elevated fashion.

Just look here. This is an Audi A4 Avant, a successor to the car that finished its course in 2012. Add up to 4.5 inches of matte black cladding, raise the ride height by nine-tenths of an inch for 6.5 inches of ground clearance, and you have a 2017 Audi A4 Allroad. The Avant that’s available.

You can read our review of the 2017 Audi A4 sedan for full impressions of the new, fifth-generation car. I said there was nothing to do but pick nits. The shifter is annoying, returning to center without detents that offer any clarity as to your selection. The volume knob is positioned too far rearward of the main MMI controllers.

Despite exterior dimensions that suggest a sufficiently spacious interior, the Audi A4’s rear seat is somewhat cramped — an affliction common among its competitors. While generally hushed, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is clattery at idle. And the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, though outstanding once you’re underway, presents some unmistakable lag off the line.2017 Audi A4 Allroad Glacier White FrontIT’S AN A4
Joined by a couple hundred additional pounds, a longer roof, and more air underneath, all of the A4’s issues, however minor or major, extend from the sedan to the Allroad.

So, too, do all of the perks. 252 horsepower shouldn’t feel this quick in a 3,825-pound car, but all 273 lb-ft of the 2.0T’s torque comes on stream at 1,600 rpm. The ride height is elevated so slightly that the A4’s improved handling isn’t distinctly harmed by an increase in the center of gravity. The Allroad, with less aggressive rubber and a moderately more comfort-oriented mission, offers improved ride quality, but it’s still a fairly firm car. To those who loved older Audis but recognized the sometimes over-assisted brakes and lack of natural progression in the steering and a sense when cornering that the car felt heavier than it really was, you’ll love the latest generation of A4s more. There’s a more cohesive dynamic repertoire: proper brake feel, steering that’s direct but not twitchy, handling that suggests a level of delicacy. The Allroad is a 3,800 pound wagon that feels like a 3,500 pound wagon. Older A4s often tended to switch those figures around.

With few on-the-road penalties to be paid for the chassis alterations, the Allroad appears to be an even wiser small Audi choice when one takes the cargo area into account. Officially 86-percent larger — the roofline means it doesn’t feel that much larger — the real gains are in flexibility, thanks to the wide and tall aperture created by tailgate, not a trunklid.2017 Audi A4 Allroad Glacier White rearBUT NOT JUST AN A4
But it does look a bit silly, doesn’t it? It’s up to you, of course, but the Allroad positively reeks of pretense.

No doubt, Audi designs handsome vehicles. (Sometimes you can even tell new Audi from old.) Indeed, if you strip away all of the Allroad-specific details, you see the typically handsome Audi wagon profile. But this car is trying awfully hard to tell you it’s something it’s not.

It’s not that elevated, it’s certainly not an off-roader, and it’s unlikely to cope well with my definition of all roads: rutted, red dirt lanes on Prince Edward Island after the snow melt. But the Allroad joins its elevated wagon cohorts by declaring its alleged ruggedness. And in this particular case, with Glacier White paint contrasted against the matte black cladding — 4 inches around the front wheels; 4.5 around the rears — the declaration is shouted.

(And then that message is shouted down by optional 19-inch alloys that appear to have crawled off the pages of Sport Compact Car magazine circa 1996 and the sight of the Allroad’s driver clambering over the sports seats bolstering and up out of a relatively low-slung vehicle.)

Those are personal feelings, obviously. Less subjective is the simplicity with which Audi’s MMI is operated, the soundness of the Allroad’s structure, the interior’s high-grade of materials and build quality, and the high-tech nature of the virtual cockpit gauge cluster.2017 Audi A4 Allroad interior cabinMost of this won’t matter to most American car buyers. Most American car buyers aren’t car buyers. The first-generation Audi A4 Allroad was a supremely rare car, attracting one-tenth the level of volume earned by the Audi Q5, Audi’s best-selling model. This car is unlikely to be much more common. Presumably, buyers who want more ride height want more ride height.

It’s also likely that buyers don’t want to pay a significant premium for a wagon.

IT’S AN EXPENSIVE A4
The least-expensive 2017 Audi A4 Allroad is $4,600 more than the least costly Quattro-equipped Audi A4 sedan and $3,100 more than the basic Audi Q5. The BMW 330i xDrive Sports Wagon is marginally less expensive than the Allroad, the Volvo V60 Cross Country is a couple grand cheaper, the Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring is around $5,000 less.

The Q5 is suitably tall. The BMW’s interior is a comparative letdown, but few would argue with its on-road behaviour. Official specs say the Volvo offers 16-pecent more cargo capacity. The Subaru has the kind of genuinely family-friendly space the others lack.2017 Audi A4 Allroad interior detailYou can rise much higher in a 2017 Audi A4 Allroad, if not literally than in financial terms. Loaned out by Audi Canada for the week, ours is a top-spec example with an additional CAD $6,910 in options. Equipped similarly in the U.S. market, the 2017 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro Prestige would rise to $54,275.

Expensive, yes. But at least you have the right to buy one. For now.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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21 Comments on “2017 Audi A4 Allroad Review – Available Avant...”


  • avatar
    slance66

    Didn’t we just do the Allroad a few days ago?

    I still don’t think it makes sense as configured. The Q5 is pretty much better at everything except handling.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I think this is the worst car Audi makes right now. It’s compromised in all the wrong ways, and is strictly a vanity appeal for someone who “just can’t stomach” the Q5 option.

    I don’t like the V60 really (it’s too expensive and small as well) but I’d have it over this because there’s so much less pretension.

    Or you know, get something much bigger for the same price as the Allroad and the V60, the XC70.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    If a wagon is to be about functionality, then why isn’t the rear liftgate almost vertical? There’s a lot of space lost in that swoopy back glass. Of course, Audi wagons have been doing this for more than 20 years, so I guess it’s “the brand.” If you need a box, then let’s have a box, IMHO. If you don’t need a box, then get a real coupe or sedan . . . but I’m old school.

    • 0 avatar
      palincss

      In my case, the “functionality” is about carrying a bicycle inside the car without having to remove the front wheel. You don’t need a box for that, although you do need a rear opening. Sedans won’t do even if the seats fold down and there’s a trunk pass-though, because the trunk opening is too small to be able to fit the width of the handlebar and if you turn it the other way, even with the front wheel off you can’t fit a fender through the opening. A “liftback” sedan like the Audi A7 or the Saab 9000 5 door do the job just fine, of course, but if you’re going to spend as much as the A7 costs, might as well get the Mercedes E400 wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        kosmo

        +1 on the bike.

        Also, cars like this that don’t allow the rear seat to fold TRULY flat seem like they pulled the engineering team off the project maybe four hours too soon.

        For an elegantly successful example of how to do this, see the Rav4 (but don’t see it for any dynamic or engine excitement whatsoever).

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I agree on the wheels, they look ginormous. Otherwise I find it quite attractive.

    Out of my price range when new, and probably too expensive to maintain during years 4 thru 7 year of its life when the purchase price would be attractive.

  • avatar
    bortlicenseplate

    Damn, I like this car a lot. I plan on test-driving one soon, and a CPO one without the virtual cockpit (i don’t need ephemeral tech in my used car) is probably going to be what finally replaces my ’06 Legacy GT wagon.

    Volvo XC70/V60 CC, though very nice, are by now 1- to 2-generation-old tech, (and RIP their lovely inline-5 and -6 turbos), BMW insists on runflat tires, ergo a non-starter. Audi Q5? It’s not as fun to drive nor nearly as pretty, and a high CUV roof is simply less convenient for loading gear onto the roof.

    I also don’t get all the pearl-clutching about the extra inch of ground clearance – the fact that it doesn’t give much up dynamically to an A4 sedan, but is marginally more resistant to badly maintained roads…this is somehow a bad thing?

    I can take or leave the body-cladding, but it’s nothing specifying a darker color can’t make short work of. This is one fine wagon. Would smash.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Yeah, this seems like it would be the ideal option over a regular Avant for someone who prefers wagons over CUVs but regularly drives on gravel roads, or even just wants something that does a little better during the winter and on deteriorating spring roads. This one appears to need a bit more sidewall to be justifiable for those purposes though.

      My buddy got a mild lift for his winter car (’05 Legacy GT) to go with the taller rubber for those reasons. I think it’s only 1.5 inches, but that’s enough to make a big difference at times without hurting the handling too much. He’s got trucks for the serious weather.

      I know people who would consider buying a vehicle like this, if it had an available manual. Especially if the wonderful supercharged V6 were available.

  • avatar
    make_light

    If I had twice the income, this is what I’d buy. While it’s easy enough for everyone to make fun of an extra inch of ground clearance, the extra bit of confidence it gives up here in the Northeast is worth it. I’ve taken winter trips to Vermont that I simply wouldn’t be able to do with a normal car’s ground clearance.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    The stupid, pointless electronic shifter has now made it to every German manufacturer (along with run-flat tires and laggy, inconsistent throttle response). Hooray! How is it that engineers with such great reputations can be so dumb?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      Is Audi using run-flats now? That was one of the factors when my buddy chose his B8 S4 over the 335xi.

    • 0 avatar
      Click REPLY to reload page

      Superior German Engineering exists only in advertising and the egos of the Germans.

      They pulled a Chevy Spark ACTIV on the A4 Avant, just adding plastic cladding and less than an inch of additional ground clearance. It resembles the AMC Eagle wagon, circa 1985, updated with Conestoga wheels and more modern curves. And a very 2017 price tag.

  • avatar

    I’m kind of surprised that there was no mention of the Mercedes GLA…yes, I know that Merc markets it as a crossover, but it’s really a lifted wagon-esque hatchback (aren’t they all?).

    Still, I like it, because I think that a lifted hatchback/wagon would be the proper choice to replace my ’03 RAV.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    Just too damned small. Supposed to be a family vehicle but put a rear facing seat I. There and it’s all over. My 9-3 wagon suffers from the same back seat issues but at least the boot is considerably larger than this a4.

    As a previous x1 owner I do like the idea of being half pregnant with a touch more ride height than the regular version of the car, it helps avoid parking mishaps and is a touch easier to live with without losing g all the driving dynamics.

    Tbh though, full blown cuv have great back seat room but suffer from poor boot space, wagon have the opposite issue, the only one that truly gets it right for a family of four or five is the Outback.

  • avatar
    baconator

    I had a Q5 Sport for a few weeks – a rental. It handled decently well but loosened up considerably after a few dozen miles on bumpy roads. Turbo lag was noticeable although overall power struck me as being just fine for the type of car it was. Ride quality and steering feel were horrible, just as they were on my old ’03 A4, and every other sport-package Audi I’ve ever driven. A slightly lower wagon on the same chassis would probably ride even worse, for modest gains in handling ability.

    I love wagons, but Audis don’t appeal to me. I haven’t driven the new Mercedes E-Class, but I’d guess an E400 wagon (or even better, an E43) would be my cuppa tea.

  • avatar
    Thabo

    Remember this is the little version of the real Allroad, the A6 version that is sold in DE. Not that the A4 is small but I prefer the A6 version and I saw quite a few during my 8 months in Germany and a ton of Passat wagons too, AWD diesel and bloody beautiful looking – if you had time go and browse the German VW and Audi sites they’ve got some real lookers that we don’t get. Passat alltrac and A6 Allroad quattro. .

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