Last week we posted our first drive of the refreshed S4 and S5, both of which delivered the modern Audi driving experience that we’ve come to expect. This week, we’re looking not at something refreshed, but something entirely new to the U.S. market: The 2013 A4 allroad quattro.

Audi last sold the A6 allroad quattro here in 2005 (lest this get a bit too wordy, we’ll refer to these as A4/A6 allroad, or simply the “new”/“old” allroad). Since then, the allroad quattro lineup has expanded to include a model based on the A4. Overseas markets will get both models, but here in the states, we’re only getting the B-Segment model.

For context, the A6 allroad was offered here with two engines over the course of its lifetime, Audi’s. 2.7L twin-turbo V6 and later their 4.2L V8. As the name implies, quattro was standard on all trims, along with a height and rate-adjustable suspension with settings for on- and off-road driving. The allroad also came equipped with gravel-friendly tires and provisions for towing, sporting a tow rating of 3,300lbs—not bad for a station wagon.

For the new car, standard quattro remains, but as in the A4 on which it is based, the only available engine is Audi’s 2.0L, turbocharged 4-cylinder. Gone is the adjustable suspension, replaced by a fixed-height, off-road ready setup (Audi’s drive select is available if you really must play around with the damper settings). Taller, more aggressive tires remain, and the transmission’s final drive has been revised to a slightly shorter ratio to make up for the extra tire height. And while the new car won’t tow quite as much, a class I factory hitch option remains. Audi’s new allroad may not be quite as robust or sophisticated as its A6 predecessor, but a lot of the rugged appeal remains.

If the fixed ride height makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Fortunately, the news is good on this front. While the A4 allroad’s bulkier, softer tires do blunt some of the road feedback and take the edge off the steering response, this jacked-up wagon still drives like a car. Body roll is present but minimal. Hop into the allroad’s driver’s seat after some time behind the wheel of an S5 and it feels like it’s on stilts; spend ten more minutes at the helm and it doesn’t feel any taller than a Ford Focus.

The bad news? Let’s start with the transmission. There’s no manual version available, even if you ask very nicely and promise not to pick any other options. Even DSG is unavailable; the 2.0T only comes paired with Audi’s 8-speed tiptronic unit. And while the 2.0T handles the 11,000-foot elevations in the Rockies with relative ease, 211hp is 211hp. With a curb weight closing on two tons, this wagon isn’t exactly svelte. The result? This allroad is not fast. Quick enough, sure, but not fast.

I sampled a couple of different A4 allroads, making sure to experience models both with and without the sport interior package. Sport interior gets you paddle shifters, sport seats w/ lumbar adjustment, and a three-spoke steering wheel. The paddles are a neat feature, but with eight gears to mess with, I’d almost rather let the computer do the work, which it handles with expected elegance.

So what will all this run you? You can sneak into an A4 allroad quattro “Premium” (near as I can tell, that’s German for “base”) for $39,600. A “Premium Plus” will run you $42,900 and a “Prestige” $48,800. The sport interior is a reasonable $500, but Audi’s MMI navigation plus will run you $3k on top of any of those trim lines (Edit: twitter user @AudiForLife has pointed out that Audi’s configurator now correctly indicates that MMI navigation is included in the Prestige trim), so it’s feasible to option this car over the $50 thousand mark without much effort .  This pricing structure puts it within spitting distance of one of its most natural competitors, Volvo’s XC70, though it’s worth noting that once you’re closing in on the $50k mark on the Volvo’s build sheet, you’re walking away with a 6-cylinder, 300hp engine.

All in, it seems like a fairly solid package. For the buyer who needs something rugged enough to handle winter conditions and some mild off-roading without sacrificing the refinement they’ve come to expect from a luxury car, the Audi is a great choice. While it may lack of the flexibility of the old A6 allroad, the 2013 A4 allroad quattro offers a reasonable compromise that doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of functionality. And without the added complexity of the adjustable suspension or twin-turbo V6 engine, this simpler car may end up being a smarter buy in the long term.

Speed:Sport:Life was one of many media outlets invited to drive Audi’s new B-segment lineup. Travel, lodging, and a couple of solid meals were provided by Audi, along with a pretty swanky press kit.


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Byron Hurd

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