Long before it launched the likes of the Q7 and Q5, Audi’s most practical model was the All Road. Essentially an A4 with more bits, upgraded suspension, and an estate wagon configuration, the All Road first appeared in 1999, and remains as one of the few all-wheel-drive wagons on the market. Subaru has dropped its Legacy wagon, so that leaves the new BMW 3-series Touring, the Mercedes E-class, and possibly the Cadillac CTS, but North American buyers don’t seem to be too keen on AWD station wagons, as Jaguar found out to its chagrin with the X-Type a few years back. As far as AWD wagons go, there isn’t much out there.
Sort of makes sense. If you want the sure-footedness of all-wheel-drive, with extra carrying capacity, the logical choice would be an SUV of some type. More elbow room and a more practical body configuration. Station wagons remain a very small niche market in Canada, and Audi’s All Road is not one of the company’s best sellers.
But that doesn’t make it any less an Audi. All the things that you like about this company are here in abundance: smooth and robust engine, unimpeachable assembly quality, superior ergonomics, refined styling, and, of course, full-time all-wheel-drive. The All Road has Audi’s ubiquitous Quattro set-up mated to an eight-speed automatic with Tiptronic. No CVT here, thank you very much.
And a word about the name. At first glance, “All Road” seems kind of vague and ambivalent. But, if you think about it, this car’s drivetrain is designed to handle any road you can throw at it. Not off-road, but on-road. So this is not a bush beast, by any stretch and prefers its travelling surfaces to be graded and preferably smooth. OK then.
Power is provided by a 2.0 litre four cylinder that develops 211 horsepower. With a 1765 kilogram curb weight, the all Road isn’t going to set any speed records, but Audi is claiming a 0 to 100 km/h time of over six seconds, with an electronically governed top end of 209 km/h. Highway cruising is this car’s forte’; not being flung through tight turns or drifted through corners. If those are your priorities, Audi has other models you may be interested in.
No; with the All Road, you put the dog in the back, make sure the kids are buckled up, grab a cappuccino and head for the nearest park. If there’s a little gravel on the way in, no problem….but this is genteel transportation. And for those who care about these things, the All Road has a 750-kilogram towing capacity.
Inside, you’ve got 782 litres of luggage capacity. Comparatively, the BMW 3-series offers 495 litres. But the 3-series has more horsepower, although both of these models have identical torque outputs and both require premium grade gas. With a 61-litre fuel tank, at today’s fuel prices, I reckon that’s about $90 - $100 per fill-up, depending upon where you live.
Still, the All Road has a kind of built-in smoothness and refinement that distinguishes it from the Bimmer. That doesn’t make it a better automobile, but I have always found Audis to be a more relaxed driving experience than comparable BMWs. Less Teutonic and definitely more comfortable.
A few things about the All Road that kind of annoy me. One: push-button start. Unnecessary and pointless. A key will work just fine here. Two: electronic parking brake. Again, what was wrong with the tried and true lever type brake? This is an automatic and most folks probably don’t even use the parking brake any way. Three: too much plastic trim around the wheel wells and on the front fascia. This last item wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for me, but it looks kind of tacky and cheap…..like some backyard customizer decided to just kind of glue them on.
Being an Audi and with a starting price in the mid-$40,000 range, the All Road comes well-kitted. Standard equipment includes leather interior, heated front seats, cruise control, a massive power sunroof, and satellite radio. If you want a few extras, such as adaptive cruise control or a navi system, you have to order them….these two are options, as are rear side airbags ($500) and a tire pressure monitor display ($350). Step up to either the Premium or Premium Plus models and you get a few goodies such as automatic range adjustment headlights, a power tailgate, and a “3 zone” climate control system. By the time the dust settles, you can drop 50 large on this one, no problem. And, as an aside, Audi’s web page is surely one of the least informative and most poorly designed sites I’ve ever come across. Don’t look for meaningful info here, because you’ll just get the run- around and drive yourself crazy. What a mess.
AT A GLANCE
Base Price: $49,700; as tested: $50,450
Engine: 2.0 litre four cylinder
Horsepower: 211 hp @ 4300 rpm
Torque: 258 ft. lb. @ 1500 - 4200 rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Fuel economy: (litres/100 km): 10.4 city; 7.4 hwy. Premium gas.
Alternatives: BMW 3-Series Touring, Mercedes E-Class Wagon, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon.