Long weekends, wine country and a fine auto go together like….fine wine, great company and beautiful sunsets to watch. A Wheel Thing was lucky enough to have all six over the Australia Day long weekend, with a trip to Mudgee. Located around 3.5 hours drive, north west of Sydney, it was an ideal opportunity to see how well Audi’s midsized, all wheel drive A4 Allroad wagon would cope with average roads leading to one of Australia’s famed wine grape growing districts. In a way, it was fortuitous that the weather was wet, sometimes foggy, both there and back, as it also would test the “quattro” drivetrain.
Behind the stylish LED running lights beats a 2.0L diesel heart, with 130kW on tap at a relatively high (for a diesel) 4200 rpm. Mr Newton lobs in with 380 of his best torques at a plateau of 1750 to 2500 rpm. It’s an unstressed, refined, quiet and responsive powerplant, reacting quickly to a prod of the go pedal and throwing its energy to the road via the seven speed auto and all wheel drive system. Economy is around the 6.0L per 100 kilometres, thanks, in part, to a slippery body shape and aluminuim construction (1700 kilos). The transmission itself has a sports mode, selected by simply tipping the the gear knob backwards half an inch, whilst paddles on the steering column can be used should one desire to play F1. Interestingly and cleverly, doing so engages a manual mode that will hold that gear until the computer says otherwise. There’s a stop/start system on board, cutting the engine at traffic lights plus will shut the engine off if in Park and the driver leaves the door open. Also, a form of energy recovery from the braking system is in play, topping off the battery when under braking.
The 2.8 metre wheelbase and near 1.6 metre track aid in grip and stability, providing some great roadholding, especially on what passes for a highway to Mudgee. With some damp sections, unsettled curves and road surfaces to deal with, the AWD system, chassis and gearbox met, had a meeting, and decided to ignore all of that and concentrate on delivering a quality ride. Rolling on 245/45 tyres with ten spoke 18 inch alloys, there’s grip aplenty, mated to a supple, forgiving suspension. There’s little rebound or float, whilst tracking true through long, sweeping corners. In tighter, carpark style movement, there’s some graunching from the drivetrain but it’s a good protest. There’s imperceptible chatter from the torquey donk under load, otherwise the wind tunnel tuned body and insulation work well to keep external noise where it belongs. The steering is responsive, goes where it’s pointed, with understeer a word not in its vocabulary. Being a driven at four corners kind of car would have something to do with that…
Externally the A4 Allroad is not unattractive; there’s a stainless steel grill, chin and rear valance contrasting with the sea grey plastic mouldings whilst melding, in this case, with the snow white paint on A Wheel Thing’s test car. The styling is deceptive; the A4 Allroad is 4.72 metres long, with internal shoulder room around 1.4 metres. It looks a lot smaller from outside. LED running lights in a trapezoidal shape complement the same in the rear light cluster, whilst racks on the roof are tastefully trimmed. It’s a sleek, air cutting shape, with a 0.34 drag coefficent.
As you’d expect from a premium brand, there’s plenty of simple and good tech; the remote has a button that opens the tailgate, it’s electrically operated and has a touch button to close. It’s ideal, as Audi says, for hands full situations like shopping. Auto headlights, rain sensing and speed sensitive wipers, speed sensitive steering, plus the jog dial operated infotainment system for audio via (in this car, a Bose system), navigation, settings and more. Oddly, though, the cruise control is on its own stalk, a little unusual given even cars in the $20K bracket have them either on the steering wheel or on the end of the indicator.
Audi were once seen as the lesser German brand; part of the market but somewhat quirky, a little odd, even though their quattro rally cars disputed that fact. The A4 Allroad shows that offering a vehicle for every market and looking for niches your competitors may not fill, being quirky pays off in the long term. It’s a class act and, ironically, sitting towards the bottom of the Audi ladder, hints at the class the rest of the range can offer. Priced at $76,500 or so it’s certainly a case of getting what you pay for. And that’s plenty.