Mountain Wheels: All-new Allroad complements new Audi offerings
July 6, 2012
My apologies to the Loveland Pass travelers repeatedly dusted off the road a week ago by an endless series of crazily driven, brand-new Audis. Summit and Eagle counties were in fact the national launch location for a sweeping series of new Audi automobiles, with significantly altered versions of the A4 and A5 (and their high-output S variants) appearing alongside the sure-to-be-mountain-friendly 2013 Allroad.So boisterous were my fellow car-writers’ maniacal antics on the streets of Bachelor Gulch that I doubt we’ll all be invited back soon. So it goes.Suffice to say this wide-ranging whallop of new product in Audi’s B segment will be sure to excite those who’ve become strident advocates for the winter-beating German brand. Audi’s sales are up considerably, and the company once relegated to also-ran status has taken a much larger role in the U.S. scene; the seven new variations of the A4 and A5 packages won’t hurt that.While the S4 and S5s were predictably intense, in a mildly understated way (the old V8 engine is gone but the replacement 3.0-liter turbocharged six makes an impressive 333 horsepower, with just a little less awesome/vulgar exhaust noise than before), the most eye-catching member of the new clan is the Allroad.Based off of the A5 track and the A4 body, the new Allroad is not quite the boxy behemoth you’ll remember from the original models of the early to mid-2000s. Truth be told, it’s actually an enhanced replacement for the A4 Avant, Audi’s pleasant station wagon. But it sure looks like a more vertically oriented remake of the A4, coming in half an inch wider and almost two-and-a-half inches (58 total) taller than the old Avant.And it’s got an appealingly sculpted and rounded wagon rear-end and liftback, though the same sharp, sloping character lines and basic style of A4 are nicely incorporated. Drop the rear seats and it goes all Outback with 50 cubic feet of storage. Those glowing LED daytime running lamps Audi introduced but are now seen even on pedestrian Chrysler products are, of course, brighter and more distinctive than before.You get a bit of extra suspension lift (1.5 inches of increased ground clearance, up to 7.1 total) and a series of Allroad-specific bits, including fender flares, a tall and shiny Singleframe grille, roof rails and skid plates.Tough as it may look, Audi insists the car’s mission remains “all road,” though gravel paths up to camping spots and snow-covered stretches of Interstate are part of that bargain. Rock crawling, not so much; take a quick look at the optional but beautiful wood inlays on the inside and you’ll be satisfied with its lite-rugged compromise.A look at the stats might lead you to believe the 2.0-liter inline-four engine seems a little light for the application but, with 211 horsepower and a super-adaptive eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s an all-wheel drive machine with a surprising amount of snap. Like most of the range, the Audi Drive Select system is also available, allowing you to customize the ride, throttle response and shifting to your own liking.The feel’s also just as sporty and precise as the standard A4 sedan we drove, with just a bit more versatility as part of the package. Speed demons understand they can take their pick from an S4 sedan or both an S5 coupe and cabriolet; the aforementioned S engine is not only faster than the old V8 but considerably more efficient (no gas guzzler tax) and about $4,000 cheaper. And, though the Germans themselves have been left out of the deal at their showrooms, you can still get a six-speed manual to go along with the added power. For those who opt for a more techno-centered experience, the ever-improving MMI media and navigation system now includes – and I am not kidding about this – Street View Google Earth maps, so you can see not only bird’s-eye views but actual side-of-the-building views of your destination.The once-befuddling controls are also now simplified to six buttons. And eight of your friends can gather around your car and use it as a WiFi hotspot. They just can’t all ride with you at the same time. The standard 10-speaker audio system can also be upped to an ear-blasting 505-watt Bang & Olufsen system with 14 speakers in the hard-top models.