The Allroad honestly makes more sense in the flesh than it does on paper. Where the A4 – even in its prettier Avant format – tends towards total anonymity, the accrued bulk of all that skimpy plastic cladding does earn the car a greater visual presence. The black is essential, though: body color those arches and the lack of a proper pumped-up gap lessens the robust theme.
Inside, of course, the Allroad is about as rugged as an Edwardian roll-top desk. The splendid cabin is a direct carryover of the A4’s, which means it feels like a mildly contracted A6 – which in turn makes it about as pleasant as mainstream surroundings get without straying into outright opulence. The intricately wrought, superbly tactile affair could hardly be more hostile to muddy boots and sticky fingers - and buyers won’t find that their view of the road is raised up any more than that of, say, a Ford S-Max owner, but the Allroad could hardly be more pleasant to sit in.
The TFSI lump, by and large, nurtures the high-end gratification. At low speed and revs, its presence is confirmed only by sleek, effortless propulsion and a bobbing tachometer needle. The target of 273lb ft from 1600rpm is obviously six-cylinder-style amenability; an objective the engine might actually satisfy if it didn’t get so conspicuously reedy when driven with kickdown relish. Sound aside though, its appreciably brisk, entirely linear traverse of all seven dual-clutch automatic ratios is just what the Allroad’s pliable chassis ordered.
Kitted with the cost-option dampers and driven on 18in wheels, the petrol-powered model takes advantage of its taller springs to coax - at least in Comfort mode - a freely undulating, softly sprung feel from the A4’s suspension, one that is entirely at odds with the restiveness that can still be found elsewhere in the range. It doesn’t do much for a keen driver’s sense of connectedness, nor the Allroad’s body control, but its beautifully refined, long-wave modulation of the road surface's faults ought to act as a salve to anyone bruised by recent experience of Audi's S line spec sports suspension.
The car is perfectly usable (on German roads) in its Dynamic setting, too, although the gentle shoring up of its lean doesn’t tempt one to drive it all that much quicker – mostly as a result of the familiarly gooey off-centre, lost-at-sea steering feel. Certainly it is not for want of lateral grip, which remains high and – on a dry test route unsuited to higher speeds – all but indistinguishable from the level of security offered by the standard Quattro set-up. Chiefly that’s because Audi has embedded its two-wheel drive spells very cautiously; an engineer-aided demonstration revealed not only the system’s split-second preparedness for engaging the rear axle, but also the extreme fluidity of the torque distribution thereafter.