The Allroad is probably the A4 at its very best – and I’ve no doubt this particular diesel is the pick of the A4 Allroad range. Plenty of Audi drivers might disagree, of course: mostly the ones who like their lowered suspension and S line styling kits.
But, if, like this tester, you see the A4 as an imperfect way to satisfy an enthusiastic driver, you might be more inclined equip your car in way that builds up some its core strengths – comfort, isolation, flexibility, practicality, convenience – while adding just a little bit of off-road capability into the mix for good measure. That, in a nutshell, is what the A4 Allroad does.
If, twenty years from now, new global emissions laws have squeezed diesel engines out of passenger cars altogether, it won’t be the super-frugal three and four-cylinder units we miss, nor the ten and twelve-cylinder oil-burners we’ve seen at the more profligate end of the consumption spectrum. It’ll be six-cylinder marvels like the engine in this Audi, I reckon. Remarkably quiet and smooth for a diesel, it’s also superbly strong and responsive from below 1500rpm to well beyond 4000. And it’ll return a real-world 45mpg, in a car that I can’t believe would top 50mpg by much even in its most frugal form.
The V6 engine might only produce 295lb ft of torque – the same peak quantity as the 2.0 TDI, sure – but it’s on tap from just 1250rpm all the way through until 3800rpm, giving the six-cylinder engine a productive sweet spot some 40% broader than the four-cylinder’s. On the road, that means the 3.0-litre TDI is much less fussy about accelerating in a low gear, much more swift and relaxing to drive and, because it’s an intrinsically better-balanced engine, feels much less like it’s working hard when you rev it.
Most of the time, Audi’s seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch automatic gearbox is a fine match for that engine. There’s a small but perceptible delay to initial step-off, no doubt as the clutches not only manage their own machinations but also negotiate the added friction and inertia of that centre differential. But once the car’s away from standing, it accelerates smoothly and swiftly when you want it to, the gearbox selecting ratios cleverly in Drive and smartly in manual mode.
Powertrain aside, the Allroad is very refined and secure. Its ride and handling can be tailored to your taste, if you opt for the adaptive dampers, from a little-too-soft for perfect high-speed motorway body control in Comfort mode, down to surprisingly upright and taut in Dynamic mode. Leave the car in Auto, however, and adaptive suspension does what it’s there to do – adapt to the changing surface of the road underneath you – and, thanks to the Allroad’s extra wheel travel and softer springing, it simply handles the broad range of surfaces you encounter in the UK with greater compliance and dynamic versatility than a standard A4. There’s little feel or positivity to the steering, and the car’s cornering manners are more about security than poise – but that’s the A4’s familiar compromise. It isolates, it soothes, it relaxes and it reassures.
On the inside there’s little to report, the Allroad being is exactly like an A4 Avant. So the cabin feels very well constructed and expensively fitted out; the instrumentation and infotainment systems are first-class (particularly with Virtual Cockpit optioned); comfort is good, with room for all but the tallest of adults in the back seats; and boot space is 505-litres with the seats in place, which trumps both a BMW 3 Series Touring and a Mercedes-Benz C-Class Estate.