What is it?
It’s a sign that, if Audi sees even half a niche, it’s going to do whatever it can to fill it. Just as it has done with the latest A6 Allroad, the A4 Allroad is designed to squeeze into the tiny crack between the A4 estate and the Q5 soft-roader.
This one is the strongest of the range, with the 3.0-litre TDI crunching out 369lb ft – effortlessly.
What’s it like?
It’s a lot like an A4 Avant 3.0 TDI, but it has a much better ride.
The beauty of this engine is that, while it’s strong enough to dominate proceedings, it only ever breaks out the muscle when you ask it to.
It’s very smooth at idle and on part-throttle acceleration, and it’s a comfortably quiet companion most of the time. Ask it for all it’s got and the V6 will become more urgent, pushing a full 369lb ft from 1500 to 3000rpm, before running through an uncivilized gruff patch between 4300 and 4600 revs.
That’s easily avoided, however, because with the double-clutch gearbox offering seven gears, there’s usually a taller one that lets you get back into the torque band again. And it seems no slower that way.
The shifts and the throttle response feel much sharper in the car’s ‘Dynamic’ mode, which holds the shorter gears for longer and downshifts crisply under braking. But it’s not its forte. Just leave it in ‘Drive’ and let the incredible in-gear flexibility do all the work. All that, and only 39.8mpg.
The suspension seems somehow more holistically organized than the standard A4. Longer springs and stronger dampers give it 26mm more wheel travel at the front and the steering feel doesn’t lose anything much from the change, largely because it didn’t have much to lose anyway.
With 180mm of clearance, it’s picked up only 40mm on the A4 Estate, which is among Audi’s funny ideas for a soft-roader. For example, on our test, its executives defended the lower part of the doors, which collect mud from the 17-inch tyres and swipe it on your calves with every entry or exit, because they say people won’t drive it in muddy conditions. How odd.
It has some trick tech, like the off-road software tucked away inside its ESP computer which lets it have a bit of wheelspin when it’s chasing traction on loose surfaces, and gives the ABS some lock-up ability to build up a dirt buffer in front of the tyres.
The interior is also generous by most standards, though some cheap materials have crept in on places like the door grips.
Should I buy one?
This depends on what you want. If you want the best of the A4 Allroads, you are: a) in a very small club and, b) best off in the 2.0-litre TDI. But there will be moments in tall gears when it won’t be strong enough, which is where this one comes in.
If you want the best and strongest engine in an A4 estate with the best ride quality, then the A4 Allroad fits the bill – for reasons that seem more by accident than design. It’s the most comfortable of all the A4 3.0-litre TDIs you can find.