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Executive wheels: Audi’s odd duck

Jeff Rundles //June 11, 2015//

Executive wheels: Audi’s odd duck

Jeff Rundles //June 11, 2015//


The 2015 Audi allroad quattro is an odd car. It’s the only vehicle in the entire line that has a name rather than a number, for one thing, and it is a completely different car than it was when introduced in 1999.

Audi used to have a few models called Avant – as in A4 Avant, A6 Avant – that were essentially station wagons, but it has ceased production on these. The first allroad was built on the A6 Avant platform, meaning it was related to the mid-sized sedan in the line, and it was beefed up so that it was much higher off the ground and felt more substantial than the standard A6 wagon. But since 2009, Audi moved the allroad to the smaller A4 platform — an odd choice.

The 2015 Audi allroad is basically an A4 Avant. Sure, like all Audis, it has quattro AWD (a great system, by the way), but there is absolutely nothing about this car that would tempt you to take it on anything other than a maintained road. It actually shocked me that it was so small and slight. The name “allroad” used to evoke images of rugged toughness; now it suggests a play date outing to Elitch’s.

Like everything else in the car and car-reviewing business, there’s a reason for this car coming to me. The only other Audi I have seen in the past few years in the press pool is the A3, and I knew then the reason they sent it to me was that it was new and they needed to showcase. They very rarely send out the popular A4s or A6s, and only occasionally an S4 or S6, because Audi is selling the hell out of its entire line of sedans and coupes and doesn’t need a ton of automotive press. The SUVs don’t sell nearly as well as the cars vis a vis the competition, so they come around more often, but you get the idea. I suspect, rather than sending me one of their top-selling and impressive cars, they sent this allroad out for review because they are having trouble selling them.

And with good reason. It’s not a great car for the money. The A4 sedan, which has similar equipment, has a base price of some $7,000 less than this allroad ($35,500 versus $42,400), and from what I can tell the only difference is that the allroad is a wagon and therefore no trunk. If it sat up higher or offered some alternative for a little more adventurous driving, then maybe. It does appear to be one of the few remaining sportwagons from Europe: BMW and Mercedes don’t seem to make them at all, and VW has gone sportwagon with only the Golf, starting at $21,395, so the Audi allroad is kind of out on a limb – a thin one – all by itself.     

There are some things to like. All of these vehicles now come with all of the technology and “stuff” included – you all know what it is, and there’s nothing here that raises the bar. The gauges and controls are actually rather comforting for two reasons: first, Audi has kept a great look for years and done very little to tweak it (a good thing), and compared to its German competitors, BMW especially, this Audi’s controls are relatively easy and intuitive to use.

(A side note: as luxury cars, then even regular cars, moved to touch screens and mouse pads to be used as access points for their technology and systems, many of us car reviewers lamented that having the climate controls done that way was way too distracting and unnecessary; e.g. you have to access “Climate” and then “fan” to change the fan speed, and similar double/triple moves to lower or raise the temperature, etc. It just dawned on me, after a few weeks driving Audi, Toyota, Lexus, VW and others that pretty much every company has pulled climate control out to a separate place on the dash where these systems – which tend to need, well, constant tending — are easy and less distracting to operate. You’re welcome.)

Other things I liked: the huge panoramic sunroof, with the typical dial control (also on VW) and opens or closes it to whatever degree you roll the dial. Really smart. Really beautiful chestnut brown leather interior that was also very comfortable. Automatic side mirrors that fold in when you lock the car (a nice sign and better than loud noises to confirm a lock).

Things I didn’t like: very little – and in miniscule – leg room in the rear seating area. I am a medium-sized man and would have to sit sideways back there if the person up front was taller than me. Not good. Plus the middle seat shouldn’t be called a seat at all.

And here’s the thing I really didn’t like: this car is equipped with a 2.0-liter I-4 engine with a turbocharger, which Audi claims has 220 hp. More like 220 pony-power. The car is not quick, and the turbo lag drove me nuts all through the week. I thought I would get over it, but I didn’t. The gas mileage is rated at 21 mpg city/28 highway.

As I said, the base price here is $42,400 (there are a couple of more expensive trims, with the same engine, that can take the base up to over $49k). On this one they added a Technology Package  for $2,900, which added the VCD/DVD player and HD radio, the Audi MMI navigation (nothing special), a backup camera, and skid assist. They also tacked on $2,100 for the Premium Plus model package, including auto-dimming mirror with compass, auto-dimming, heated and folding outside mirrors, an advanced key (whatever that is), and a 3-spokje multifunction steering wheel. Put in the destination charges and the bottom line is $48,325.      

At that price, this allroad isn’t going to see many roads at all.