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Audi Allroad returns to SA

2013-02-19 05:10

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: If you‘re looking for a model that’s capable of tackling the odd off-road excursion, the Audi A4 Allroad could be a great choice.

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Audi has bolstered its A4 family in South Africa with the return of the Allroad moniker - a name previously launched in SA in the form of the Audi A6 Allroad in 2001 but now riding on the A4.

No, it’s not an SUV. No, it’s not an Avant. In short, it's an A4 estate with raised suspension and rugged design tweaks.

AUDI'S ALL ROUNDER IN SA

Realising that some buyers eschew SUV's for the anti-green stigma attached but that some would still like to go soft-roading over a weekend, Audi hopes to fill the niche in the form of the crossover market. To achieve this they’ve discontinued the A4 Avant (now only available in S4 and RS guise) in favour of a model that‘s not quite an SUV, has (limited) off-road capability but is incredibly practical as a family ride.

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With permanent all-wheel drive, the A4 Allroad quattro is equally at home on the road as it is off the beaten path... provided you stick to gravel and don't face any actual off-road terrain. To achieve its soft-roading prowess over the normal A4 the automaker has raised the ground clearance of the  A4 Avant  to 180mm,  added a new sporty grille, tweaked the bumpers and bolted on stainless-steel underbody protection.

ENGINES

The engine line-up sees two four-cylinder options -  a 2.0 TDI or T FSI with AWD standard. The TDI generates 130kW at  4200rpm and 380Nm from 1750-2500rpm. The petrol version produces 155kW at  6000rom and 350Nm from 1500-4200rom. Fuel consumption is rated at 7.3 litres/100km (petrol) and six litres/100km for the diesel. Each engine drives through a seven-speed S tronic gearbox with stop/start as standard.
 
If you’ve been behind the wheel of the 2012 A4 you’ll be right at home driving the new Allroad. The ride is pleasant enough with the raised suspension soaking up gravel and tar irregularities with aplomb. 

In the twisties, the quattro system provides predictable road-hugging grip but there's a little more body roll than on the standard A4.

Despite its rugged(ish) looks you shouldn’t be under any illusions – the Allroad is not meant for anything resembling true 4x4.

What’s it IS meant for is taking on gravel and irregular surfaces (think a moderately difficult off-road trail). More importantly, due to the icy climes of Europe in winter, the Allroad is perfect for driving through snow. That said, it’s easy to see how the model’s usefulness in South Africa may be a little dubious.

As Audi SA's head of product marketing Rudi Venter put it: “For certain customers, buying an SUV has a stigma that's not appealing to them. They want raised ride height and the practicality of an SUV as they live an active lifestyle.”

The Allroad is rides on 17” alloys and comes with the following kit as standard: headlight washers, colour driver information system, cruise control, auto dimming rearview mirror, rain sensor, Bluetooth and the Audi’s 'aluminium package' which adds roof rails, window trim and additional stone protection covers.

INSIDE

The A4 has a ergonomic, logically arrayed interior. Despite its sterile feel controls are intuitive and overall you cannot fault the cabin functionality. The Allroadis identical in this regard and therein lies a missed opportunity: apart from the quattro branding on the sills and the split rear seat you cannot tell them apart. Even adding a bit of cross-stitching or other design bits really would’ve given it a personality of its own.

As it stands there’s no,thing that hints at the Allroad’s ruggedness.

The cargo bay will take 490 litres with the rear seats in use and up to 1430 litres with the seat variously folded. Optional features include a load-securing package and a power tail door.

OVERALL

The A4 Allroad has the same improvements under the skin as the sedan and its range of features is just as rich and rewarding as that of other A4 models. One special function is off-road detection which adapts the control characteristic of the ESC stabilisation control system accordingly.

Audi positions its A4 Allroad between the Q3 (R431 500) and Q5 (R488 000) models. According to Audi SA, the model faces competition from the likes of Subaru Legacy/Outback and Volvo XC70 Cross Country. Though the Volvo V40 Cross Country will arrive on our shores soon, Audi believes this off-road version of the V40 is positioned much lower in terms of pricing and doesn’t quite compete.

The A6 Allroad quite didn’t take off in SA despite being largely succesful in Europe. I can’t help but think that if you wanted the practicality and off-road prowess of an SUV that maybe you should, er, buy an SUV.

The aforementioned Q3 and Q5 certainly make the grade. If you’re in the market of a lifestyle ride capable of tackling soft-roading, you could always consider parent company Volkswagen’s Tiguan.

PRICES
Audi A4 allroad 2.0T FSI quattro S tronic: R433 000
Audi A4 allroad 2.0 TDI quattro  S tronic: R438 000
including a five-year or 100 000km Audi Freeway Plan.

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