The Allroad is at heart an A4 Avant, but one designed to suit the needs of the small number of customers whose motoring life includes a certain amount of off-road driving. Like other cars of this type, it's never going to match a properly butch SUV on rough terrain.
However, its raised ride height (37mm over the Avant) and its exterior and underbody protection give it more of a chance than regular estate cars. Quattro four-wheel drive, a common if not universal feature on other Audis, is of course standard on this car.
The range includes 2.0-litre TDI diesel and TFSI petrol engines, and there's also a 3.0-litre TDI. Seven-speed S tronic semi-automatic transmission is available with all of them, though you can save yourself nearly £1,500 by opting for a six-speed manual in the smaller diesel. There are two trim levels, one of them unnamed, the other (more expensive) one called Sport.
The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine makes the Allroad as quick as it needs to be. Producing up to 175bhp, it gives the car a 0-62mph time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 134mph if fitted with manual transmission, or 8.1 seconds and 130mph with the S tronic transmission. For most purposes, that's enough, but if you want more, the 222bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine gives you performance figures of 6.7 seconds and 145mph, though with a considerable penalty in fuel consumption.
Yet more potential is provided by the glorious six-cylinder 3.0-litre TDI, one of the finest engines Audi has in its considerable portfolio. Driven flat out, an Allroad fitted with this diesel unit can do the 0-62mph run in 6.2 seconds, and continue to a maximum of 149mph. For its power and sound, this is our favourite engine in the range by a long way, but if it's beyond your budget the smaller diesel is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
Ride and Handling
The A4 Allroad provides a decent compromise, but it's more competent on unusual ground.
The problem faced by creators of semi-off-road estates is that they have to make them work in completely contradictory situations. Making a car work on tarmac is a different thing from making it work on anything else, and there is the added problem of designing the rear suspension to cope with everything from a heavy load to no load at all. The A4 Allroad provides a decent compromise, but it's more competent on unusual ground. On rough forest tracks, for example, it behaves splendidly, and rides amazingly well even over quite serious bumps. We haven't tried it in deep mud and frankly don't want to - its low-profile just aren't designed for those conditions. On normal roads, its extra ride height is almost always apparent, and there's quite a lot of lean through enthusiastically-taken corners. Unless you really need the off-road capability, you'd be better off with an A4 Avant.
Interior and Equipment
It's very much a niche model. Fewer than 5% of Britain’s Audi A4 buyers choose the Allroad.
The body of the Allroad is exactly the same as that of the Avant, so the two cars have identical luggage capacity of 490 litres with the rear seats and parcel shelf in place and 1,430 litres to roof level with the rear seats folded. There's plenty of room up front, but taller rear passengers might find that they need more legroom. In all cases the air-conditioning can be set differently for each front seat occupant and those in the rear, and the ESP is automatically reset for off-road use. Standard equipment also includes DAB digital radio, cruise control, heated door mirrors, roof rails and a reversible floor mat for the luggage compartment. Sport specification, which adds about £2,500 to the price, includes xenon headlights, 19-inch rather than 18-inch wheels, rear privacy glass and slightly different interior trim. Also inserted is Audi's drive select system - with a choice of modes for the engine, suspension and transmission.
The best economy figure is 48.7mpg when using the 2.0-litre TDI diesel and manual gearbox.
Being taller and heavier than the Avant, the Allroad is inevitably less economical, emits more CO2 and is more expensive to tax. The best economy figure is 48.7mpg when using the 2.0-litre TDI diesel and manual gearbox. S tronic lowers fuel economy to 47.1mpg but also leads to slightly better CO2 rating emissions (156g/km rather than 159g/km). Either way, Vehicle Excise Duty will cost you £180 annually, while the BIK rating is 27% now and will rise to 29% in April 2015. The 3.0-litre TDI isn't too far behind on 45.6mpg and 161g/km, though it will almost certainly use more fuel than the 2.0 in real life. The 2.0 TFSI will be the most expensive to run, with figures of 39.8mpg (which may be difficult to match) and 164g/km.
It’s difficult to justify buying an Audi A4 Allroad rather than an A4 Avant if you're not going to venture off the tarmac. Compared to the Avant, the Allroad is noticeably less poised on public roads, as well as being cheaper to run. If, however, you genuinely need some off-road capability, the Allroad is an interesting alternative to an SUV. It’s capable of wafting over rough tracks that would bring more conventional cars to their knees. Buyers can enjoy the quality and comfort, but don't kid yourself that you'll be able to chase Range Rovers through the undergrowth.