Audi A4 allroad an all-rounder

Andy RussellAudi's new A4 allroad is an estate that can take the rough with the smooth, says ANDY RUSSELL.Car-makers are getting to grips with creating more acceptable 4x4s and crossover seems to be the new buzzword.Robinsons AudiAndy Russell

Audi's new A4 allroad is an estate that can take the rough with the smooth, says ANDY RUSSELL.

Car-makers are getting to grips with creating more acceptable 4x4s and crossover seems to be the new buzzword.

More and more manufacturers are bridging the class boundaries by crossing estate cars with four-wheel drive sports utility vehicles to cater for those people who want a rugged load-lugger which can take the rough with the smooth.

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They're not genuine off-roaders but if you live in a rural location like Norfolk they make a lot of sense with all-wheel drive and higher ground clearance making them capable of taking to the beaten track.

Audi and Volvo got the ball rolling with the A6 allroad and XC70 respectively, Skoda has the Octavia Scout and Subaru the Legacy-based Outback. Now Saab has joined the fray with its 9-3X while Audi - a pioneer of four-wheel drive cars - has launched its smaller A4 allroad, based on the Avant estate.

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It looks the part with rugged body styling including a special grille and bumpers, wheelarch extensions and extra underbody protection and its off-road ability is raised, literally, by increasing the ride height 37mm to 180mm, while there's another 20mm between the nearside and offside wheels.

It may make it better off-road but there is a trade-off on the tarmac. Higher off the ground, it doesn't have the same composure as the standard A4 Avant through corners with more body lean at speed but not to the point of being soggy. What is more noticeable is that the ride is not as supple and absorbent over poor roads while wide tyres on 18in alloys make the steering feel heavier at low speeds with the occasional little kick through the steering wheel.

Three engines are offered 170PS 2.0 and 240PS 3.0-litre turbo diesels and a 211PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol. The smaller diesel, with a six-speed manual gearbox, has a smooth, flexible power delivery and strong top-end urge but, four-wheel drive and the higher ride height, meant I averaged only 40mpg.

The new A4 is more spacious inside than previous generations which means decent legroom in the back for adults while the 490-litre boot is made more practical with a reversible load bay mat, rubberized on one side for muddy boots and dirty dogs, a flip-over bumper protector and rails in the floor and fixing kit for securing bulky loads. Rear seats backs split 60/40 but don't quite fold flat.

The A4 allroad is available in one comprehensive specification, based on A4 SE, so you get three-zone electronic climate control, 10-speaker sound system, automatic headlamps and front wipers and a driver's information system. The A4 allroad adds stability control that detects when the car is off-road and adjusts accordingly, 18in alloy wheels, special cloth upholstery and a storage pack including additional nets and compartments.

If I had a problem with the A4 allroad it was the fact that it starts at nearly �30,000 - a comparable A4 Avant quattro costs �1,300 less and if you want more off-road ability you can buy the Q5 SUV for roughly the same money.

But my younger son then hit on why the A4 allroad might win you over - it looks good in a more macho way. Can't argue with that.

Audi A4 allroad 2.0 TDI quattro

PRICE: �29,285

ENGINE: 1,968cc, 170PS, four-cylinder, common-rail turbo diesel

PERFORMANCE: 0-62mph 8.9 seconds; top speed 132mph

MPG: Urban 36.7; extra urban 49.6; combined 44.1

EMISSIONS: 169g/km



WARRANTY: Three years/60,000 miles

WILL IT FIT IN THE GARAGE: Length 4,721mm; width (excluding mirrors) 1,841mm; height 1,495mm

Robinsons Audi

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