The Automobile Magazine staff is divided on the concept of tall wagons. Some people think the increased ride height compromises handling far too much to make the car fun to drive. Others, your author included, think these tall wagons make a lot more sense than SUVs.
As far as I can tell, the 2010 Audi A4 Allroad is going to be one of the most logical cars on the road once it goes on sale. You gain nearly an inch and a half extra ground clearance over a standard A4 and there’s an optional 2.0T TDI engine that produces 168 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque along with very reasonable fuel economy (about 36 mpg on the European test cycle). That extra ground clearance means I could probably get the Allroad down the alley and into my driveway with several inches of snow on the ground. With a regular A4 avant, that’d probably cause some damage and there’s a good chance the car would get stuck.
No, it’s not going to be a real off-roader, but if there’s a slightly muddy two-track leading to your weekend getaway (we have lots of those in Michigan) this car might be all you need to reach the cabin. The real selling feature here is the optional TDI engines. You don’t have to give up fuel economy to be able to traverse light mud or moderate snow.
Though I’ve never taken an Allroad off road, I can’t imagine the usual crop of crossovers and cute-utes having off-road capabilities that justify their increased thirst. And I’ve spent some time driving an A6 Allroad in Europe, so I’m confident the slight change in on-road behavior does nothing to dull the driving experience. If you want a high-performance wagon, you really want the RS6 Avant anyway.
Of course none of this matters; the U.S. won’t be getting an A4 Allroad. The only Allroads we have are 2001-2005 model years and the size of an A6. Audi would much rather sell the new Q5 crossover to Americans since we tend to prefer the SUV and SUV-like crossovers to more logical wagons. Pitty.
Update: Automotive News is now reporting that Audi is considering the Allroad for U.S. sale, but no decision has been made at this point. The Automotive News article also states a U.S.-bound Allroad could be A4 or A6 size. Perhaps we will see this car in the States…