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One Week With: 2017 Audi A4 Allroad

An old friend comes back looking better than ever

Arthur St. Antoinewriter, photographerThe Manufacturerphotographer

I know the Audi Allroad, having been the primary driver for Motor Trend's year-long test of the last A4 version, a 2013 model built on the B8 platform. That car got heavy use, being a favorite of our video and photo crews and a perfect chase vehicle when doing comparison tests of other cars out in the desert. And, of course, being a wagon, the Allroad won fans simply for being more nimble and jaunty than an SUV. In the end, I dubbed it "flawless for more than 20,000 miles." Since 2016, though, Audi has offered a new, B9-based version. I finally got a chance to spend some quality time in a 2017 model and the fond memories came flooding back—and then some.

The B9 has grown a tad in wheelbase, length, and height over its predecessor. The engine remains a 2.0-liter turbo four, but power is up from 211 horsepower to 252, while torque climbs from 258 pound-feet to 273 (the same numbers as in the A4 sedan). Another impressive change: like the sedan, the A4 Allroad ditches its former eight-speed automatic for a racier seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. How often do you find a race-bred paddle shifter in a wagon, eh?

What I noticed immediately: the new Allroad feels notably sprightlier than its predecessor. Audi claims it can do 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds, but I'm betting it's actually quicker than that. As before, max torque comes on low, at just 1,600 rpm now, so there's never a feeling of waiting for turbo boost to build; the car just surges forward. The Allroad effortlessly nipped and zipped around town despite its 3800-plus pounds, and in more aggressive driving it proved genuinely playful—aided in large measure by the absolutely excellent dual-clutch shifter, which responds to up or down paddle shifts with equal finesse—yet is equally seamless handling the shifting all by itself.

So-called Audi Driver Select adjusts the dampers and control responses to any one of four modes: Comfort, Dynamic, Off-road, or Individual (which allows you to tailor the various systems to your own tastes). Frankly, even in Dynamic the Allroad is a pretty tepid handler, preferring to understeer as you push it and never feeling particularly "crisp" in is moves (the Volvo V60 Cross Country I tested last year was livelier). That's not a big negative, though, as the newly redesigned five-link suspension delivers a generally good ride—and it's doubtful many wagon buyers would want to jostle the people and cargo they're hauling around anyway. The Off-Road mode locks the standard Quattro system into permanent all-wheel drive and softens-up the dampers more than any other setting, the better to soak up broken dirt trails and such.

Right now you careful readers are asking, "Wait a minute! What do you mean, 'locks into permanent all-wheel drive?' Don't Quattros always drive all four wheels?" Ah, but this Quattro system is different. The new Allroad features Quattro Ultra, which drives the front wheels alone most of the time and only brings in the rears as needed. You won't feel a thing from behind the wheel, but you will at the pumps: powering only two wheels instead of four most of the time improves EPA city/highway fuel economy from 20/27 mpg to 23/28. Around Los Angeles, I never had the chance to push the Allroad into any conditions that might challenge the Quattro system in the least, but if I had been headed up to Mammoth Mountain in wintertime, it would've been reassuring to know all-wheel drive would magically appear when conditions warranted. Compared with the A4 sedan, the Allroad also offers an additional 1.3 inches of ground clearance—the better to straddle that new layer of snow.

The Allroad is nothing short of gorgeous inside. Superb leather, high-gloss burl wood inlays ($350), standard three-zone automatic climate control with rear display, panoramic sunroof—the new car is even nicer than the 2013 Allroad I enjoyed for so many months, and that's saying a lot. My test car included the optional Technology package ($3,250), which adds navigation and Audi's "virtual cockpit" (a 12.3-inch hi-res display in the dash), among other features. Also on board: the Premium Plus package ($3,000), which includes such niceties as Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio, heated 8-way power front seats and heated outside mirrors, LED headlights, parking system plus (rear-view camera with front and rear sensors), and more. Including a few other options, this Allroad's lavish appointments pushed the total sticker to $53,480.

That's a lofty sum, all right—and nearly $4,000 more than the well-outfitted Volvo Cross Country mentioned above. Then again, the new Allroad is quicker, offers more rear-seat legroom and cargo room, and boasts a more luscious and cutting-edge cockpit. The Allroad flaunts a superb chiseled/sporty physique, too—aided by handsome five-spoke alloy wheels.

This new Allroad would be a fabulous place to spend another 20,000 miles.

2017 Audi A4 Allroad 2.0T quattro S tronic Specifications

PRICE $45,350/$53,480 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/252 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 273 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD wagon
EPA MILEAGE 23/28 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 187.0 x 72.5 x 58.8 in
WHEELBASE 110.9 in
WEIGHT 3,825 lb
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph