The last time we reviewed the Audi allroad (Audi’s lowercase, not ours) was in 2013, and Chief Buzzard John Matras did a thorough job of trying to convince us it wasn’t a wagon. Are we going to try to do the same? Or are we going to try to tell you it’s not an SUV, either? Or a CUV, for that matter. What we are going to do is let you know that the allroad, no matter what people want to call it, is a competent vehicle that will get you pretty much anywhere you need to go. The bigger question is why Audi is even offering the allroad in the first place.
After all, Audi now has the Q3 compact CUV, the Q5 midsize SUV and even the big-daddy Q7. If you can’t find something that works for you in that lineup, you might want to reset your priorities. The second question as to why Audi is even bothering with the allroad anymore is related to sales volumes. In 2013, the allroad sold almost 5,400 units. So far this year, the total is around 1,100. The diminutive Q3 has already surpassed that number by a couple hundred vehicles.
Last April, Audi showed off the Prologue allroad concept at the Shanghai Auto Show, but when you look at the design, as well as the specs (4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 hybrid), the resemblance is about as close as Marilyn Manson is to Marilyn Monroe. Audi must believe that there’s still a market for this not-a-wagon-nor-an-SUV vehicle. Perhaps there is, but not so much in the States. We often judge the popularity of a vehicle by how many others like it we see on the streets. Even in import-car-crazy Los Angeles, ours was the only one we saw during our week-long test drive.
Please don’t imply that this means we didn’t like it. We did. At least 80 percent of it. Before we tell you where we split the 80/20, let’s see the changes made between Matras’ test drive of the 2013 model and our 2015 version.
For 2014, Audi bumped up the horsepower slightly in the 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 from 211 to 220. Not a blistering change, but the allroad still scoots fairly quickly down the road. The torque remained at 258 lb-ft. Other minor changes included making the convenience package standard with Bluetooth, HomeLink, music interface, and the driver information system. The rest of the changes for 2014 were about moving options around on certain models. For 2015, Audi added standard HID headlamps and LED taillamps, a three-zone climate control system, standard power tailgate, rear privacy glass, and new 18-inch 10-spoke rims.
A noticeable change from 2013 is the pricing. What once based at $39,600 now starts at $42,400. Our test model included an extra $550 for the Scuba Blue metallic paint and $2,900 for the Technology Package (CD/DVD player with HD radio, Audi’s MMI navigation with voice control, color driver information display, parking system with rearview camera, Audi connect, and Audi side assist). The Premium Plus trim added $2,100, with luxury items like heated front seats, Audi advance key, auto-dimming interior mirror with compass, and auto-dimming heated, power-folding sideview mirrors. Out the door with $925 destination came to (cough, cough) $48,875.
The 80 percent likeable we mentioned earlier starts with the sporty drive; the more we placed it around the canyon curves, the bigger the smile grew on our face. We expected some body roll, but it never materialized. What we did notice was a little float on the freeway. The Tiptronic manu-matic shifting also has been perfected over the years; this is one feature Audi really gets. The shifts are smooth, precise, and also smile generating. The cabin is quiet and well insulated, and there’s a ton of cargo space, which, frankly, is why you consider a vehicle like this in the first place. We also liked the power liftgate, although on a vehicle that’s more vertically challenged than an SUV, it’s not really necessary.
Now for the 20 percent. First, the seats are miserably hard. I don’t know if Europeans have iron butts, but we Americans prefer to sit in the seats and not on them. On a long trip, I’d be begging for Advil early in the mileage count. Being an Audi, the seats also could have benefitted from some extra lateral support. Audi should know by now that anyone who drives an Audi, regardless of its purpose, is going to push it hard because that’s what driving these cars is all about. Our last decimal, although probably the highest number, goes to Audi’s MMI interface. The navigation screen and details of the navigation are second to none (love the overhead 3D view), but the execution is dead last among all manufacturers, save for BMW’s system (and Bentley’s, but that’s the next review). The controls are anything but intuitive, and if we had been packing a gun, there’d be a big hole in the center console right now.
While many might say who cares because the allroad is fun to drive and capable off road, the truth is more people today care about the connectivity system in the vehicle that almost anything else. we don’t know if Audi is working on something new, or if it’s just too stubborn to understand that it needs to be fixed, but we can see how it would stop someone from making the purchase. We recently heard a story about just that from a sales consultant who showed someone an Audi Q7 with the MMI interface, and the customer walked away because he hated the system. Silly to lose sales over something that can be fixed. Even Ford has moved to SYNC 3 from MyFord Touch, and we guarantee it will bring buyers back who might have skipped over it because of the glitches.
But if you can overlook the MMI, and are hankering for something rare that can haul cargo off road and is fun to drive on road, the allroad is the answer, no matter what segment classification you want to slap on it.
Photography © Team Killeen and courtesy of Audi of America