REVIEW: The 2015 Audi Allroad — comfort and class at a price

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At home, the 2015 Audi Allroad looks resplendent — even in white. The A4 Avant successor (at least in the states) looks every part practical wagon and paved mountain pass climber. Its body cladding and bright steel skid plates look equally impressive in a valet lot, après ski spot or in front of a lightly stained wood garage. Just lovely.

Wait.

Let’s back up a second. The Allroad’s magnificent home in Park City, Vail, Aspen, Tahoe or any comparable expensive mountain town would be resplendent for anyone. I should have specified.

The 2015 Audi Allroad is shown in this undated photo courtesy Audi. (Courtesy photo)
The 2015 Audi Allroad is shown in this undated photo courtesy Audi. (Courtesy photo)

For 2015, Audi’s Allroad — a taller wagon based on the A4 — is the Europhile cruiser’s pick when SUVs are too bulky and Subaru Outbacks don’t offer that certain je ne sais quoi. Or, I don’t know.

The German automaker makes no false claims here. The Allroad is a compromise hedging on the side of comfort and luxury rather than brute-force capability. For example: A closer inspection of the Allroad’s grille reveals a delicate vertically ribbed wire frame that, if bent, would look like Kate Upton with buckteeth. The skid plate underneath is stainless steel so shiny that you may consider parking rear-first; just to be double sure it can’t be scratched. The car isn’t delicate, but it’s not a front-end loader either.

Looks are really what the Allroad is about, and the interior doesn’t let the exterior down. Standard with leather seats, 18-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and power rear liftgate, the Allroad is a complete mobile ski chalet starting at over $42,000. Wonderful.

When Audi first introduced the Allroad, that car was based on the larger A6 sedan and had decent off-road chops. That tall wagon was a better fit for climbing and snowstorms in the Alps. Here in the U.S., Audi listened to their customers and realized more Allroads made the trek to Natural Grocers more often than natural disasters and brought the Allroad back to the states with the A4’s skeleton. (The A6 Allroad is still available overseas.) Ground clearance in our version is still just over 7 inches — more than a standard sedan, but less than an Outback or Jeep Cherokee — and dialed back the heartiness of the bigger wagon with no hill descent control or adjustable suspension in our version.

However, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system is standard on the Allroad, and is competent for icy roads and gripping wet pavement. If you’re picking up what I’m putting down here: the Allroad won’t shy away from heavy work, but who’d want to scuff up that sheet metal?

Under the hood, Audi’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine does all the work while shifting 220 horsepower through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Previous models sported two fewer cogs in the transmission, but this year’s inclusion of more gears helps the Allroad cruise to its EPA estimated mileage of 21/28 mpg in city and highway driving.

Shuffling around town is an easy task. The Allroad’s spacious cargo area and foldable rear seats haul plenty of gear, and 27.6 cubic feet of space when the seats are up, 50.5 cubic feet of space when the seats are down. Rear seating for adults in the back isn’t exactly palatial, I found my 6-foot-2-inch frame a little cramped behind the passenger seat. But for a typical Swiss family, or it’s reasonable facsimile in the states, the Allroad is a capable family wagon pick.

Behind the wheel, there’s not much difference between the Allroad and the A4. The dash and center console are virtually identical, and both can sport Audi’s MMI infotainment system ($2,900 technology option) that can be fitted with a 3G connection to download Google Maps for easier navigation. I like Audi’s MMI more than other systems, and the company seems heavily invested in a modular track that would allow future cars to be incrementally upgraded with components, which is very smart.

In motion, the Allroad is similarly competent and poised like the A4 sedan. The Quattro all-wheel drive system is biased 60 percent toward the rear, helping the Allroad dart in to corners and point out confidently. Driving the Allroad may be the best part of the car anyway — for a tall wagon, it’s supremely poised and sure-footed.

Our tester, fitted with the technology package and Premium Plus package (heated seats, auto dimming mirrors and advanced key for an eye-watering $2,100 more) clocked in at just over $48,000 off the lot. That may sound like a lot of money, but consider that a fully optioned Allroad can sail beyond $50,000 and you’re getting a better picture here.

Considering the Allroad’s competition, the Outback and Grand Cherokee start more than $10,000 less than the Allroad, Audi has a tough hill to climb with buyers. Hopefully it’s one that at least has a little gravel on it.