by Morgan Carter
The wagon may have fallen out of favor with US car buyers, with the masses migrating to crossovers instead, but some brands have found an alternative solution: enter the Audi A4 allroad. Based on the standard A4's wagon variant, the A4 allroad gets a bit of a lift, some beefy body cladding, and some robust underbody protection to make it a jack of all trades. Lower and lighter than an SUV, it still handles like a regular car, but is vastly more spacious than a sedan and capable of hauling families and their belongings without fuss. A four-cylinder turbo powerplant is the staple for the 2021 A4 allroad, but with an increase of 13 horsepower and a new 12-volt mild-hybrid system, it looks to improve performance against rivals that include the Volvo V60 Cross Country and the Buick Regal TourX. With three highly-equipped trims on offer, there isn't a wrong answer when it comes to the allroad.
The 2021 production cycle of the A4 allroad doesn't see the car completely overhauled, but it has received some noteworthy updates. The most important of these are under the hood, where the powertrain has been supplemented by a 12-volt MHEV system, adding 13 horsepower to the overall outputs. Performance has been improved with quicker acceleration, but any change to the fuel economy has not been made clear. Beyond this, the list of specifications across the trim levels has been updated. Standard features now include lane-departure warning and a new ITM - integrated toll module. The base trim also gets access to front and rear parking sensors, as well as a heated steering wheel via the Convenience Package. Adaptive cruise control, a top-view camera, hands-on steering wheel detection, and lane-keep assist have rolled down from the Prestige to now be standard on the Premium Plus. The only addition to the top-tier trim is standard heated rear seats.
Closely based on the A4 Sedan, the allroad naturally resembles its sibling. The larger rump is unique to the wagon, of course. Up front, it gets full-LED headlights set astride a broad grille mounted with vertical bars and the four-ring logo, all finished in chrome. Standard daytime running lights are present on the base model, while the mid-tier spec gets LED variants. The Prestige upgrades the LED clusters to Matrix-design headlights. While standard A4 models can be specced in S line garb, the allroad gets boxy flared wheel arches housing 18-inch alloy wheels across the lineup. Other standard features include a panoramic sunroof and blackout sunshades.
All the changes to the 2021 allroad were made under the hood or inside the cabin, so the exterior dimensions remain the same as previous years. The vehicle stands 187.5 inches in length, with a sedan-like wheelbase of 110.9 inches. Overall width is measured at 79.6 inches, including the mirrors, while a height of 58.8 inches is much lower than a comparable crossover. Weight is what you'd expect from a slightly larger machine equipped with an AWD drivetrain, 3,847 lbs.
The powertrain for the new year differs from the 2020 Audi A4 allroad, as the turbocharged four-cylinder engine is now supplemented by a 12-volt hybrid system. However, information on how this affects the 2021 allroad's performance is scarce right now. We know that the overall output has been increased to 261 hp, but the 273 lb-ft of torque remains the same. Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive is still standard, though, and the same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission does duty. Last year, the vehicle was able to go from 0-60 mph in a brisk 5.9 seconds, while top speed was capped at 130 mph. This year, however, the benchmark sprint drops to 5.5 seconds. Since there has been no increase in torque, towing capacity should remain unchanged, although Audi has never released the A4's official capabilities in this area.
While the Audi A4 allroad gets quattro all-wheel-drive as standard, it isn't actually a proper off-road vehicle. It could probably manage to mount a curb or two, or hazard off the beaten track a bit, but where it really shines is around town or on slick roads in colder climates rather than out on a 4x4 course. This is largely thanks to the adaptive damping suspension, which works in tandem with expertly engineered handling dynamics to deliver a ride that is supremely comfortable while still being fun and engaging.
It's no surprise that the Audi A4 allroad wagon offers incredible grip, whether you are braving the roads after a freak blizzard or tossing its large rump around corners on windy roads where it handles far better than bona fide crossovers would. And, true to its name, the allroad offers a host of driving modes, including comfort, dynamic, and off-road. This means you can customize how the suspension and handling behave to get the most out of the driving experience or ensure that your passengers are comfortable.
Due to its increased size and weight, the A4 allroad is a bit heavier on fuel consumption than its sedan forebear. However, the latest iteration of the wagon has received powertrain updates, including the addition of some MHEV systems. The gas mileage figures for 2021 are nearly identical to last year, with the EPA estimating returns of 24/30/26 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles. The 15.3-gallon tank remains unchanged, though, and the car still relies on premium gasoline.
Considering the size of the 2021 A4 allroad, you'd expect the cabin to be particularly spacious, but that's not really the case. Headroom is compromised throughout the vehicle with less than 40 inches available. Up front, legroom is quite generous, but passengers in the rear seat get only average accommodations. On the plus side, the interior is plushly appointed and the seating is supremely comfortable, with leather coming standard on every trim. Color options include Atlas Gray, Black, Atlas Beige, and Rock Gray, while either Brown Walnut or Natural Gray Oak wood inlays cover most of the console and dash. The upper specs further get soft-touch leatherette covering of the center console and door armrests.
Wagons are generally touted for their superior cargo space, and the allroad lives up to this by delivering 11 cubic feet over the standard A4 Sedan. The total area of 24.2 cubic feet is more than enough for daily use, and it should be able to accommodate the luggage of a small family for a weekend-long trip. But, if for some reason the trunk space isn't enough for your needs, the rear seats can be folded down in a 40/20/40 split to create a 58.5-cubic-foot loading bay. If that isn't enough room for all your stuff, then you have too much stuff to be shopping in this segment.
When it comes to small-item storage, the wagon is equally capable, with four cupholders spread throughout the cabin, along with four door pockets. There is a standard center armrest cubby and a glove box, but there is also a driver's side storage compartment, and the front seatbacks have nets that can hold the kids' tablets or mobile phones safely.
Any way you look at it, the Audi A4 allroad is extremely well-equipped. Even the entry-level Premium trim will leave those with the luxury itch well satisfied. Eight-way power front seats with heating come standard, while tri-zone climate control ensures everyone in the cabin is comfortable. The standard panoramic sunroof and leather-upholstered seats create the air of luxury we have come to expect from the German brand. Convenience features include keyless entry and push-button start, power accessories, cruise control, and a veritable smorgasbord of driver-assistance features. These include a rearview camera, Audi Pre Sense and Pre Sense City - comprising forward collision avoidance and pedestrian detection. Looking beyond the base model, the Premium Plus comes outfitted with an Audi virtual cockpit, which includes a 12.3-inch driver information display, as well as improved safety features like Audi side assist, and Pre Sense rear, including rear cross-traffic alert. Driver-seat memory, adaptive cruise control, active lane assist, a heated steering wheel, and a surround-view camera are added at this level, too. Reserved for the top-tier Prestige are active parking assist, traffic sign recognition, heated rear seats, ventilated front items, and a head-up display.
The infotainment suite in the Audi A4 allroad is very comprehensive. It starts off with a 10.1-inch touchscreen display, which comes programmed with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, while supporting AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, and HD Radio, all channeled through the ten-speaker sound system. From the Premium Plus up, SiriusXM is added along with Audi phonebox, which includes a signal booster and a wireless charging pad. A rear-seat USB port supplements the standard dual front USB ports. The sound system only gets upgraded on the top-tier Prestige, which trades out the standard ten speakers for 19 from Bang & Olufsen for optimum listening pleasure, although this can be added to the Premium Plus for $950. The infotainment interface also receives navigation functionality at this level.
Although there is no J.D. Power reliability rating to refer to, the A4 allroad has received almost no complaints over the last two years, and no recalls have been issued either. We can thus assert that it's a very reliable vehicle. However, it's warranty is utterly average for the segment, with the limited and powertrain coverage lasting for 48 months/50,000 miles, while complimentary maintenance is only offered for the first year, or the first 10,000 miles.
There is no comprehensive safety review of the 2021 A4 allroad, but last year's model was extensively tested by the IIHS. So, while there have been some mechanical changes, we can expect to see the perfect score of Good in every category carrying over. However, in its review of the allroad for 2021, the NHTSA only conducted side crash tests, but the vehicle scored top marks in each of the four sub-categories.
Standard safety equipment on the A4 allroad includes six airbags - dual front side, and side curtain, with the option to add rear side bags to bring the total up to eight. Furthermore, it gets ABS, EBD, traction and stability control, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warning. Moving up the trim levels, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, a surround-view camera, active parking assist, and traffic sign recognition are added.
It may be true that wagons are not as popular in the US as they used to be, with SUVs now dominating the market, but it's far too soon to write off the sedans with extra junk in the trunk. Several such vehicles make compelling cases for the continued existence of this niche segment, and the 2021 Audi A4 allroad is one of the models leading the charge. Styled closely on the A4 Sedan, the wagon looks good, and the larger rear means far superior practicality. This extra size and weight normally come at the expense of driving dynamics and comfort, but Audi refuses to compromise in this area. The allroad is just as fun to drive as any other Audi, and it's even more comfortable than most. With all-wheel-drive as standard, the vehicle can live up to its name and go almost anywhere with ease, while the host of safety systems ensure everyone's security. The updates to the powertrain and list of features for 2021 will no doubt see the allroad drawing even more attention than it already did, and we look forward to seeing more of these beauties on the roads.
Despite a number of updates for the new model year, the allroad's price remains largely unchanged, with the base-model Premium starting at the same MSRP as last year - $44,600. Due to more features being added as standard on the upper trim levels, they have each seen a minor increase in cost. The Premium Plus now asks for $48,800, while the Prestige goes on sale for $54,500. These prices do not include tax, registration, licensing, or Audi's $1,045 destination charge.
Any way you look at it, the A4 allroad is a premium vehicle with a premium price tag. As such, you'll want the most bang for your buck. And, while the entry-level Premium certainly has a lot to offer, the Premium Plus adds some desirable extras without pushing up the price of the Audi A4 allroad all that much. It also gets access to a few packages that put it almost on par with the top-spec Prestige. Therefore, we'd suggest forgoing these additions. The larger touchscreen, SiriusXM, and wireless charger should satisfy just about any entertainment needs, while the added parking sensors, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and top-view camera will be sure to ease your safety concerns. The hands-free tailgate is a nice little bonus, too.
There is a multitude of differences between these two cars, but the one most likely to stand out is their price tags. As you'd expect from a premium brand like Audi, the A4 allroad asks for a pretty hefty investment. As such, not everyone can afford to enjoy the superior comfort, luxury, and technology found within. But, if you need a wagon purely for its practicality, the Subaru Outback is a viable alternative. Starting at just $27,845, it's far friendlier to the wallets of thrifty shoppers, but it won't scratch that luxury itch that most wagon owners have. The interior is built well, but the materials are all as basic as the tech that comes equipped. But the Outback leans into its strengths rather than trying to make up for weaknesses, offering more cargo capacity than the A4, and boasting a towing capacity of between 2,700 lbs and 3,500 lbs. Both wagons are capable, but the Audi is naturally the more premium choice. However, if you are buying a wagon primarily for its improved practicality and genuine go-anywhere credibility, the Subaru Outback may win out.
As the difference in moniker numerals suggests, the A6 allroad is the big brother to the A4. As such, it gets a little more of everything. This starts off with power. Equipped with a turbocharged V6, the larger allroad has access to more power - 335 hp and an impressive 396 lb-ft. This makes it quicker than its lighter counterpart, and it should improve towing capacity, too. However, neither vehicle is officially rated for towing. With its hybridized engine, the A4 is noticeably more economical than the A6 in terms of gas mileage. Naturally, the A6 has more interior space and a much larger cargo hold, with a starting capacity of 30 cubic feet. However, it gets almost all the same tech as the A4 at the same trim levels. All this comes at a significant boost in price, though, and the A4 isn't cheap, to begin with. The base-level A6 will cost you a whopping $65,900, well above the price of the top-tier A4. Still, if money isn't a deciding factor for you, the Audi A6 allroad is the more capable offering.