by Belinda Anderson
Those who casually dismiss wagons are not only misguided, but are also missing out on cars with an ideal mix of convenience, luxury, and practicality. The Audi A4 allroad sees a substantial facelift for 2020 and looks more attractive and capable than ever. Competing with such powerhouses as the Volvo V60 Cross Country and the Subaru Outback, the A4 allroad has come to the table with a comprehensively-specced three-model range that covers the safety and infotainment bases and then some. Where the allroad has an ace up its sleeve is in the styling department, luring buyers into the wagon fray with the styling of a crossover, but the handling dynamics of a wagon, bridging the gap between the current crossover craze and the purists who adore wagons of old.
Entering 2020 with what Audi modestly phrases as a facelift, the entire A4 family has actually undergone extensive plastic surgery, emerging with a larger grille, reshaped headlamps, LED trim, and modern, stylized rear LEDs. The side profile has also been tweaked to show off leaner, meaner shoulder lines. The interior hasn't been neglected, either, and the allroad now has a 10.1-inch touchscreen installed with Audi's MMI infotainment system. While Europe's wagons will get more options for what goes under the hood, the U.S. keeps the 2.0-liter four-cylinder motor from 2019 - which isn't a bad thing at all.
Like many siblings, the allroad and the standard A4 resemble each other quite strongly - at least from the front. All-LED lighting is present with daytime running lights on upper trims, with the top-spec model boasting matrix-design headlamps. The newly-styled grille shows off an assertive look when staring at it head-on. From the side, the giveaway is the flared wheel arches, shapely wagon rump, roof rails, and raised ride height. All models feature Structured Manhattan gray metallic contrast cladding, Matte Selenite Silver bumper trim around the front and back, and side sill inserts. 18-inch wheels are standard and the parting view shows off dual exhaust outlets on all trims, while a panoramic sunroof and blackout sunshade are standard fitment, too.
At 187.5 inches in overall length, the allroad is longer than the standard A4 by less than an inch. While both have a 110.9-inch wheelbase and a width of 72.5 inches, the allroad stands taller at 58.8 inches to the A4 sedan's 56.2 inches. The allroad also has the upper hand in terms of ground clearance, with 6.5 inches to play with - a good 1.5 inches more than the regular A4. No weight changes are present for 2020, however, and the allroad averages 3,847 lbs in curb weight - at least 230 pounds heavier than the heftiest A4 sedan.
Although a variety of powertrains are available to the rest of the world, the US gets access to only one engine for the 2020 Audi A4 allroad - but, at least the 2.0-liter inline-four is a good one. Making 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque for all four wheels, the allroad has a stock-fitted seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission managing the gears. The four-cylinder motor is turbocharged to help launch the wagon to 60 mph in just under six seconds, and although there is no noticeable turbo lag, the transmission has been known to delay shifts a little too long. Still, one doesn't generally purchase a car like this for off-the-line burnouts, and at highway speeds and around town, the engine and transmission offer smooth and consistent power delivery, allowing for easy merging and relatively effortless passing maneuvers. With various drive modes available, the driver can also demand a little more from the auto 'box, and as is typical of German-engineering, it is more than happy to comply by firing through quicker shifts, or relaxing to more restrained gear changes for Sunday cruising.
Audi has managed to really marry a sedan-like driving style with the benefits of a lifted wagon, and the result is a really pleasant, silky, and balanced drive. There's more than enough grip going into, and coming out of corners. It also manages to iron out bumps and road irregularities before they get to the cabin, thanks in part to the standard suspension with damper control. SUV-like characteristics shine through in the allroad's ability to tackle slightly rougher terrain, and with various driving modes to choose from (namely comfort, auto, dynamic, individual and offroad), the allroad proves itself to be an all-rounder, combining traction control, hill descent control, and stability control to take on adverse weather conditions or mild-off-roading adventures.
The allroad, despite being from the same A4 family as the sedan, offers less impressive gas mileage than its non-wagon sibling, earning EPA estimates of 23/31/26 mpg on city/highway/combined cycles. The FWD A4 sedan, by comparison, sips at its premium gasoline to achieve 27/35/30 mpg, thanks to less body weight and less mechanical drag; but for a fair comparison, the A4 sedan with quattro AWD still manages to achieve better estimates, albeit only a slight improvement, at 24/32/27 mpg.
Fitted with a 15.3-gallon fuel tank, the allroad can manage almost 400 miles of adventuring before needing to find a gas station.
Sharing the seating dimensions with the A4 sedan, the allroad allows for five passengers to easily fit into it, with three in the back possible even for adults. Long trips will be comfortable for all occupants, with headroom of 37.4 inches all around, and legroom in front exceeding 41 inches. Passengers in the back get 35.7 inches to stretch out their legs, and while the rear middle seat may get a little cramped for the broad-shouldered on longer trips, it's ideal for preteens and youngsters. As is expected of an Audi, the allroad range has leather seating across the lineup, with heated front seats from even the base model. Designed to make your journey a comfortable and pleasant one, these seats provide support and power-adjustment up to twelve ways (inclusive of lumbar settings).
One great benefit of a wagon is the voluminous interior, which translates into a spacious cabin and excellent cargo-carrying capacity. Up from the 13 cubic feet of the standard sedan, the allroad provides 24.2 cubes behind the back row - more than enough for weekend-away luggage for the midsize family. Stowing the rear seats - which fold in a 40/20/40 split - opens up a total of 58.5 cubes, allowing for easy hauling of larger, and longer, items. The sloping rear window may impinge on taller items, however. A power tailgate with an interior release is added for more convenience.
For storage of your pocket contents, the allroad also offers a folding center armrest with an average-sized bin beneath it, front seatback netting, a lockable glovebox, and a net and straps in the trunk to keep your luggage from shifting around as you head to Yosemite with the kids. Four cupholders spread throughout the cabin will make sure your road-trip Starbucks lattes are kept in place.
German sensibility requires that the allroad be both convenient, functional, and luxurious, and, as expected, the allroad manages to straddle this line beautifully. Tri-zone climate control and heated leather seats are standard across the range, as is a sunroof with a blackout sunshade. Seating adjustments are all power-operated and a driver's seat memory setting is included from mid-range upwards. Where many base-spec sedans and even midsized SUVs skimp, is on safety features, but the allroad comes equipped with a multitude of active and passive specs that echo the family-oriented focus of the car. This includes a rearview camera, cruise control, the Audi Pre Sense Basic safety suite (including hazard light activation, seatbelt pre-tensioning and automatic closing of windows and sunroof if a collision is imminent) and Audi Pre Sense City (forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, and automatic braking). Mid-level trims get Audi Side Assist and Pre Sense Rear as well as front and rear parking sensors, while the top-end Prestige adds lane assist, a surround-view camera, and parking assist. The acclaimed Audi virtual cockpit with a 12.3-inch TFT cluster comes fitted from the mid-level Premium Plus trim, as well as adding Audi's phone box signal booster and wireless charger.
The A4 range in its entirety is now graced with the brilliant, fully digital MMI operating system paired to a 10.1-inch touchscreen center display, stock-fitted across the range. The Audi smartphone interface allows for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, HD Radio, Bluetooth streaming, and Audi Connect Care, all as standard from the base Premium model. The Premium Plus adds SiriusXM with a three-month subscription, while the standard ten-speaker Audi sound system is carried over from the base trim. A CD and MP3 player, as well as two USB ports for connectivity and charging, are part of the basic setup. At the top of the range, the Prestige edition gets navigation as well as an audio upgrade to a Bang & Olufsen system with 19 speakers and a 16-channel amplifier.
The current generation of the A4 allroad has the distinction of being entirely recall-free, with no major problems reported for the 2019 and 2020 model years. Additionally, Audi provides a four-year/50,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, which includes coverage for powertrain components. Roadside assistance is provided for the same period.
The 2020 allroad has not been comprehensively tested by the NHTSA, with only results obtained for side crash evaluations; still, these ratings are excellent, with five stars out of five awarded by the authority in this regard. The IIHS has not yet tested the 2020 model, but conferred top scores of Good for all six categories tested on 2019 models, as well as ratings of Superior for both standard and optional forward collision and pedestrian detection systems.
Proactive safety is the name of the game for the allroad, and there are numerous active driver assists supplementing the standard six-airbag consignment (as well as two optional rear side airbags) and passive safety tech on board. A rearview camera, cruise control, hill descent control, high beam assist, and a slew of Audi-grouped aids add forward collision warning and mitigation, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection from the entry-level model. Cross-traffic alert and lane assist are added at the top of the range, together with a surround-view camera, head-up display and traffic sign recognition.
With the steady decrease in popularity for sedans in the US and the converse upsurge of interest in crossover SUVs, the A4 allroad offers an interesting alternative to those looking for a family-oriented vehicle with versatile cargo space, safety, and a great driving experience. Audi has managed to tick all of these boxes with the allroad, providing enough space for a family of five and cargo space that rivals some smaller SUVs - all while retaining the good looks and smooth drive of a sedan. The standard quattro all-wheel-drive system means it is also a competent all-weather driver, and the capable engine under the hood makes for an easy cruise, even when fully laden. While some rivals may offer a more opulent cabin - and many SUVs will counter with added off-roading prowess and versatility - there's really nothing overly flawed about this wagon, especially now that our gripes with the 2019 infotainment system have been appeased. If you're not finding the idea of a wagon palatable, you should take one for a test drive before making up your mind. The allroad will surely surprise you.
Base models in the 2020 range have a starting MSRP of $44,600, with an increase of $3,100 to the mid-spec Premium Plus at $47,700. The top-end Prestige will set you back at least $53,650 - a $9,050 difference from the entry-level trim. These prices exclude licensing, registration, taxes, and a destination charge of $995. By comparison, the A4 sedan range starts at $37,400 for the base model and tops out at just under $50k for the top-spec variant.
While even the entry-level model is generally well specified, it's the upper-end trims that really impress with standard features and high levels of tech. As most buyers who are even considering a wagon are probably doing so because they have a family that requires space, practicality, and safety, it makes sense to opt for one of the higher trims. So, to spec the mid-range Premium Plus with the available packages that bring it in line with the fully-loaded Prestige will set you at around the same price anyway; just opt for the Prestige from the start. With included navigation, a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system, lane assist, a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition, and a head-up display, this trim won't leave you wanting for anything.
A rather glaring difference between the A4 allroad and Subaru's crossover offering, is the price. Entry-level Outbacks cost only $26,645 - a rather large gap to the $44,600 starting price of the base A4 allroad. For this affordable price, the Outback covers only the basics of safety and infotainment, with the allroad coming much better equipped off the factory floor even at entry point to the range. Upfitting the Outback to be on par with the top-spec allroad will cost you less than the fully-loaded allroad, regardless. Still, the Outback offers much more impressive cargo space and the ability to tow between 2,700 lbs and 3,500 lbs depending on powertrain (where the allroad isn't rated for towing at all). Speaking of which, the Subaru allows for a choice between two engines, with only the turbocharged 2.4-liter mill making more torque than the allroad by 4 lb-ft. The flip side of this coin is far better gas mileage, however, with the Outback achieving 26/33/29 mpg with it's weaker base engine. Picking either will come down to your specific needs: want a spacious cargo area that can also haul your boat on family vacations? Go with the Outback. If you want a glorified soccer-mom car that looks like an executive and behaves like one too, pick the allroad.
Midsize families looking for space and versatility can readily compare wagons and compact SUVs, as the benefits of either tend to overlap. Such is the case with these two Germans, who share a powertrain and, as a result, performance figures too. Surprisingly, the Q5 only offers a cubic foot more for cargo behind the rear seats, and with the back row folded down, offers five less than the wagon. And, due to its larger body and heftier curb weight, the Q5 is thirstier too, with EPA ratings of 22/28/24 mpg as opposed to the allroad's 23/31/26 mpg. Both Audi's mirror each other in terms of features by trim, but where the Q5 excels is in its 8.2 inches of ground clearance, which is a good 1.7 inches more than the allroad. The choice between the A4 allroad and the Q5 really comes down to your lifestyle here (as price differences are around $1,300 with the Q5 being cheaper), where the Q5 offers a bit more leeway for mild off-road adventure, and the allroad keeps it a little more urban. If it were up to us, though, we'd give the A4 allroad a space in our garage for the suave practicality it pulls off so beautifully.