The Land Of The Free America may be, but the American car buyer’s right to buyÂ wagons is increasingly encroached upon by government overreach. Or perhaps it’s just automakers’ collective desire to sell you a high-margin crossover.
Affordable wagons? There are a fewÂ left: the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, the Toyota Prius V, the Mini Clubman (if the definition is stretched). Premium wagons persist at Volvo. The BMW 3 Series Sports Wagon continues. (For now.) Mercedes-Benz does an E-Class Wagon.
But if wagons that were available in the relatively recent past â€” TSX, A6, CTS, 5 Series, Magnum, Focus, Taurus, Elantra, C-Class, Lancer, 9-3, Legacy, Passat â€” were to return to the United States, they would likely have to do so in elevated fashion.
Just look here. This is an Audi A4 Avant, a successor to the carÂ that finishedÂ its course in 2012. Add up to 4.5 inches of matte black cladding, raise the ride height by nine-tenths of an inch for 6.5 inches of ground clearance, and you have aÂ 2017 Audi A4 Allroad. The Avant that’s available.
You can read our review of the 2017 Audi A4 sedan for full impressions of the new, fifth-generation car. I said there was nothing to do but pick nits. The shifter is annoying, returning to center without detents that offer any clarity as to your selection. The volume knob is positioned too far rearward of the main MMI controllers.
Despite exterior dimensions that suggest a sufficiently spacious interior, the Audi A4’s rear seat is somewhat cramped â€” an affliction common among its competitors. While generally hushed, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is clattery at idle. And the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, though outstanding once you’re underway, presents some unmistakable lag off the line.IT’S AN A4
Joined by a couple hundred additional pounds, a longer roof, and more air underneath, all of the A4’s issues, however minor or major, extend from the sedan to the Allroad.
So, too, do all of the perks. 252 horsepower shouldn’t feel this quick in a 3,825-pound car, but all 273 lb-ft of the 2.0T’s torque comes on stream at 1,600 rpm. The ride height is elevated so slightly that the A4’s improved handling isn’t distinctly harmed by an increase in the center of gravity. The Allroad, with less aggressive rubber and a moderately more comfort-oriented mission, offers improved ride quality, but it’s still a fairly firm car. To those who loved older Audis but recognized the sometimes over-assisted brakes and lack of natural progression in the steering and a sense when cornering that the car felt heavier than it really was, you’ll love the latest generation of A4s more. There’s a more cohesive dynamic repertoire: proper brake feel, steering that’s direct but not twitchy, handling that suggests a level of delicacy. The Allroad is a 3,800 pound wagon that feels like a 3,500 pound wagon. Older A4s often tended to switch those figures around.
With few on-the-road penalties to be paid for the chassis alterations, the Allroad appears to be an even wiser small Audi choice when one takes the cargo area into account. Officially 86-percent larger â€” the roofline means it doesn’t feel that much larger â€” the real gains are in flexibility, thanks to the wide and tall aperture created by tailgate, not a trunklid.BUT NOT JUST AN A4
But it does look a bit silly, doesn’t it? It’s up to you, of course, but the Allroad positively reeks of pretense.
No doubt, Audi designs handsome vehicles. (Sometimes you can even tell new Audi from old.) Indeed, if you strip away all of the Allroad-specific details, you see the typically handsome Audi wagon profile. But this car is trying awfully hard to tell you it’s something it’s not.
It’s not that elevated, it’s certainly not an off-roader, and it’s unlikely to cope well with my definition of all roads: rutted, red dirt lanes on Prince Edward Island after the snow melt. But the Allroad joins its elevated wagon cohorts by declaring its alleged ruggedness. And in this particular case, with Glacier White paint contrasted against the matte black cladding â€” 4 inches around the front wheels; 4.5 around the rears â€” the declaration is shouted.
(And then that message is shouted down by optional 19-inch alloys that appear to have crawled off the pages of Sport Compact Car magazine circa 1996 and the sight of the Allroad’s driver clambering over the sports seats bolstering and up out of a relatively low-slung vehicle.)
Those are personal feelings, obviously. Less subjective is the simplicity with which Audi’s MMI is operated, the soundness of the Allroad’s structure, the interior’sÂ high-grade of materials and build quality, and the high-tech nature of the virtual cockpit gauge cluster.Most of this won’t matter to most American car buyers. Most American car buyers aren’t car buyers. The first-generation Audi A4 Allroad was a supremely rare car, attracting one-tenth the level of volume earned by the Audi Q5, Audi’s best-selling model. This car is unlikely to be much more common. Presumably, buyers who want more ride height want more ride height.
It’s also likely that buyersÂ don’t want to pay a significant premium for a wagon.
IT’S AN EXPENSIVE A4
The least-expensive 2017 Audi A4 Allroad is $4,600 more than the least costly Quattro-equipped Audi A4 sedan and $3,100 more than the basic Audi Q5. The BMW 330i xDrive Sports Wagon is marginally less expensive than the Allroad, the Volvo V60 Cross Country is a couple grand cheaper, the Subaru Outback 3.6R Touring is aroundÂ $5,000 less.
The Q5 is suitably tall. The BMW’s interior is a comparative letdown, but few would argue with its on-road behaviour. Official specs say the Volvo offers 16-pecent more cargo capacity. The Subaru has the kind of genuinely family-friendly space the others lack.You can rise much higher in a 2017 Audi A4 Allroad, if not literally than in financial terms. Loaned out by Audi Canada for the week, ours is a top-spec example with an additional CAD $6,910 in options. Equipped similarly in the U.S. market, the 2017 Audi A4 Allroad Quattro Prestige would rise to $54,275.
Expensive, yes. But at least you have the right to buy one. For now.
Timothy Cain is the founder ofÂ GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcarÂ and on Facebook.