It’s during a snowstorm, with all winter-driving hell breaking loose outside, that owners of the new 2017 Audi A4 allroad quattro will find the biggest return on their investment in the latest driver assistance systems and traction technology. There’s a smug sense of satisfaction in confidently browsing highways while Mother Nature is at her wintertime worst. With the new A4 allroad, numerous driving aids work actively in the background to precisely enhance control and confidence.
Notable about their operation? It’s less about what you feel from the driver’s seat, and more about what you don’t.
Hammer the brakes on an icy highway, and the action of the ABS system is virtually inaudible, while typical pedal vibration and clicking are all but eliminated. Even with one side of the car on ice and the other on bare pavement, the Audi A4 allroad quattro stops straight, true, and fast—with little more than a slight squirm from beneath as the braking system compensates for uneven traction.
Hit a thick slush stripe mid-lane on the highway at speed, and the steering, which firms up at higher velocities, doesn’t tug or pull or lurch in your hands. Instead, only a little wriggle is apparent, and you feel the car sticking to its course rather than fighting you.
Should you slip or slide a little, the stability control system kicks in gently, quietly, and smoothly—no aggressive tugging of the car, no startling sounds as the brakes fire away, and no lurching of the vehicle beneath you. Hammer it off the line through a slush-striped intersection, and the AWD system keeps you pulling ahead, hard, and fast, with no shifting or slamming or wheel spin as clutches twitch away.
So, in virtually any winter driving maneuver that a vehicle system needs to respond to, the 2017 Audi A4 allroad quattro makes its adjustments carefully, precisely, and almost invisibly. There’s a lot of sophisticated stuff happening beneath the floor as the car processes icy and snowy roads—but the sensation from the driver’s seat is easy to explain: you feel virtually nothing.
This A4 wagon is a machine designed for the active driver seeking flexibility and traction 365 days a year, but not from an SUV or crossover like the motoring masses. If you’re an A4 fan looking for more room, more ride height, and a look that seems nearly naked without a roof-mounted snowboard, the Audi A4 allroad would like to meet you very much.
The cargo floor sits at knee height, is relatively wide and deep, and is accessed via a convenient, motorized tailgate. There’s room in back for a 4-person road trip’s worth of luggage or a $500 Costco grocery run, no problem. The rear seats are adequate and a little more for average-sized adults—not spacious, but not cramped either. Up front, the driver and passenger should have ample room, with decent at-hand storage provisions nearby.
The new A4 sedan’s techy and upscale touches are all in attendance here, the most notable being the gorgeous, all-digital instrument cluster and nearly playful use of screens and consoles working towards an ultra-modern look.
How’s the ride? Sportier than you think. The dampers are firm and taut, with a layer of softness around the edges to keep things smooth. It’s neither too soft nor too stiff. Largely, it feels like a softly sporty sports sedan, dense and durable, and rarely ever crashing into even the nastiest bumps or potholes. Steering is light at lower speeds, feather light for parking activities, and heavier on the highway, with a quick and precise feel at all times. Drivers can make corrections and adjustments from the wheel with just little inputs, furthering the eager and athletic feel.
Maneuverability is also notable—the turning circle is about average, but the light steering at low speeds combined with the high-resolution camera system with 360 degrees of coverage makes hazard detection a cinch.
The new-generation 2.0T engine is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 252 horsepower. It’s no hot-rod, but it is creamy smooth, and even when opened up, only a subdued and refined growl seeps into the cabin. The average driver should find the engine plenty powerful. The relaxed driver will love how the abundant low-end torque sneaks the A4 allroad quattro up to speed without breaking 2,000 revs or making a peep. The sporty driver, however, will likely appreciate the refinement more than the all-out firepower, although full-throttle gear shifts are quite a treat—this thing swaps gears really, really fast.
Also notable? The engine fires up with ease, even at 30 degrees below, without plugging in.
Furthermore, when pushed, the car’s stability controls allow it to dance predictably over snowy backroads, with limited slipping, but minimal overstepping of the traction control systems. When dialed into Dynamic mode and driven with a heavy foot in deep snow, it’s far livelier than limiting an experience. Note that my tester wore a set of proper winter tires, giving all systems more grip to work with.
A new AWD system debuts in the 2017 Audi A4 allroad quattro. Dubbed “quattro ultra,” this system disconnects the rear differential and driveshaft when front-wheel drive is sufficient. This means less friction in the driveline, and less parasitic power loss as gears slosh around in a case full of thick differential fluid. When AWD is needed, the rear axle and the associated componentry are re-activated in 250 milliseconds—literally faster than a human blink. Best of all, quattro ultra defaults to AWD until it’s certain that the rear wheels won’t be needed before decoupling them, rather than vice versa.
Some other notes on winter driving: Running the same LED lights as the A4, your writer enjoyed confidence-inspiring after-dark lighting, with the reach and colour of the lighting system output being most notable. Even the thin-blade wipers and wide-angle windshield fluid spray pattern seem carefully calibrated: The windscreen clears quickly and with little fuss, even at higher cruising speeds. Finally, in deep, challenging snow where becoming stuck is more likely, it’s only a half-second before the quattro ultra system detects limited grip under all of its wheels, and allows plenty of wheel spin to try and free the vehicle.
While the 2017 Audi A4 allroad quattro’s starting price of $47,600 opens the door on many roomier crossovers, the right shopper will find this luxury wagon to work nicely as a winter-busting machine that’s big on seamless enhancement of control and confidence from systems that are highly effective, yet almost invisible. Add in the great cabin and nicely sorted ride and handling, and you’ve got a unique way to take on winter driving with confidence, comfort, and peace of mind.