If you need proof, look no further than the VW Golf Sportwagen, revamped Subaru Outback, BMW 328d and Jaguar XF Sportbrake.
And now we can add the 2017 Audi A4 Offroad to that list. It just might be the perfect vehicle for anyone who is equal parts Mike Brady and John Muir. We recently took one for a spin to get some intel on all the sh*t they don’t tell you in the manual.
Where we drove it: The back roads of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. You don’t test out an SUV on a thoroughfare.
Our first impression, in three words: Fortified grocery getter.
Tell me about the boring stuff under the hood ... Highlights include a new standard Quattro all-wheel drive with ultra technology, new standard adaptive dampers with a redesigned five-link suspension, five drive-select modes (comfort, auto, dynamic, individual and offroad) and an increased ground clearance of 34mm (admittedly only nine-tenths of an inch higher than Audi's new fifth-generation sedan). But when you consider that they added four inches of black cladding above the front wheel arches and four-and-a-half above the rear wheels, we’re talkin’ the capacity to get into some serious muck. Other off-roading features include raised aluminum roof rails, side sills with matte silver inserts and hill descent control.
Why does all that matter? I think I recall from my driver’s exam when I was 14 years old (yes, that's legal in South Dakota) that if there is no posted speed limit, the standard is 25 MPH. That said, if an Audi is speeding in the woods and there’s no one there to catch it, is it really speeding? Say you’re going 65-75 on a gravel backroad and it begins to get icy. This is where it gets exciting. First, those five drive modes can be toggled at the push of a button and the transition isn’t even noticeable. Second, that phenomenal Quattro tech that Audi is known for means even at 60 MPH, you’re not going to feel a thing. It might as well be a Sunday stroll with Grandma. The response is smooth and confident.
And when you need to take ‘er down to about 30 MPH (or so) as you begin to hit icy curves and potholes, that added height and and underbody protection is really going to come in handy. Sometimes you might take a speedcheck so fast that it knocks the speaker connectivity out of whack for a moment, but that underbody is going to be just fine. And when it’s time to go from 10,000 feet back down to 6,000, the descent control makes sure you don't burn the transmission out.
How hard is it to jack it up? Pretty difficult. It’s designed to be intuitive and versatile. And it nails the mark. The infotainment system is advanced but accessible. It’s ready to adapt to the elements — and the driver — at any moment.
Can I have sex in it? Totally. There’s room in the back for creative maneuvering, but still with the benefit of leverage. The leather seating is plush (enough) and soundproof. That means the cityscape isn’t getting in, but also that joyful noises aren’t getting out.
What can I fit in the trunk? A whole helluva a lot. The hatch has 24.2 cu feet of space and 58.5 cu feet with the seat down. That means rooms for rugrats, camping gear or dead animals. With the seat down, it means you could fit about eight decent sized suitcases and some change. Why you have that many suitcases ... that’s your business.
Will it make me feel awesome? Yes. It is likely to make you feel the most awesome of any wagon on the market. You will want to get this thing write-‘Wash Me’-on-my-back-window dirty.
Tell me what some of the jargon in the manual means in practical terms ... The latest driver assistance and safety systems are available for the A4 Allroad Quattro, including predictive efficiency assistant, which essentially pays more attention to the road than most drivers are capable of. The system uses route data to alert the driver of situations that would warrant reducing speed, like upcoming curves and speed limit signs not yet visible.
Additionally if you live in a place with traffic, the “Stop & Go” adaptive cruise control is a godsend. And if you’re in the middle of Wyoming and you happen upon 500 cattle being herded down the road, you can let the adaptive cruise take over. I didn’t touch the gas pedal for nearly 40 minutes. If you were to try to hit a tree, cow or president-elect, the car will literally stop for you.
The car will also take over for you in traffic jams, because traffic jams are taking years off your life. Plus, you just might maybe be able to hack the driver assist by placing some gloves on the wheel so it thinks your hand is still there. Do not try this at home. We definitely didn’t try this twice.
Pairs well with: Gloves from Hestra. Grip is essential. Tickers and sunnies from Autodromo. That air is so crisp the sun’ll pierce you right through the pano sunroof. And the VK Nagrani Aeroforce jacket. Utility meets luxury, like the ride itself.
Conclusion: The Audi A4 Offroad is a benchmark for luxury wagons. The price is fair, starting at $44k. The 2.0-liter TFSI engine is more fuel conservative than its competitors. It’s the perfect balance for anyone with a day job that needs to go open ‘er up on the weekends. And a pro tip for all you city mice: garages charge car prices — not SUV prices — for the Allroad, meaning all the sports and less of the expense.
Our last impression, in three words: SUV in drag.