Audi A4 Allroad 2016: New 'Ultra' Quattro system reviewed
Theweek.co.uk takes a ride in the 2.0 TFSI model and finds a car with much to offer
Audi may have big additions in the pipeline in the form of the soon-to-be-released Q2 and Q5 crossovers, but its latest all-wheel drive tech can be found on this: the second generation Audi A4 Allroad Quattro.
The crossover craze poses a problem to cars such as the A4 Allroad. While vehicles with descaled SUV looks have leapt out into the mainstream, the cladded, rugged, jacked-up off-road estate remains a niche product.
Regardless, Autocar notes that for minimal investment, Audi does well from these types of cars. The firm shifted 100,000 examples of the first generation A4 Allroad, introduced in 2009, and the formula is not much different with its new version.
You get an A4 with a 1.3ins ride height increase, some unique bumpers and wheel arch cladding, with one or two new additions under the surface.
Audi's new "Ultra" Quattro system makes its debut on the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol version, with a decoupling clutch attached at the rear of the DCT gearbox to detach the propshaft, allowing the petrol-powered car to run in front-wheel drive mode, while a decoupler opens in the rear differential so it can function as an open diff and cut friction losses when not in all-wheel drive mode.
The company claims the system is seamless, taking 250 milliseconds to connect. Thanks to a raft of sensors measuring the likes of steering angle, lateral and longitudinal acceleration and engine speed, it can detect when a slippage is about to happen and link back up for all-wheel drive readiness 500 milliseconds before traction is broken.
It also reads the driver's style, changing the thresholds whereby it engages and relinquishing all-wheel drive mode.
What the new system like?
It is completely unnoticeable as TheWeek.co.uk takes a test drive with Audi's Dieter Weidemann. It takes an iPad to display when the all-wheel drive skips into front-wheel mode and vice versa during. Of course, other decoupling systems exist, but Audi claims that none are as seamless as the new Ultra system.
Quattro Ultra is coming to three diesel variants by the end of the year but at present, it is only available on the 2.0-litre TFSI A4 Allroad with 247bhp. It's likely that the diesels will be bigger sellers, but the TFSI is one of Audi's global offerings, so putting the new drivetrain on it first makes sense.
Thanks to the front-wheel drive running mode, the petrol engine delivers 44.1mpg on a combined cycle and performs well, taking the A4 Allroad from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 153mph. It doesn't feel like an overly brisk car, however, and pushing the vehicle long at low revs seems to be the engine's party piece.
With the added ride height, the A4 Allroad is "a bit more cumbersome through bends", says Car Magazine, though it is hardly going to be a car bought for throwing around. As a trade-off, the ride is wonderfully refined and comfortable for long haul journeys.
Inside, the Allroad gets the A4 cabin – extremely pleasant but possibly at odds with the car's rugged image. That's nothing to complain about, however: the materials are of high quality, it's neatly laid out and topping it off with Audi's optional Virtual Cockpit TFT screen is a must.
Overall, the A4 Allroad is pleasant. How it fares off-road remains to be seen, but on-road it has enough appeal to make it a comfortable, practical, valid option. The Quattro Ultra system – five years in the making – seems to work seamlessly and does distance the drivetrain quite far from central differential Quattro setups – only 25 per cent of our test drive was spent with all-wheel drive engaged and there were more than 40 instances where we "gained an advantage" by having the Ultra system in place.
Audi A4 Allroad 2.0 TFSI Quattro – 4/5
Engine: 1984cc 16-valve four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 247bhp at 5000-6000rpm, 273lb ft at 1600-4500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 153mph top speed, 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds
Weight: 3,648.65lbs (1,655kg)
On sale: Later this month