Nostalgia ain't what it used to be - or so the saying goes - and that applies to Audi's 2013 allroad wagon that returns following a seven-model-year absence.
A lot has changed in the interim what with today's push to improve fuel performance and the subsequent powerplant downsizing by virtually every automaker. And so it is that the allroad (for some reason Audi doesn't capitalize it as a proper noun) reenters the marketplace with the same degree of go-anywhere, all-wheel-drive Quattro swagger as before, but with a mere 211-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine at its disposal.
Previous allroads offered a base 250-horsepower turbo V6, or 300 horses worth of optional V8 to play with, along with a sorry-about-that concern toward fuel consumption.
Ah, but we're heading into 2013, where less is nearly always more, thanks to gigabytes of technological advancements. For example, Audi states that the allroad (replacing the 2012 A4 Avant wagon) will accelerate to 60 mph from rest in 6.5 seconds, which is a full 1.2 seconds sooner than the V6 version circa 2005. The new model is also about 300 pounds lighter and is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 27 on the highway, which is a darn sight better than the 16/23 mpg rating that the last V6 allroad was tagged with.
Assisting in reducing consumption and maximizing overall performance is a standard eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift controls.
The allroad of today is also a much more handsome piece or work - arguably one of the best proportioned wagons on the market - from any angle. The cats-eye-style headlight lenses stand guard over one of Audi's more massive grilles. As well, the darkened cladding extending along the sides and the lower portion of the rear bumper neatly contrast with the body color.
The standard 18-inch wheels (19-inchers are optional) fill the allroad's wheel arches almost to the brim. Ground clearance is 7.1 inches, which is 1.5 inches more than the outgoing A4 Avant. That's certainly enough for more "allroad" conditions, but the car's real advantage is the permanently engaged all-wheel-drive that's famous for keeping Audis glued to the road no matter what. In normal driving conditions, 60 percent of the available power is directed to the rear wheels, but when conditions become nasty, up to 85 percent can be deployed to the back wheels or up to 70 percent to the fronts. As well, extra torque can be sent to the outside wheels to help the allroad better rotate in a turn (referred to as torque vectoring).
Cargo capacity with either the rear seats in place or folded flat is somewhat less than allroads of old and is also less than what's offered by direct competitors. If you're wondering about the price paid for being smaller, you're looking at it.
Appearing mighty fine, however, is a cabin that's as welcoming as it gets. The steering wheel is extra-thick and the gauges and controls are highly legible. Seating accommodations in the base Premium model are leather covered and the outside view is enhanced by a panoramic sunroof. The front seats are power-adjustable and automatic climate control is standard.
Step up to the Premium Plus and you get heated front seats, tri-zone climate control and a power-operated tailgate, while the Prestige adds a navigation system, a 505-watt Bang and Olufsen-brand stereo and a system that alerts the driver when vehicles on either side of the allroad are approaching.
Audi will give you plenty of opportunity to run up the allroad's $40,500 base price with a plethora of options, including a Sports Interior package with unique front seats and steering wheel. A Driver Assist group has adaptive cruise control (maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front) on its menu.
No matter how you outfit your allroad, the wagon's inspiring looks, performance and fuel efficiency will never have you longing for the nostalgia of the good ol' days.
What you should know: 2013 Audi allroad
Type: Four-door, all-wheel-drive wagon
Engine (hp): 2.0-liter DOHC I4 (211)
Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic
Market position: As many sport utility brands are converted to car-based models, interest in the classic wagon appears to be fading. The allroad is among the few makes that provide a measure of excitement in this category.
Points: Exterior styling totally nails it; Torque-rich four-cylinder engine should be plenty for most drivers; posts exemplary fuel economy numbers; Eight-speed automatic should be bolstered by manual gearbox or automated-manual-transmission option; allroad yet another feather in Audi's cap; should outsell Mercedes-Benz, BMW wagon rivals.
Safety: Front airbags; front- /rear side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags;
anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
MPG (city/hwy) 20/27; Base price (incl. destination) $40,500
Base price: $35,500
An early hiked-up wagon adopter, blending ruggedness and comfort.
Base price: $24,200
Well-priced Legacy-based wagon has more cargo space than the allroad.
Base price: $58,000
High-end wagon has room to spare plus 500-hp V8 availability.
Malcolm Gunn is a writer with Wheelbase Media. He can be reached on the Web at www.shiftweekly.com by using the contact link. Wheelbase supplies automotive news and features to newspapers across North America.