AUDI A4 ALLROAD HELPS SPUR COMEBACK OF THE STATION WAGON FOR TODAY’S FAMILIES
This goes back far too many years that I care to acknowledge, but once upon a time my friends from high school and I got together with our families for an informal reunion about 20 years or so after our graduation.
Our meeting place was a park in our hometown, and it became somewhat of a running joke as the afternoon wore on that each of us showed up in a station wagon.
At the time this was the ultimate in automotive domestication, part of the “full catastrophe” cited by Zorba the Greek in the movie of the same name. I’ll pause now while you look it up on Youtube.
Back? OK. Let us continue.
My point here now is that if that gathering were held today and we were still of that age and with the same brood of young children, chances are that we would be showing up in SUVs/crossovers.
For though we didn’t know it then, our station wagons were about to experience a popularity decline that seemingly had them headed for the edge of extinction.
Minivans struck the first blow in the mid-1980s with the aforementioned SUVs and crossovers continuing to inflict blows. (Ironically, minivans now carry much the same stigma that ran station wagons off the road, that is being the nerd’s vehicle of choice.)
Domestic manufacturers pretty much bailed on the segment. Ford even billed its boxy, Flex, which has the profile and look of a station wagon if there ever was one, as a “crossover” when it introduced it a decade ago.
But thanks mostly to European automakers, the wagon never completely disappeared, and now it apparently is on a bit of a resurgence.
Citing data from Edmunds.com, Bloomberg Business reported that station wagons enjoyed an increase in sales of 29 percent in 2018, trailing SUVs and midsize pickups in growth rate but far ahead of tradition segments like compact cars, midsize cars, luxury cars, etc., which were all in negative numbers for the year.
Admittedly, the station wagon’s market share is still small. The volume of 229,000 vehicles sold is less than 2 percent of the U.S. market, but it apparently is getting off its death bed. Buick (TourX) and Lincoln (MKT) are even back with domestic offerings in the segment.
The modern wagon is far from the lumbering Wagon Queen Family Truckster that Clark Griswold packed his family into for their cross-country trek to Wally World in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
I’d say the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad is among the most striking vehicles I have had the pleasure of driving in recent months. Not surprisingly, combined with its performance and luxurious interior, the A4 Allroad is ranked 1 or 2 among available wagons by such sources as Edmunds.com and U.S. News & World Report.
Fully redesigned for the 2017 model year, the 2018 A4 Allroad is pretty much the same vehicle but with heated front seats as standard and some other changes to features in the higher trims. No major changes were made for the 2019 model either, so it may be to do some looking in the used car market if you’re interested in one.
The Allroad is offered in Premium (base), Premium Plus, and Prestige trims with a starting MSRP of $44,500. The Premium Plus package adds another $2,700 to that and is well worth it with features such as an upgraded Ban & Olufsen 3D sound system, 8-way power front seats with driver memory, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, Audi’s side assist system with pre-sense rear systems that react in the event of collisions from the side or rear, and SiriusXM satellite radio with 3-month trial subscription.
A Navigation and Telematics package adds another $3,000 and includes Audi’s MMI touch telematics system and Audi’s virtual cockpit. Those two packages and a couple of other extras ran the total of my vehicle for the week to $52,750 including destination and delivery, so no, this likely isn’t your grandfather’s station wagon.
All A4 Allroads get a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that is mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters and puts out a healthy 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. Set in dynamic mode, it delivers credible throttle response with fuel mileage figures of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 25 combined.
Audi clockers caught the Allroad getting from zero-to-60 mph at 5.9 seconds, which is not your grandfather’s station wagon either.
Lest we forget that certain functions are expected of a wagon, the Allroad also delivers there as well. It seats five comfortably, and rear stowage capacity is 24.2 cubic feet with the second-row seats in place and 58.5 with them folded.
What I didn’t like about the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad: The display screen to show settings for Audi’s MMI infotainment system looks like an iPad stuck at the top of the center stack. It’s not a deal killer, of course, but there has to be a better way of incorporating it into the flow of the dash. In fact, I have actually seen better ways in other makes!
Would I buy the 2018 Audi A4 Allroad? Sure would. It is one of the more expensive wagons on the market today, but it is well worth a look, even if you are looking at a luxury SUV.