AVON, CO – The Allroad is back in Audi of America showrooms for the first time in eight years, part of a mid-cycle refresh for the ’13 model A4/A5 lineup that puts the emphasis on new technology and refinement.

The last-generation Allroad cross/utility vehicle appeared in the U.S. from 2000 to 2005, selling 26,000-plus copies, according to WardsAuto data. The new version now on sale replaces the more pedestrian A4 Avant wagon in the Audi stable for the new model year.

The Allroad rides on the A5 platform, rather than the A4 version of Audi’s MLB architecture, giving it a slightly wider track than the outgoing Avant. The new model also is 0.6 ins. (1.5 cm) wider and 2.3 ins. (5.8 cm) taller and has 1.5 ins. (3.8 cm) more ground clearance, at 7 ins. (17.8 cm) than the prior-generation Allroad, plus it accelerates quicker and boasts better fuel economy.

The CUV body style provides 16 cu.-ft. (0.5 cu.-m) greater cargo space than the A4 sedan with the seats folded. A power tailgate is optional and the car’s panoramic sunroof is standard.

The Allroad’s stability control system offers a new off-road mode that allows the tail to slide a bit more, enabling the driver to “have a little more fun,” says Barry Hoch, senior product manager.

The exterior treatment is pumped up with accent-colored lower-body cladding meant to give the Allroad an aggressive stance. Unfortunately, that treatment tends to evoke bad Chevy Avalanche flashbacks; paying extra to match the cladding with the body color might be the better aesthetic bet.

The Allroad also features an exclusive grille, roof rails and stainless-steel skid plates.

The car’s tow rating is limited to 1,500 lbs. (680 kg). Audi is considering ways to hike that, but for now it considers the Q5, with its 4,500-lb. (2,041-kg) maximum, the logical choice for buyers with more-serious hauling plans.

Power comes from the same 2.0L TFSI gasoline 4-cyl. as in the A4 sedan and A5 coupe and cabriolet. It generates 221 hp at 4,300-6,000 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) of torque at 1,500 rpm, delivered through an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission. The quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is standard with the Allroad.

Optional is the supercharged 3.0L TFSI V-6, a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner that also can be found under the hood of the performance-oriented S models. Output peaks at 333 hp from 5,500-6,500 rpm and 325 lb.-ft. (440 Nm) of torque at 2,900-5,300 rpm.

All vehicles in the line get a tweaked headlamp treatment that features light-emitting-diode piping, rather than individual LEDs, surrounding the main bulb. Audi has added a couple new creases to the aluminum hood on all models, and A4 and S4 rear-end styling is chiseled with a few sharper angles.

Inside, the A4/A5 and Allroad adopt the steering wheel and stalks of the higher-end A6/A7 and offer some new trim options.

A slick enhancement to the 7-in. (18-cm) liquid-crystal-display navigation system is the Google Earth feature that overlays a street view on the route map, allowing the driver to get his bearings more easily. Also optional is a sweet-sounding 180-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system incorporating 14 speakers (12 in the convertible models).

Other technology improvements abound across the A4/A5 lineup, including a 6-month subscription to the optional Audi Connect system, which enters the brand’s high-volume cars for the first time. It serves as an onboard Internet WiFi hotspot good for up to eight devices and provides real-time weather, traffic and fuel-price data.

Finally, the car’s man-machine interface has been reduced from eight to six buttons, easing operation and cleaning up the center console design.

On the safety front, the adaptive-cruise system now can stop the A4/A5 line completely at speeds below 19 mph (30 km/h), applying full braking force if the system detects a collision is imminent.

The side-assist system that warns of vehicles in the car’s blindspot at speeds above 19 mph has been handed down from the more-expensive Q7 CUV. An available park-assist system projects a visual guide onto the console screen to help the driver back into a parking space.

Torque vectoring on front-drive models brakes the inside wheel slightly to aid cornering. The Audi Drive Select, which adjusts suspension stiffness, shift points, steering assist and engine response, features an “individual mode” that remembers the last settings when the car is restarted.

The drive route here stuck to the highways and mountain paths, so there was no opportunity to determine the Allroad’s off-road prowess.

But on pavement, the Allroad adheres to the Audi formula of near-perfect balance. The CUV delivers a quiet, ultra-smooth ride, with plenty of power from its base-engine/8-speed automatic combination in most conditions. The turbo does gasp a bit at high altitudes, in some cases causing the transmission to stutter as it searches for the right gear, but those instances are rare and not likely to face most buyers on their daily commutes.

The Allroad is rated at 20/27 mpg (11.8-8.7 L/100 km) city/highway, while the A4 with quattro and a 6-speed manual is listed at 22/32 mpg (10.7-7.3 L/100 km) and an S4 with a manual achieves 17/26 mpg (13.8-9.0 L/100 km).

S models with the S-tronic dual-clutch transmission also get a new self-locking, crown-gear center differential that is more compact, faster acting and weighs in at just 11 lbs. (5 kg), 4 lbs. (1.8 kg) less than the old unit. The performance models benefit from bigger brakes than those on the rest of the A4/A5 line, with ventilation both front and rear.

Unlike in Germany, where the S4/S5 is available only with an S-tronic DCT, U.S. buyers can opt for a 6-speed manual gearbox. The high take-rate here, at about 30% of S4 sales, persuaded Audi to keep the option for America.

“Manual-transmission buyers also are more connected to the brand,” Hoch notes. “And they spend more on performance options.”

Inside, S models get a new steering wheel, similar to the R8’s, alloy pedals and piano-black instrument-panel surrounds once reserved for RS models.

If there’s anything to quibble about it’s Audi’s electromechanical power steering, which can feel over-assisted. It’s no ’70s Buick, though, and the trade-off in additional fuel economy and a lighter, livelier front end – Audi says it cuts 30 lbs. (66 kg) off the car – is worth any reduction in road feel.

Pricing on the Allroad begins at $39,600 and rises to $48,800 for the top-of-the-line Prestige package. Starting prices range from $32,500-$44,350 on the A4 sedan, $37,850-$48,500 on the A5 coupe and $43,350-$54,900 for the A5 cabriolet.

The S4 bases at $47,600-$52,250, the S5 at $50,900-58,950 and S5 Cabriolet at $59,300-$65,950.

Audi isn’t forecasting sales for the revamped A4/A5 lineup, but says the Allroad should average about 3,000-3,500 units annually, about on par with the outgoing Avant model.

Last year, the A4/A5 lineup delivered 50,000-plus sales in the U.S., where the models currently account for about 43% of the brand’s volume annually. Audi says it has sold nearly 10 million A4s worldwide in the past 39 years. The current-generation A4 launched in 2009.

The latest enhancements should keep customers coming for awhile, but the model line doesn’t get a full re-do until ’16.

dzoia@wardsauto.com

'13 Audi Allroad
Vehicle type All-wheel-drive cross/utility
Engine 2.0L turbcharged direct-injection gasoline DOHC 4-cyl., iron block, aluminum head
Power (SAE net) 211 hp @ 4,300 rpm
Torque 258 lb.-ft. (350 Nm) @ 1,500 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 82.5 x 92.8
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Transmission 8-speed Tiptronic
Wheelbase (cm) 110.4 ins. (280.5)
Overall length (cm) 185.9 ins. (472.1)
Overall width (cm) 72.5 ins. (184.1)
Overall height (cm) 58.0 ins. (147.3)
Curb weight (kg) 3,891 lbs. (1,765)
Base price $39,600
Fuel economy 20/27 mpg (11.8-8.7 L/100 km) city/highway
Competition BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, Lexus ES, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G
Pros Cons
Can leave pavement Cladding question of taste
Balanced dynamics Light-touch steering
Manual trans option Hiccups at altitude