2013 Audi Allroad review:

The best techie wagon you can buy

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Audi offers some limited voice command for selecting music with the Allroad's stereo, such as requesting artists by name when playing music from an iPod or iPhone. Using the MMI dial to drill down through lists of albums or artists is easy enough, even when sailing down the freeway at 65 mph.

The Allroad's stereo can be upgraded to a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen system that, from my tests in other Audi models, should deliver real audiophile sound. However, this car came equipped with the base system, using only 10 speakers, and I had few complaints. The system delivered good tonal separation and gave music reproduction a lot of depth. High notes were occasionally too piercing, and sustained listening became uncomfortable.

Audi offers some excellent driver assistance tech on its other models, but the Allroad is oddly limited. This car came equipped with the rearview camera, always a strong feature for Audi, as it shows trajectory line and shaded distance areas. Adaptive cruise control is available on the Allroad, but was not optioned on CNET's car. For some reason, Audi's blind-spot detection system is not offered for U.S. Allroads, although it is available in other markets. Also not offered is a surround-view camera system, which could enhance the Allroad's off-road credentials a bit.

The Drive Select system, which I used in the Audi S5, can be had on the highest-trim Allroad, but was not present in the car I tested. This system lets you dial in comfort and sport settings for the engine, steering, and suspension. The fixed suspension in the car I tested tended to wallow a bit in hard cornering, although the Quattro all-wheel-drive system gave a good assist to get the car turned properly at speed.

2013 Audi Allroad
The Allroad seems a little more capable than your average car, but not a serious off-roader. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

While traveling down a road that was last paved when Eisenhower was president, the Allroad's suspension softened the jolts from the potholes very nicely. The tuning for the electric power steering made the wheel very easy to turn at low speeds, but added a good sensation of weight as the speedometer needle went round.

Torque-heavy turbo
For a car marketed to tackle any road in the world, a 2-liter four-cylinder engine may sound inadequate. However, Audi has been using direct injection and turbocharging longer than most automakers, and this experience results in specifications of 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, that latter figure giving the Allroad enough acceleration to easily make quick freeway merges or pass on two-lane highways.

If you step hard on the gas from a stop, the Allroad takes a moment to spool up its power, a combination of turbo lag and electronic systems keeping the wheels from slipping. But it is a very short moment before the Allroad is running quickly and smoothly. Audi rates the acceleration at a comfortable 6.5 seconds to 60 mph.

2013 Audi Allroad
The Allroad has an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the driver can select gears with the shifter. Josh Miller/CNET

Lacking shift paddles, I had to use the shifter to manually select gears from the eight-speed automatic transmission, but there was little need for this intervention. The transmission programming generally kept the car in the right gear, with an obvious bias toward higher gears to keep the engine speed low and improve fuel economy. I was impressed that, while following a slow truck up a steep hill, the Allroad did not show any tendency to lunge, sticking to a single gear.

The manual gear selection could come in handy for long descents if you prefer engine braking over friction brakes. I was impressed that, while going down a hill with cruise control on, the system actually applied the brakes to keep from going over the system's set speed.

As for fuel economy, the EPA rating is only 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. And while the average for this car ended up being only 23.6 mpg, the trip computer showed averages approaching 30 mpg for some extended freeway driving.

At well over 40 grand when optioned up, the 2013 Audi Allroad sits solidly in the premium car segment. But Audi is at the top of its game when it comes to both performance and cabin technology, so that few cars can really compete. And, of course, wagons are about as rare today as cassette players, making competition limited.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Audi Allroad
Trim Premium Plus
Power train Turbocharged direct-injection 2-liter 4-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 23.6 mpg
Navigation Optional hard-drive-based with traffic and Google Earth integration
Bluetooth phone support Optional with contact list integration
Digital audio sources Bluetooth streaming, onboard hard drive, SD card, USB drive, iPod, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system 10-speaker system
Driver aids Adaptive cruise control, rearview camera
Base price $39,600
Price as tested $47,870

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