I’m not usually at a loss for words when it comes to cars and dealerships. When I went to a nearby Audi dealer to test the 2013 Audi Allroad, I wasn’t prepared for the salesman to tell me that he didn’t want me to drive the car. Even when I pressed the point, I was turned down.
As background, the last time Audi sold an Allroad/Allroad quattro in the United States was for the 2001 – 2005 model years. The first-generation Allroad was based on an A6 Avant (Audi-speak for wagon) with added ride height, some body cladding and a choice of a 2.7 L turbo V6 or Audi’s 4.2 L V8.
These were ruggedly-handsome wagons – think Chris Hemsworth (Thor) with a five day beard – that occupied a grey zone between an normal wagon and an SUV. At the time, Audi didn’t offer an SUV in the very SUV-friendly U.S. market and Audi dealers were champing at the bit to offer something to the Aspen, Long Island or image-conscious LA customers who wanted an Audi with a better view of the road and a small amount of soft-road capability.
Today, Audi offers the Q5 and Q7 SUVs with a Q3 coming in a couple of years, so Audi didn’t see the need to continue offering wagons in the U.S. It discontinued the A6 Avant quattro in 2011 and the A4 Avant quattro in 2012.
For the 2013 model year, Audi reintroduced the Allroad quattro in the form of a pumped up A4 Avant rather than the larger A6 format. Audi’s website makes the “a” in Allroad small, perhaps to let you know it won’t really go on any road. You should stick to paved roads or perhaps a packed dirt road — but not a muddy bog. Think light snow on a plowed road. Coiffed, calculated scruffy not rugged.
The Allroad is only 1.5 inches higher than the standard wagon, but the Allroad package makes for a handsome styling exercise. It wears a 360 degree belt of hard plastic body cladding, including the wheel arches, running boards and front and rear lower bumper scrape zones. It sports a unique, nicely-detailed Audi corporate grille with the four interlocking Auto Union rings properly centered.
I was allowed to sit in the car – that’s as far as I got. The interior is lifted entirely from the A4 sedan, which is a good thing. Nobody does mass-market auto interiors as well as Audi, and the Allroad is no exception. Fit, finish and quality of materials is top notch.
Like the A4, the rear seats don’t give a bigger person much leg room (thigh support is marginally-better than the usual fare in this category) and I was disappointed that they seats don’t fold exactly flat. I’d also like a pop-open rear glass, but only BMW thinks that’s a handy feature.
The Allroad costs thousands more and has less cargo space that its cousin, the Q5 (also based on the A4 platform). So it’s really a “lifestyle” vehicle, all dressed to impress.
The Allroad offers only one drivetrain: Audi’s ubiquitous 2.0L direct-inject turbo four cylinder engine making 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a ZF 8-speed automatic, used widely by both Chrysler and BMW. Since I have only driven the BMW and Chrysler version, I can’t share my thoughts on Audi’s tuning of the ZF, but in the 2012 Dodge Charger SXT and the 2012 BMW 328i, it’s an amazingly smooth and intuitive transmission that significantly increases fuel economy (usually by more than 10% over previous 6-speed auto boxes).
What went wrong with my test drive?
How did this happen? It wasn’t like they were so busy that the salesman had three lease deals all pending and I was merely wasting his time. I always make a point of visiting dealers during slower days and times when they won’t miss a sale if they spend some time with me. And, while they usually don’t know it, lots of local people read my column both here and in WeHoNews.com and the dealer may get customers as a result of my reviews or musings.
I was dressed the part with expensive casual clothes, as is very common in LA. You don’t have to show up in a German luxury car showroom dressed in Hugo Boss to get their attention. I drove my older Mercedes, so it was clear that I could be in the market for a new car. I had done my usual homework about the car, its pricing, option packages, etc.
My mistake was talking the competition with the salesman.
I told him that there wasn’t much competition in the area of luxury wagons. The Mercedes E-Class wagon, while lovely, was too big and much more expensive. I threw out that I was interested in the 2013 BMW 328i Touring, which hasn’t hit our shores yet, but should be here in early 2013. Mercedes-Benz stopped importing the C-Class wagon several years ago, and while I hadn’t tested the refreshed GLK, the substitute for the C wagon, I wasn’t sold on the styling.
I didn’t toss out the Volvo XC60 or XC70 or the Infiniti EX, as those weren’t on my radar screen.
I sat in the cockpit of the lovely Brilliant Black Allroad parked in front of us and touched various surfaces and pushed dead buttons. I asked if it was fully-loaded. I always love to test them. Of course, he said oh yes- it has everything! My first thought was that it should have everything for $49,695, but instead I asked: “Does it have adaptive cruise control?” A bit rattled, he said no. I let it go, but he didn’t know that it was available as part of the eye-popping $3,200 Driver Assist package. A fully-loaded Allroad can easily top $54,000 (base MSRP $40,495).
Then I asked: “Does it have vented/cooled seats?” He admitted that no, that was a option on more expensive Audis.
So it’s not loaded, I concluded.
I also made the mistake of telling him that I wasn’t ready to buy a car that day. Never say that to a salesman. We then played a little game, apparently to prove a point. He asked me whether if he could sell me the car today for $29,695, would I take it? I said “I’ll get my checkbook.” He seemed very satisfied with himself that I did have a price and he could make the sale that day; but most people would take that deal. It was fiction, and obviously too good to be true. I could resell it the next day, eat the sales tax and DMV fees, and still pocket at least $5,000.
His final, and I do mean final, advice to me was that I should go and drive all the competition first, then drive the Allroad. He was sure I’d pick the Allroad. I got lumped into the category of dumb consumer, with the attention span of a gnat, who would buy the last car I’d drive because it was the latest shiny thing in front of me. Despite my direct protestations to the contrary, he insisted that I go away, drive the others first, then come see him. Fat chance.