America has a fraught relationship with the station wagon. Even though millions of people drive crossovers — jacked-up wagons that blusteringly declare SUV off-road credibility — the true unabashed car-based wagon remains a curiosity. So it’s ultimately unsurprising that for 2013 Audi recast the A4 Avant wagon as the 2013 Audi Allroad, a vehicle that aims to deliver sports-sedan driving dynamics along with enough adventure-lifestyle attitude to keep the dreaded wagon stigma at bay.
I’m conflicted about the Allroad, because on one hand I see a craven manipulation of (or capitulation to) America’s insecurities—“I need my car to reflect the fact that I might, at any moment, decide to take up kayaking.” But on the other, it does look cool, doesn’t it? Fender flares and skid plates on a wagon make as much sense as strapping crampons to your Sperry Topsiders, and yet the butched-up Allroad has a presence distinct from that of the underlying A4 Avant. My car-guy intellect tells me that I should prefer the naked honesty of the old A4 Avant, but my lizard brain likes the Allroad’s fender flares and extra inch and a half of ground clearance.
There aren’t too many places where that modest lift kit will ever matter, but Aspen is one of them. I took an Allroad out of town, up toward Independence Pass, to suss out the truthfulness of the car’s moniker. As it turned out, I couldn’t find a road that would stop the Audi (it climbed the steep, unplowed private driveway of some bazillionaire’s mountain redoubt with ease), so I attacked an unplowed turnout up near where Route 82 dead-ends with a barrier and a snowdrift.
There was probably a foot of powder on the ground, enough snow that the Allroad was actually plowing it with that front skid plate. And yet, I didn’t get stuck, even when I headed uphill. Maybe you’ll never take an Allroad across the Rubicon, but when the plow trucks can’t keep up with a blizzard you might well appreciate that extra ground clearance. The rest of the time, you can enjoy the carlike driving dynamics that come from driving…a car.