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How much will some people pay to be assured they're not driving a station wagon? About $3,200, if the 2013 Audi Allroad is any indicator.
That's the difference between the base price for a new Allroad and the 2012 Audi A4 Avant station wagon, the car the Allroad replaces. Plus $150 a year for gasoline, of course. That's the EPA's estimate of how much more it will cost to fuel the Allroad than an A4 Avant wagon, despite the vehicles' identical performance and drivetrains.
The Allroad is an attractive, luxurious and sporty crossover SUV that's essentially a mildly restyled, more-expensive version of the attractive, luxurious and sporty A4 station wagon Audi sold until the beginning of the 2013 model year. (Hint to bargain shoppers: Your local Audi dealer may still have one.)
Prices for the 2013 Audi Allroad Quattro start at $39,600. The five-passenger crossover SUV comes with a fine 211-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. I tested an Allroad with a few options that stickered at $42,900.
The Allroad is no better than the A4 Avant, though it will almost certainly outsell it and earn Audi more money. It's a truism in the auto industry that Americans love crossover SUVs and abhor station wagons.
Gentlemen, start your platitudes: It's the free market in action. There's a sucker born every minute. Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Well, maybe not that last one, but the others apply.
The Allroad's wheelbase, passenger and luggage room are virtually identical to the Avant. It's 1.8 inches taller - thanks to 1.5 inches more ground clearance - 0.6 inch wider and 0.7 inch longer than the wagon. The Allroad has the same drivetrain and performance figures as the A4 Avant, though it's more expensive and uses more fuel.
The Allroad does much better when compared with other automakers' luxury wagons and crossovers.
Its direct competitors include the front-wheel drive Acura TSX wagon and AWD wagons like the BMW 328i xDrive, Cadillac CTS4, Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70.
Midsize upscale crossovers like the Infiniti EX, Land Rover Evoque, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz GLK will also compete with the Allroad.
The Allroad's combination of fuel economy, luxury and all-wheel drive is unmatched.
The EPA rated the Allroad 20 mpg in the city, 27 on the highway and 23 in combined driving. That beats all the competitors I've named but the Acura, which can't match the AWD Audi's performance, and the less-powerful and luxurious Subaru.
The Allroad's interior is comfortable and refined. Leather seats are standard, and soft-touch materials cover most touch points.
The gauges are large and legible. A large sunroof lets in lots of light. Headroom is excellent for all occupants. The front seat offers plenty of room, but rear legroom could be better.
There's plenty of cargo space, with a low floor and wide opening that make it easy to load heavy objects.
Audi's MMI rotary control pads for climate, audio and other systems are falling behind the competition in ease of use. The Allroad's voice-recognition system is poor.
The Allroad I tested lacked some features you might expect in a $42,900 luxury wagon, including blind-spot alert, streaming Bluetooth audio capability, ventilated seats and a navigation system.
The 211-horsepower engine is one of the least-powerful in the segment, but the combination of the turbo's readily available torque - 258 pound-feet at just 1,500 rpm -and the smooth and quick eight-speed automatic transmission provide good throttle response and acceleration. Audi reports a 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds and top speed of 130 mph.
The Allroad's suspension absorbs bumps and holds curves well. The electric power steering feels light in slow driving, but firms up nicely at speed.
The Audi Select system that adjusts steering, suspension, transmission and engine settings undoubtedly improves that, but it's part of a $3,250 option package.
The 2013 Audi Allroad provides an alternative for customers who like the functionality of a sport wagon and are willing to pay for plastic-clad wheel arches, a little extra ground clearance and vaguely SUV-ish looks.
Mark Phelan is the auto critic for the Detroit Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.