By Teddy Field
Back in the 1980s, American Motors sold a 4×4 station wagon called the AMC Eagle. It had extra ground clearance, a full-time 4-wheel drive system, and 2-tone paint. Everything a ski bum needed. The only other option at the time was the rather low-rent Subaru Loyale, or Toyota Tercel 4wd. SUVs had yet to come in vogue, so if you wanted a practical snowmobile, your options were limited.
Today, your options are just as limited. Granted, you can get an AWD crossover in nearly any shape or size. But not everybody wants to drive a truck. Cars are more comfortable, practical, and easier to maneuver. Subaru’s legendary Outback 4×4 wagon has been the only game in town for many years. Audi however, has decided to return to Aspen and challenge Subaru for dominance of the tiny 4×4 wagon market. They’ve brought along the latest incarnation of their butch Allroad wagon, and of course, it’s fitted with Audi’s Quattro sled-dog system. So which one is best? Go strap on your snow boots, and let’s find out…
2013 Audi Allroad
While it may seem a bit like overkill, the uber-butch 2013 Audi Allroad combines the luxury of an Audi, with the ability to crawl over and through nearly anything that you put in its path (within reason of course). Having ditched the previous Allroad’s adjustable air suspension, this new model uses a sturdier mechanical suspension setup to provide 7.1 inches of ground clearance. And thankfully, there’s plenty of underbody cladding to protect the expensive bits when you inevitably bottom out.
Make no mistake, the 2013 Audi Allroad isn’t an off-road vehicle. But it can handle non-pavement situations better than most crossovers. The Quattro system can route up to 60% of the engine power to the rear wheels, and the stability control’s off-road setting is programmed to help the car dig its way out of trouble. You’re not going to be crawling over a mountain in your Allroad, but most moderate trails, and snow drifts can be conquered with ease.
Back on pavement, the 2013 Audi Allroad drives with an athletic confidence. The ride is smooth, and the car responds to your inputs with that traditional Audi verve. The new electric power steering however, feels about as natural as the slushy steering box AMC used in that wood-sided Eagle. Guess it’s true, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
On the inside, the 2013 Audi Allroad is typical ergonomic brilliance. There’s a standard glass roof, sumptuous materials with your choice of 3 wood inlays, and a built-in T-Mobile WiFi hotspot to support the optional Google Earth navigation setup (with Street View capability). There’s also a bevy of safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, and active lane keeping assist which can actually steer the car back into the proper lane.
The 2013 Audi Allroad doesn’t have a mountain of room for cargo, but it’s still quite practical for its size. And so is the engine. At just 2.0 liters, this turbo-4 belts out 211-hp and a healthy 258 lb-ft of torque. It’s attached to an 8-speed automatic which hunts top gear obsessively. But leaving the tranny in Sport mode will cure this.
The 2013 Audi Allroad is expensive, but if your rusted out AMC Eagle is on its last leg, you might want to consider this one.
2013 Subaru Outback
Even though everybody else had abandoned the 4wd wagon segment, Subaru stuck with it, improving their Symmetrical All Wheel drive system along the way. The first Subaru Outback impressed with its ability to handle difficult terrain, and its reasonably nice accoutrements. The 2013 Subaru Outback continues this theme, with impressive off-roadability, and reasonably nice accoutrements. Snobs will disapprove of the Subie’s lack of soft touch-points, but loyalists won’t mind.
The 2013 Subaru Outback is considerably longer on cargo room than the Audi: 71 cu-ft vs. 50 cu-ft with the second row folded. A Special Appearance Package can be added to the 2013 Subaru Outback Limited, which includes such luxuries as keyless ignition, and nicer leather. But it’s still not as nice as the Audi’s cabin. You can however, get similar safety tech, by way of Subaru’s new camera-based EyeSight driver assistance package. Using cameras mounted at the top of the windshield, the system can apply the brakes to prevent a frontal crash. Adaptive cruise control is also part of the package.
Under the hood, the 2013 Subaru Outback 2.5i gets a new dual-overhead camshaft 2.5L flat-4. This mill is good for 173-hp, and it comes with a new version of Subaru’s CVT automatic. Gas mileage is impressive at 24 city / 30 hwy / 26 combined, but you’re certainly not going to get many speeding tickets if you know what I mean. For more oomph, you’re going to want the 256-hp 3.6 liter flat-6, which comes mated to a 5-speed automatic with paddle shifters. The 2013 Subaru Outback 3.6R is certainly the most entertaining way to go Outback.
Alright, the 2013 Subaru Outback is bigger, more powerful, and it has 8.7 inches of ground clearance. If you were paying attention, you’ll notice that the big Subaru has nearly two inches more ground clearance than the 2013 Audi Allroad. But one figure that the Outback can’t match is price: 2013 Subaru Outback starts at $24,290 and a well-dressed 3.6R will only set you back $33k-$35k. The Audi on the other hand, starts at $39,600, and a decently optioned Audi Allroad Premium Plus model goes for a little north of $42k.
Sure, the 2013 Audi Allroad is like trail riding in a Learjet, but the 2013 Subaru Outback offers a lot more practicality and value for the money.
Car Comparison: 2013 Audi Allroad vs. 2013 Subaru Outback
|SPECIFICATION||2013 Audi Allroad||2013 Subaru Outback|
|Fuel Economy||20/27/23 2.0T / AT||21/28/24 2.5L / MT|
|24/30/26 2.5L / CVT|
|18/25/20 3.6L / AT (5-sp)|
|Suburban Snob Factor||10 / 10 Camrys||9 / 10 Camrys|
|NHTSA Ranking||Top Safety Pick = N/A||Top Safety Pick = Y|
|NHTSA Ranking||5 / 5 Stars||N/A|