If you're battling a deeply anachronistic tendency towards a big SUV at a time when you'd be as popular admitting to occasionally drowning the odd orphan, Audi's A6 Allroad Avant looks like the answer to your prayers. You have the carrying capacity of an estate, raised seating and loading heights, four-wheel drive and the ability to crash through urban potholes and muddy tracks with aplomb, but without the tutting hatred of yummy mummies in reclaimed sisal espadrilles. The Allroad is an SUV in disguise - the Clark Kent of the 4x4 world.
So we have this. The same general theory of the A6 Allroad applied to the smaller A4, which results in 37mm drafted into the ride height, 20mm added to the track front and rear and the resultant higher and wider platform draped in plastic bumper/wheel arch extensions and side sills. There are also stainless steel underbody guards that ram home the point - this is an A4 with pretentions of multi-tasking.
Of course there's also the latest gen of Audi's quattro, and a new ESP system with ‘surface-sensing Offroad Detection technology'. All this adds up to a car that looks more butch than a stock A4, but nothing to get anyone's environmental knickers in a twist.
It also drives more like a normal estate than a squashed SUV - it rolls slightly more than a normal A4 Avant, even with the suspension set to ‘dynamic ‘ rather than ‘comfort', but you can hustle the car along without feeling queasy. The steering isn't overly communicative, but nothing that would annoy, the brakes, suspension and ride quality all within the kind of performance parameters you'd expect from Audi - which means a bit firm, but solid-feeling. Off-road it'll do more than you would expect, and more than any SUV owner would generally need.
At launch there'll be three engines: a 2.0-litre TFSI four-cylinder with 210bhp and 258lb ft, a similarly-sized TDI four with 170bhp and 258lb ft and a 3.0-litre V6 TDi with 240bhp and 369lb ft. You can have a six-speed manual or a seven-speed ‘S-Tronic' twin-clutch 'box.
Worth noting the lovely 2.0 TFSI with the S-Tronic costs about four grand less than the 3.0 V6 TDI, yet has very similar performance figures: it hits 62mph in 6.9secs (6.6 for the V6 TDI), hits 143mph (147), 34.9mpg (39.2) and emits 189g/km of CO2 - exactly the same as the V6 TDI. The big diesel feels more brawny, the smaller petrol more willing and fun.
There's also stop/start tech and a graphic that gives tips on driving more economically - basically it'll tell you to change up a lot. It's not a car that'll have you lusting, but it does have a wide and practical appeal and a decent badge. Don't want an SUV but want the ability? An Allroad's the answer.