2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: Sport Wagon Challenge

Photo of a 2016 Audi allroad and a 2016 Subaru Outback. Used to illustrate the article, "2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback - Sport Wagon Challenge".

2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: Sport Wagon Challenge

2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: An Introduction to Wagons

Station wagon? Sport wagon? Sportback? Hatchback? Family-Adventure vehicle? Long-Roof? What do you call a car built on top of a sedan platform that, simultaneously, exhibits traits of a compact crossover? Well, regardless of the term you use, this class of vehicle has carved out its own, distinctive niche in Denver and along the Front Range (and the entire automotive industry, for that matter).

If you’re surprised that the wagon class has not disappeared, no one would blame you. In fact, Edmunds.com argues that the “crossover has long since supplanted the wagon as America’s family hauler of choice”; and articles, such as The Atlantic’s “Why Crossovers Conquered the American Highway,” suggest that this isn’t simply an isolated, editorial opinion. But even though crossovers and traditional SUVs currently dominate the American automotive market, Kelley Blue Book notes that the wagon class still appeals to a particular community.

The consumers in this segment, by an large, consider themselves “non-SUV” drivers who desire a similar “kind of capability and capacity” provided by their larger counterparts. To this extent, these consumers want a “more rugged and butch” vehicle than a traditional wagon, which enables “active households” to possess some “all-terrain capability.”

Of course, if you’re are an SUV driver, you might be asking: why does someone who desires the “capability and capacity” of a crossover or SUV want a car that isn’t one? Indeed, this is a fair question.

Well, for starters, you’ll achieve better gas mileage in virtually any wagon than you will with a crossover or an SUV. Second, the ride and handling of wagons tend to be smoother and more responsive than larger vehicles. Likewise, vehicles situated lower to the ground tend to be safer, and thus provide an added level of security for passengers. Finally, certain consumers find wagons, which are less boxy and more streamlined, to be more aesthetically palatable.

2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: The Wagon’s Visual Transformation

What the what? Some people think that wagons are “more aesthetically palatable” than a crossover or an SUV? Are these said people hitting the pipe extra hard? If you haven’t seen any of the recent innovations in the wagon class, then you’ll probably a bit surprised. Take, for instance, the 2016 Audi allroad (click images for larger views):


Audi Allroad Front Audi Allroad Side Audi Allroad Back

Of the allroad’s appearance, Bengt Halvorson of The Car Connection praises the automobile’s “rugged look,” replete with “cladding…more ground clearance,” a “distinctive lower-body” with a “stronger stance from the side,” and “more presence” in the front. Of course, he’s quick to note that Audi couches these more “rugged” features within the manufacturer’s traditionally “subdued [and] sophisticated” design language.

Kelley Blue Book ups the ante, so to speak, when it comes to gushing over the allroad’s exterior. Of the vehicle’s appearance, they say: “Like Samson drawing power from his long locks, Audi’s 2016 allroad sports wagon also derives much of its strength from an aesthetic source: contrasting, matte-finish wheel arches.” Yes, it’s those subtle but well-conceived aesthetic tweaks that elevate Audi’s design above its competitors.

One of the other leaders in the wagon class is the Subaru Outback. While this vehicle does have much to offer certain members of this consumer segment, looks are not, necessarily, one of them:


Subaru Outback Front Subaru Outback Side Subaru Outback Back

Halvorson, who lauded the allroad’s “rugged” yet “sophisticated” look, says that the Outback, conversely, appears: “more rakish and swept back” and, unfortunately, “more blunt and SUV-like.” While, no doubt, one could certainly argue that, as the old adage states, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” it’s difficult to believe that the Subaru can compete with the Audi when it comes to the Eye Test.

Regardless, though, today’s wagons look dramatically different than the old, mid-80s Buick station wagon that my parents lugged my siblings and I around Cleveland in when we were growing up; or, likewise, the similarly galling Ford Taurus wagon from the late-80s. Although, upon closer inspection, the Outback does seem to contain, especially in the front fascia, some of that good, old Taurus design language.

2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: “It’s what’s inside that counts!”

Looks aren’t everything, right? Inner beauty matters, does it not? We’ve all heard those phrases bandied about; and, more often than not, they’re employed as an evasive maneuver when dodging questions about external beauty (or lack thereof).

But, in the automotive world, what’s inside most certainly does count. Perhaps not more than exterior appearances, but interior appointments, materials, and comfort matter just as much how the outside of a car looks. In a recent review, The Car Connection mentions that the allroad’s cabin resembles the “high-quality look and feel” of the A4 sedan, thus extending the “streak of excellent interiors” that the Audi fleet has produced. Edmunds.com echoes these sentiments, claiming that the allroad boasts a “well-crafted interior” with “first-rate” workmanship and materials. Finally Kelley Blue Book raves about the “luxurious interior,” which is “complemented by advanced electronics.”

Not convinced by the unanimous opinion of internet car critics heaping accolades upon the allroad’s innards? Then check out some images of its interior to get a better sense of what everyone is gushing over:


Audi Allroad Interior Audi Allroad Interior

If the laudatory critiques and slick images don’t convince you, then consider that the allroad’s base model comes outfitted with leather upholstery, aluminum interior trim, eight-way power seats, split-folding rear seatbacks, power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, satellite radio, automatic xenon headlights, foglights, LED running lights and taillights, tri-zone automatic climate control, 10-speaker audio system, and Audi’s MMI interface as standard equipment. Moreover, customers have a plethora of upgrade options, such as iPod/USB connectivity,19-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, Bluetooth, wood interior trim, a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system, sport seats and shift paddles, and a hi-tech navigation system. Additionally, one can also purchase the allroad with Audi Connect, which provides a built-in 3G connection that can support up to eight devices.

And what are those same critics saying about the interior of the Outback? Well, the reviewers aren’t nearly as ecstatic. In fact, Edmunds.com leveled a rather damning critique, with the reviewer noting that he was “not keen on the Outback’s wagon body style or performance,” nor its “oddball ergonomics.” The most generous assessment of the Outback’s looks comes from Kelley Blue Book; that reviewer says the “2016 Subaru Outback’s styling still favors practical over pizazz.” While claiming that something is “practical” isn’t, necessarily, a terrible descriptor, it certainly doesn’t sound anything like an endorsement. If you want to take a peek at the Outback’s interior in all its bland and “practical” grandeur, check out the images below. Be forewarned, though, you very well may fall asleep while looking at them:


Subaru Outback Interior Subaru Outback Interior

Indeed, the Outback’s interior appears to be tailored to those driver’s who consider style and luxury irrelevant as it relates to their life and its trappings.

2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: “Yeah, but how do these dang things drive?”

Of course, at the end of the day, a driver wants a car that, you know, drives well. Obviously, with automobiles such as the allroad and the Outback, this has two distinct meanings. First, how does the vehicle handle on traditional roads; and, second, how does the car fair when taken off the beaten path?

The allroad, of course, benefits from Audi engineering, which means it handles and rides at exceptionally high levels. To this end, the vehicle performs with “carlike handling” that, as Edmunds.com mentions, “many crossovers,” including the Outback, just can’t offer. As such, the allroad gives drivers the “responsive feel” one comes to expect from the German manufacturer’s fleet.

Kelley Bllue Book agrees. “We love the way the 2016 Audi Allroad wagon rides and drives,” the reviewer says, and the “Allroad’s potent 2.0-liter turbo is a perfect fit.” But the reviewer continues, praising the car’s well-rounded “capabilities”:

The levels of rain, sleet, snow and driving wind we encountered [on our test drive] were enough to force lesser cars toward the first exit ramp. Our Allroad, however, gave us the confidence to push on, safely arriving at our destination with a new respect for Audi’s luxury wagon.

The biggest argument made in favor of the Outback, at least by the model’s “true believers,” is that it is the superior off-road choice relative to other cars in the segment. But is that truly the case?

In theory, Audi designed the allroad for “casual off-pavement driving” which can be defined as “gravel roads” and “light trailblazing.” But it’s ground clearance of 7.1 inches, stability control, and quattro all-wheel drive technology enable it to “tackle snowy roads and light-duty off-road trails with ease.” Indeed, those looking for a little bit of adventure will be able to navigate a “muddy dirt road” or “sandy desert washes” without any problems.

True, the Outback can navigate these conditions as well, but to think it can perform in more rugged terrain would be to overestimate the vehicles’ capacity for off-road driving. To wit, check out the below Jalopnik-produced video:

The Subaru Outback in the clip, indeed, does encounter some pretty intense terrain and, at first blush, looks pretty badass. But several caveats must be taken into consideration.

First, the owner of this Outback retrofitted his wagon with a four-inch lift. Second, the route that the vehicle takes results in a dented skid plate, a leak in the manifold, a mangled bracket on the underside of the car, and a bent exhaust pipe that pushed the driveshaft upward, tearing off the CV-boot from the CV-axle. Third, the owner admits that the Outback is not capable of rock crawling.

Translation: If you want to sink additional cash (over and above the MSRP) into your vehicle only for it fail miserably, destroying its mechanics while you’re driving off-road, then go buy yourself an Outback in order to promote your misguided belief that it is in the same class as Jeep Wrangler.

Also, it should be noted that, recently, Subaru settled a class-action suit with owners of the Outback (and the rest of the Subaru fleet) regarding “defective piston rings [which] caused them to burn extra oil.” Moreover, Subaru ““improperly denied many warranty repairs, and then, more recently, secretly changed the scope of its warranty coverage without telling affected drivers.” Read more about Subaru’s legal problems and mechanical failures at Jalopnik.

2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback: “But what’ll the damage be to my change purse?”

I’m going to be blunt: quality will cost you. If you’re looking for a cheap automobile, maybe the Subaru is the car for you. But if you’re searching for a top-notch, stylish ride, then you’re probably more of an Audi-person.

Having said that, Audi lists the MSRP of the allroad at $42,700. This version comes equipped with a 2.0 TFSI engine that produces 220 hp and 258 torque and logs a highly-efficient 24 mpg (combined).

Conversely, Subaru lists the MSRP of the Outback at $24,995. While the price gap appears a bit wide, it’s rather deceiving. The suggested MSRP is for the 2.5i version, which sports a 2.5-liter DOHC engine and produces 175hp and 174 torque. Those numbers pale in comparison to the allroad.

If you’re interested in an engine comparable to the one found in the allroad (and one that can actually handle off-road terrain), then you’ll need to purchase the 3.6R version. The MSRP of this Outback is $33,395. And if you add body side molding, moonroof, and navigation system (all of which come standard on the allroad), Subaru’s build-site places the cost at $37,622; and that price still lacks most of the bells and whistles found in the allroad’s base model.

When all is said and done, the allroad offers drivers more of, well, everything: looks, luxury, style, and performance. Certainly, the Outback is an economical and suitable choice for those who simply can’t afford an Audi. But if you’re searching for a rugged, sportwagon at the top of its class, then the allroad should be at the head of your wishlist.

If you’d like a sneak peek at the upcoming 2017 Audi allroad, check out the embedded videos below.

Redline Review:
SlashGear Review:
And, if you want a little bit of allroad car porn, check out this hype clip:

Car Videos:
If you’d like to take the Sportwagon Challenge and compare the 2016 Audi allroad vs 2016 Subaru Outback, visit Prestige Imports and check out our wide selection of allroads. You can also schedule an appointment with someone in our Sales Department by calling (833) 825-5423.