I love getting a clean car dirty. The new 2017 Audi A4 allroad I’m driving out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and into the surrounding wilderness is green and looks pristine. Hopefully, I can change that.
The Audi allroad is a station wagon built on the A4 sedan platform, but it rides 34 millimeters higher than the sedan and it has the kind of cargo space that might be found in a large crossover. There also is an extra strong underbody shield that hints at the allroad’s capability: It wants to go places you’d hesitate to bring a sedan. Some people scoff at the idea of a wagon, but they can toss their barbs at an empty space: The 252-horsepower engine moves the allroad from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. That’s plenty fast. Plus, the allroad features the kind of handling SUV drivers only dream about.
By now, I’ve crossed a mountain pass and I’ve been driving across the high lonesome for about two hours. The landscape looks straight out of the old Clint Eastwood western Pale Rider. And while I’ve enjoyed the comfortable ride thus far, the real fun doesn’t begin until I make a right turn at a desolate spot called Daniel Junction onto a dirt road that turns into the Bridger Teton National Forest.
The next three hours look like pavement has yet to be poured in the world. Among the five driving modes is a new off-road selection that automatically adjusts the steering, as well as the performance of the engine and a new 7-speed transmission. The all-wheel-drive system is new, too: Dubbed Quattro® with Ultra technology, it distributes torque primarily to the front wheels but can then predicatively modify the torque distribution to all four wheels when needed or as conditions require.
I pass a standing pronghorn, a beast that can reach speeds of 70 mph. It gives me a pass and I chuckle to myself: that would be an interesting race. The weather turns as I parallel the Snake River and I’m driving through a mix of rain and snow on a muddy course that threatens to become a tributary. The ruts are plentiful and I steer from one side of the road to the other and back again to avoid the deepest holes. The Quattro Ultra system is doing its job flawlessly.
One last mountain pass and a sudden glimpse of pavement heralds a return to civilization. The new full-color heads-up display guides me back to the stellar comforts of the boutique-sized Hotel Jackson ($276; 120 Glenwood St.; 307-773-220; hoteljackson.com) and I crank up the superb (though optional) Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound system for a little celebratory music. There is so much dirt and mud on the car that the rings of the Audi badge are hidden from view. That’s the mark of an exhilarating drive. And who doesn’t love a dirty car?
$52,625 as driven; audiusa.com.