It’s probably fair to say that anyone entering a record-setting winter may have an unfair advantage when equipped with an Audi A4 allroad quattro like our Project B85. If it’s not already, augmenting the allroad with the proper equipment to further deal with the frigid weather we’re experiencing in the northeast will solidify its "unfair" status. Beware polar vortex, we are not afraid... especially thanks to great new additions from Audi and Michelin.
Project B85 allroad: Winterization

Audi Option Wheels & Michelin TiresFirst and most important when dealing with winter is the fitment of a proper set of tires. Our allroad’s stock all-season rubber seemed competent, but we knew we wanted some very purposeful high performance tires come summer and as those would be totally unsuitable for winter, why not go with a winter setup geared specifically for tearing through snow. Enter Michelin and their latest Pilot Alpin PA4 .

The "Pilot" name is already well respected as a performance tire. Michelin doesn’t take that lightly when applying it to a winter equivalent, and as such it is a worth winter equivalent. Not surprisingly, it is thusly offered as the OE choice for models like the Corvette and is factory approved by Porsche SE.

The new Pilot Alpin tread pattern employed by the PA4 is a trick 3D siped design that looks considerably different from last year’s PA3 that we had installed in on our 4 Season Audi TT S line competition and more recently re-used this season on our Project OEA3 . The latest Alpin design helps the PA4 deliver 10% better acceleration performance and 5% better handling over the PA3 according to Michelin’s own extensive in-house testing.
Project B85 allroad: Winterization

Tread is just one critical parameter of a good winter tire. Because of the lower temperatures, the rubber compound is also very important. The Pilot Alpin PA4 gets a new full silica-based compound Michelin calls Helio Compound+ better deals with low temps. Again in internal testing, this meant 6.6 feet shorter braking distances from 30 mph and an impressive 16.4 feet shorter in braking distances from 60 mph over the already competent Pilot Alpin PA3.

Given we were going for new tires and considering we plan future upgrades like brakes that will likely render our factory-equipped 18x8 inch alloys obsolete, we decided to use this opportunity to upgrade the wheels to a 19x8 inch. Audi offers a good-looking 5-spoke “Structure” design wheel as optional equipment for the allroad and that also serves as the factory winter wheel option for RS 5 and RS 4 models. Given our OEM plus tendancies, we decided to fit a set of these wheels for our winter setup. If it’s good enough for the Audi RS 4 and RS 5, then it’s good enough for our Project B85 allroad.

Changing wheels also forced a few other additions of parts. Our stock 18-inch wheels use Audi's one-piece star center cap that includes attached lug covers. These are not compatible with the new wheel, so we also replaced these with four round titanium grey Audi center caps and matching titanium grey lug covers. We also took this time to add a set of Audi Accessories' lug locks in order to better protect our wheels. The locks came with four lug caps of a different design to fit specifically over the nuts' larger round shape.

Project B85 allroad: Winterization

allroads fitted from the factory with our 19-inch wheel design come shod with a 245 40 19 size tire, so that was one option. Knowing we’d be lowering the car in the future though, we decided to go with a size slightly more aggressive. Audi fits a 235 40 19 on the European market RS 4 Avant, so we decided to mirror that. Fortunately, Michelin offers the Pilot Sport Alpin PA4 in both of these sizes.

Our local Audi dealer Audi Mechanicsburg handled the mounting and balancing of the tires. Their impressive shop uses a road force balancer to spin and balance the tire while subjected to the same weight it sees when fitted to the car itself. We've found this makes for better results.

Not surprisingly, performance for the car has been considerably improved. Given our new wheels were identical in width to our previous 18-inch wheels, the contact patch itself remains largely unchanged. The profile is lower, which noticeably helped improve steering response. The main difference for this tire fitment though is the compound and tread design that are considerably better suited to this winter’s perpetual snowmageddon status.
Project B85 allroad: Winterization

On dry roads, these tires are impressively quiet. Though designed for performance, you can tell that refinement was, at the very least, a welcome side effect and likely an intended quality. More importantly, the Pilot Alpin PA4s grip. Acceleration, handling and stopping are all impressively improved over the now retired factory all-season tires.

So, is there a drawback? Yes, we’d say one, but completely intentional on the part of Michelin. We were rather enjoying the allroad’s drifting prowess on early morning pre-plow commutes. While it still does drift if we really try, it is much less likely to go sliding sideways in a turn or with just a bit of throttle. In order to do that now, we need either more throttle or more steering input. All that said, we prefer the improved control this new grip offers us more than the lack of drifting that comes along with it.

Project B85 allroad: Winterization

Interior Winter Prep via Audi AccessoriesWinter grip addressed, our next step was to prepare the car’s interior for its own exposure to frozen water and road salt. In this case, that meant rubber floor mats and a trunk liner from Audi Accessories that will better help snow from shoes and cargo from soaking the car’s carpets.

Sourced from Audi AG’s German market Audi Original Zübehor line of accessories, Audi of America sells these particular parts over the counter at your local Audi dealer. These pieces are designed specifically for the A4 allroad (with applications for other models available) and so fitment is assured. Great factory touches like molded “allroad” logos also match the car better than other aftermarket units that place more priority on self-promotion of the manufacturers that make them.
Project B85 allroad: Winterization

This particular group of upgrades was actually a welcome surprise. We’d intended to pick up a set from Audi immediately, though when we took delivery of our hardly used allroad with just 2.000 miles on the odometer, we popped the trunk and found the whole collection of pieces sitting unused and awaiting our discovery. The dealer who’d sold us the car had never pitched these as an added benefit and we never bothered to check the trunk.

As you might expect, installation of these parts is simple. The trunk liner simply sides into place, flat side against the rear seatback and convex side against the tailgate. The rubber mats are just slightly more complicated, requiring removal of a tab of rubber presumably used when they’re attached together before delivery. This was removed easily with a set of household scissors.

Rubber tab removed, installation is straightforward. Remove the car’s carpet floormats for winter storage and slide these into place. Each is intuitively marked to let you know placement and front mats use the same floor-mounted round plastic anchors used by the factory floor mats.
Project B85 allroad: Winterization

SummaryProject B85 allroad is now prepared for winter, so we’re ready to start focusing on other things. The East Coast has been hit heavily with snow and while our home base in Pennsylvania isn’t piled under as compared to places like Boston, it’s been more than a month since we’ve seen any grass poking through the snow and we’re putting our Pilot Alpin PA4s to practical use on snowy road surfaces several times weekly since installation. Same goes for the interior mats. Given the pristine newness of our barely used 2014 allroad, we’re glad we prepared it for one of the harshest winters it is likely to see.

Editor's Note: We're waiting for a few part numbers and prices on several parts installed. We neglected to note them before installation and record colds this week leave us unwilling to pull a wheel and look for the numbers. We'll add them shortly, so check back soon if you need them. We're sorry for any inconvenience and will also add links once we have a part number that we can search. In the meantime, each part other than the tires are factory parts available at your dealership and the local Audi parts counter should be able to help you out.

Parts Installed