IT'S a recognised fact that few owners of four-wheel-drives ever venture off-road.
But that has done little to damp down sales. And there's no denying it's a safety net should the need arise on an icy or snowy morning.
Yes, we feel secure in the knowledge that a twin-axle drive will get us out of a fix.
But the rest of the year owners are stuck with a high rider that probably doesn't offer the driving quality of good saloon or estate.
A few car manufacturers, including Audi, Volvo and Vauxhall have a feasible alternative - a robust estate car with raised ground clearance and four wheel drive.
I've been driving the latest Audi A4 Allroad. On normal surfaces in average conditions, you wouldn't notice the difference between this and the ordinary quattro.
OK, around a closed circuit you might pick out that there was a shade more body roll and a spot of understeer, but who in their right mind would take a car like that on a track.
A spot of plastic cladding around the wheel arches, a different grille and a rear diffuser identify the Allroad and give it a tougher look, otherwise it has the style and panache of the regular Avant. Ride height is 34mm higher to allow better clearance over rough roads.
There's a choice of four engines but the most popular is still the 2.0-litre, 187bhp turbo diesel which blends punchy performance with near 50mpg economy.
With the optional seven-speed automatic gearbox, the Allroad manages to double-up as civilised and refined long distance transport as well as being more versatile for country drivers who may have to contend with tough conditions.
The four cylinder diesel, seen across the VW Audi group, is nicely suited to the task thanks to ample torque and great flexibility. And with a 0-62mph sprint time of under eight seconds, it is no slouch. Top speed is a similarly impressive 134mph.
There's marginally more cornering roll than the standard Avant, but nothing that will worry most owners and the ride standard is composed and unruffled no matter what the surface.
The cabin is pure A4 with high grade plastics, clear dials and a general air of efficient luxury which Audi has perfected over the years. Passenger space up front is more than adequate but legroom in the rear tends to be somewhat limited if the front seats are pushed right back.
An electronic tailgate opens niftily to reveal more than 500 litres of luggage room. The rear seats split and fold to further expand carrying ability.
For such a nimble, yet comfortable five-seater, economy is commendable with most owners being able to expect fuel consumption in the mid 40s. My own average over 500 miles was 43.5mpg. Tax bills are commensurately low thanks to emissions being restricted to just 132g/km.