New Car/Review

1997 AUDI A4 2.8L SEDAN

By Matt/Bob Hagin

audi

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

SPECIFICATIONS

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 27,430
     Price As Tested                                    $ 30,320
     Engine Type                             2.8 Liter V6 w/MFI*
     Engine Size                                 169 cid/2771 cc
     Horsepower                                   172 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               184 @ 3000 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                      103"/68.2"/178"
     Transmission                              Five-speed manual
     Curb Weight                                     3015 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                      205/55R16
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29

PERFORMANCE

     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            19/27/25          
     0-60 MPH                                          8 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16 seconds @ 90.5 mph
     Top-speed                                           128 mph
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(If Audi was the subject of a Grade-B movie, the title could be "The Comeback Kid." The company has had its ups and downs during the past, but that's history now and its current products, like the A4 the Hagins evaluate this week, are outstanding. Matt Hagin liked its handling, but the hot-rodder in his father Bob longs to try the Quattro version.)

BOB - I've always like the Audis, Matt. Typical of German cars, they have a kind of "Teutonic" feel to them that you don't get in other cars. It's hard to describe, but the best word for it would be "tight." I had an old Audi 5000 that was well past its prime when I got it, but even then it was fast, tight, handled great and was definitely "German." This A4 version has that same feeling, but without the objectionable torque steer that has always been present in front-wheel-drive cars. Its front suspension is pretty revolutionary and is a really clever setup.

MATT - I thought that the suspension would bring out the mechanic in you, Dad. If you turn the steering wheel while the car is parked, you'll see that front wheels rotate around the middle of the contact spot where the tire touches the ground. This sounds like a small item, but the effect on the handling is outstanding. Driving this front-drive car is almost like driving a rear-drive machine. It's very controllable with no unpleasant surprises. The 172 horsepower V6 engine is slightly antiquated now, with single overhead cams and only two valves per cylinder. It could really use a few more ponies, but even at that, it will do 0-to-60 in eight seconds. That's pretty good for what is generally considered a compact luxury car.

BOB - Although I haven't seen it yet, Audi also builds a somewhat less-expensive version of the A4 that has a really slick little 1.8 liter four-banger that carries five valves per cylinder and a small turbocharger. It's called the 1.8T and puts out 150 horses. But the astonishing part is that it develops its maximum torque at only 1750 revs. This means that its best pulling power comes at just above the engine's idling speed. With either engine, the A4 is a great highway cruiser and it will run along all day at 80 MPH, or so I'm told. And it's handling is great, too, but I wish we'd been able to try out the Quattro version. Some years ago, the term "Quattro" referred to a high-performance all-wheel drive Audi coupe, but now it's the word the company uses for any Audi that has all-wheel-drive. On the A4, it's a bargain since it only adds $1600 to the price.

MATT - The A4 has a great number of items that makes the car driver-friendly. With the optional All-Weather Package, the driver's door lock is heated, along with the front seats and the outside mirrors. But I thought the mirrors were a bit on the small side. Audi is one of the few luxury car makers to offer a manual transmission and it would be my choice over Audi's five-speed automatic. The headlamps have washers and wipers on them and the steering wheel telescopes as well as tilts. The trunk space is cavernous, though I think that its size comes at the expense of some knee room in the back seat. The cup holders look like they were an afterthought, too, and the driver's armrest makes it hard to get at a cup that's stored in them.

BOB - Matt, I think cupholders are overrated as an attraction for potential buyers. Besides, I don't see very many cars driving around with three people in the back seat, so I'd trade off leg room in the back seat for more trunk space. I guess that some of the other cars we've tried over the years have spoiled me, so I was disappointed that the A4 didn't have an inside remote opener for the trunk or the fuel filler. I bet you and your brother appreciated the ski storage sack that came with the all-weather package. By the way, the four-ring logo on the nose of the Audi stands for Auto Union, a group of four German auto makers that joined together in 1932. Of the four, Audi is the only one that's left. Horch, DKW and Wanderer were the other three, and now they're just footnotes to automotive history.

MATT - Dad, you're the only guy I know who can work that kind of trivia into a new car review.

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