Review: 2002 Audi A4 CVT Sedan

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SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS  

2002 Audi A4 CVT Sedan
 
The 1995 A4 led Audi out of a serious sales slump, and 
helped revitalize the company. But 1995 was a long time ago, and 
the entry-luxury market in which the A4 resides is fiercely 
competitive. Despite that, 2001 A4 sales were anything but anemic. 
The A4 aged well.

But Audi is taking no chances, and 2002 sees an all-new 
A4. It's larger, especially inside. It features increased structural 
rigidity for improved handling and lower noise levels. The previous 
2.8-liter V6 engine has been replaced by a physically smaller, 
lighter, more efficient, and more powerful 3.0-liter V6, and the 1.8-
liter turbocharged four-cylinder has significant upgrades as well. As 
always, the new A4 is offered in front-wheel drive ``FrontTrak''(r) 
and all-wheel drive ``quattro''(r) form. Sedans were the first variety 
available, but Avant (wagon) and cabriolet versions have been 
recently introduced.

Audi's corporate motto ``Vorsprung durch Technik'' 
translates to ``advancement through technology.'' And the new A4 
incorporates innovative technology in the form of the 
``multitronic''(r) continuously-variable transmission (CVT). It has a 
wider range of gear ratios than conventional manual or automatic 
transmissions, and works by varying the size of two split pulleys 
(called ``variators'') connected by a strong link-plate chain. It 
incorporates state-of-the-art electronics and hydraulics to give the 
best driving characteristics. A six-speed ``Tiptronic''(tm) manual-
shift mode is possible thanks to preprogrammed variator positions. 
A motorcycle-type multi-plate wet clutch is automatically 
disengaged when the car comes to a stop, and re-engaged upon 
starting.

I've been driving a multitronic-equipped A4 1.8t for the past 
week, and it has been very interesting. The transmission's lack of 
shifting makes the car feel like it is powered by an electric motor. 
It's wonderfully smooth and quiet, with no negative effect on 
performance - acceleration is the same as with the five-speed 
manual up to 60mph, and better above that. The redesigned and 
larger interior is a definite improvement, too. Audi has taken a 
benchmark car and made it even better. 


APPEARANCE: The 2002 A4 is still a rounded Audi, but with a 
slightly more angular shape than the previous model. The longer, 
more formal roofline and angular taillights show kinship to the 
luxury flagship A8, while the long hood and relatively short rear 
deck echo A6 styling. A high, sharp shoulder line and flared wheel 
arches give good definition to the sides. The new front styling 
boasts revised headlights. A more rectangular chrome-trimmed 
grille and matching lower intake below the bumper together look 
like a large grille bisected by the bumper. All styling elements work 
together to give a sporty and luxurious appearance.


COMFORT: By U.S. standards, the old A4 was snug, especially in 
the rear seat. No longer. The new A4 has just enough extra width, 
length, and height inside to remove the major criticism of the first-
generation car, and its excellent design makes it seem even bigger. 
My test car was the base model, meaning leatherette instead of 
leather, and manual, not power seats. No loss of comfort or 
convenience. The two-tone gray-over-tan color scheme dispenses 
with windshield glare and adds visual space, and the textured 
aluminum trim looks better than the artificial wood commonly 
found in this class. Supportive seat design, a good instrument panel, 
and a tilt-and-telescope adjustable steering wheel aid the driver, and 
rear-seat occupants are no longer second-class citizens. There is 
noticeably more rear space, especially for knees and legs, and 
optional heated seats include the rear outboard positions, which get 
the same wonderful seven-position heaters as the fronts. The rear 
seatback is split 60/40 for times when the trunk isn't enough, but 
those times should be rare - there is plenty of accessible trunk 
space, and a full-size spare is found under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: All 2002 Audi A4 models have a safety cell around the 
passenger cabin, with front and rear crush zones. Front and front 
side and head curtain airbags, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with 
brake assist, and ESP stability control are standard.

ROADABILITY: All new A4s, FrontTrak and quattro, have a new 
independent trapezoidal link rear suspension and a refined version 
of Audi's four-link front suspension. More lightweight aluminum 
components are used, for less unsprung weight, and chassis rigidity 
is significantly higher. The result is even better handling, improved 
ride comfort, and a quieter driving experience. The regular 
suspension tuning is supple and compliant. The sport suspension 
fitted to my test car is firmer, with less body roll, and will please the 
enthusiast driver. 

PERFORMANCE: Power, performance, and good fuel economy 
are not mutually exclusive with the upgraded Audi 1.8-liter 
turbocharged engine and the multitronic CVT. The intercooled 20-
valve four-cylinder benefits from a number of internal 
improvements that result in lower emissions (now at ULEV levels) 
and better gas mileage. With 170 horsepower at 5900 rpm and 166 
lb-ft of torque from 1850 to 5000 rpm, it offers the sort of easy, 
``shifting optional'' performance that makes for pleasant driving 
with any transmission. The non-shifting CVT is in a class of its 
own. It keeps engine revs in the heart of the torque curve for the 
most efficient operation, and simulates keeping the engine in a 
lower gear for maximum power ascending or engine braking when 
descending hills. Acceleration is immediate - Audi took care of 
turbo lag years ago, and the multitronic adjusts variator ``gear 
ratios'' more quickly and smoothly than a regular automatic can 
shift. The shift lever can be put into ``Tiptronic''(r) manual shift 
mode, with a choice of six ``ratios'' programmed into the 
transmission's software to keep revs up in performance driving, but 
I rarely felt it necessary to do so. The multitronic's smoothness also 
adds to the A4's luxury feeling, and acceleration is better than with 
the five-speed manual gearbox. 

CONCLUSIONS: In the new A4, Audi has made a good car even 
better.

SPECIFICATIONS
2002 Audi A4 CVT Sedan
Base Price			$ 26,050
Price As Tested		$ 29,950
Engine Type			dual overhead cam 20-valve inline 4-
cylinder 
Engine Size			1.8 liters / 109 cu. in.
Horsepower			170 @ 5900 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			166 @ 1950-5000 rpm
Transmission			electro-hydraulic controlled 
continuously-variable
Wheelbase / Length		104.3 in. / 179.0 in.
Curb Weight			3362 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower	19.8
Fuel Capacity			18.5 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane premium unleaded gasoline 
recommended, 87 octane regular acceptable
Tires				P235/45 HR17 Dunlop SP Winter 
Sport
Brakes, front/rear		antilock vented disc / solid disc 
Suspension, front/rear		independent four-link / independent 
multilink
Drivetrain			front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		20 / 29 / 24
0 to 60 mph				7.8  sec
1/4 mile (E.T.)				15.9 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Dolphin gray pearl effect				$    450
Glass power tilt and slide sunroof			$ 1,000
Sport package - includes: 17-inch 5-spoke cast alloy
 wheels, sport-tuned suspension, ultra-high
 performance summer tires				$ 1,000
Heated front and rear seats				$    525
Premium package - includes: Homelink (r) remote
 transmitter, auto-dimming exterior and
 interior mirrors					$    350
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