Audi For 1998
By Carey Russ
After uncertain times a few years ago, Audi has been making a strong comeback. Last year saw the introduction of the premium luxury A8, and 1996 was the year of the entry-luxury A4. The Audi triumvirate is completed this year with a new generation of the company's core model, the midsized A6. The A4 range has been expanded with the introduction of the A4 Avant sport wagon. All 1998 Audis have lower-powered, next-generation airbags. Front-wheel drive models use the "Front Trak" system combining a 4-link independent front suspension with all-speed traction control. The "Quattro" all- wheel drive system is optional on all A4 and A6 models.
The A6 is the centerpiece of the Audi lineup. With it, Audi asks "Can one car change the way you look at all cars?" It's quite possible. The new A6's strikingly unique styling blends familiar Audi cues with avant-garde aerodynamic shapes to give the midsized sedan the look of a high-performance coupe.
The 1998 A6 is larger and better-equipped than the previous A6, and has class-leading trunk space. Its unibody structure is more rigid than that of the old A6. This not only gives the revised suspension a more solid platform for better ride and handling, it allows closer assembly tolerances. The 200-horsepower 5-valve-per-cylinder 2.8-liter V6 engine is matched with a 5-speed automatic transmission that uses Porsche's "Tiptronic" manual shifting technology to provide automatic or manual operation depending on the driver's desires.
The new A6 offers a choice of interior environments as a standard feature. Called "Atmospheres", this program gives the buyer a choice of colors, upholstery, and trim materials. Additional option packages allow further customization for warm or cold climates, extra security, and premium audio. As on all Audis, the "Quattro" all-wheel drive system is available for maximum traction under all conditions, wet or dry.
The current A4 is all of two years old, and is now Audi's oldest design. It certainly hasn't been forgotten. This year sees a station wagon version called the Avant.
The A4 Avant creates a new niche in the luxury car market, that of sports wagon. Think of it as a sports sedan with a fanny pack. The 190-horsepower version of the 5-valve-per-cylinder 2.8-liter V6 engine gives it plenty of sports performance. Front-wheel drive Avants have the 5-speed Tiptronic automatic as standard equipment; Quattro versions have a standard 5-speed manual gearbox, with the Tiptronic optional. Drivers who want to push the sports envelope can order a sports suspension package.
There are other cars in the A4 line. The A4 1.8T, powered by a 150-horsepower turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine with 5-valve heads, was introduced last year. The 1998 A4 2.8 sedan, with the newest 190-hp 5-valve version of the 2.8-liter V6, made its debut last summer. Both have new features for 1998. The Tiptronic 5-speed auto/manual transmission is available in all A4 models, and there are a variety of interior and exterior trim enhancements. The sports suspension package available in the Avant can be had in all A4s. And, the "Atmospheres" interior design choice concept offered with the A6 is also part and parcel of the 1998 A4 standard equipment.
New for 1997, the V8-powered A8 has evolutionary improvements for 1998. A new 5-speed automatic transmission features the Porsche-licensed Tiptronic manual shifting system, and all A8s now have the special insulating glass originally offered as part of the warm weather option package.
Two A8 models are offered. The A8 3.7 is a front-wheel drive car with a 3.7-liter, 230-horsepower engine. The A8 4.2 is a Quattro all-wheel drive design with a 4.2-liter, 300 horsepower engine.