New Car Review

1998 AUDI A4 2.8

by Tom Hagin

audi

SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide


SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 28,120
Price As Tested                                    $ 32,420
Engine Type            DOHC Five-valve 2.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 169 cid/2771 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               207 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                      103"/68.2"/178"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3112 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                     205/55R16H
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                            20/29/23
0-60 MPH                                        7.2 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     15.4 seconds @ 91.5 mph
Top speed                                           130 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

We've heard this story before: An automaker, (this time foreign) is suffering from lagging sales, and must do something - quickly. Then, seemingly from nowhere, one vehicle appears and jump-starts the sales figures. This time the automaker is Audi, and the car, the A4 sedan.

Barely 13,000 Audis were sold in the U.S. in 1994. By '96, that number had more than doubled. And since the A4 accounted for 56 percent of those sales, it's looks as if the A4 may have saved Audi - at least in this country. It's offered as a front-drive sedan as well as in it's more performance-oriented all-wheel drive "Quattro" version. Soon a four-door station wagon will be on line as well.

OUTSIDE - The A4's radically rounded shape has been accepted by most, since by now most manufacturers have adopted it in some form or another. Its proportions are equal front and rear, with a wide stance and smooth lines. It looks poised, even at a standstill. We rarely received negative comments on the street, as most people liked or loved its looks. Almost everything is body-color, (bumpers, rub strip, mirrors) with the exception of a small amount of black anchoring for the mirrors, and a thin strip of chrome window trim. Five-spoke alloy wheels and H-rated 16-inch tires are standard, while a set of seven-spoke units mated to Z-rated performance tires are optional.

INSIDE - The A4's interior is geared more toward sport than plushness. The front bucket seats are supportive and offer lots of side bolstering as does the rear seat, despite the fact that there is not much room for three adults across. Our car featured optional leather upholstery, which was firm and durable. The 60/40 split-and-fold rear seat greatly enhances its cargo-carrying, and there's still that Audi trademark: an expandable "ski" sack that keep the interior clean. Standard A4 features include electronic climate control, power windows, mirrors (also heated), door locks, driver's seat, AM/FM cassette, deluxe floor mats, and a tilt/telescoping steering column.

ON THE ROAD - The A4 2.8 is so named because of its new 2.8 liter V6 engine. Replacing the 2.7 liter version of before, the new powerplant uses five valves per cylinder, which gives it better breathing and more power. It now develops 190 horsepower (up from 172) and 190 lb-ft of torque (up from 184). Previous models suffered from a lack of low-end pull and the extra power isn't noticeable off the line. It continues to exhibit a slight flat spot low in the rpm range but the car is much faster, and more fun to drive since it no longer needs a running start to complete a two-lane pass. A five-speed manual transmission is standard equipment, and gives the car more pizzazz than the optional five-speed automatic, even with its standard "Tiptronic" auto/manual shifting system. Being a sport sedan, piloting our A4 five-speed test car was more fun than when we tested the original automatic version.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - Front-wheel-drive A4s use multi-link independent suspension up front, and a beam-type rear axle. The chassis is rock-solid, and is well balanced. Coil springs support both ends, and anti sway bars contribute a great deal to its minimal body roll in the corners. Standard performance tires give excellent grip and response, but we'd like to test an A4 with the Z-rated tire upgrade. The steering seems just a bit light, but is precise and free from the jerky movements caused by bump steer, a phenomenon inherent in many front-drive cars. Bump steer on the A4 is controlled by a unique design that moves the steering axis almost all the way out the center of the front wheels. Optionally available is a "sport" package, which adds the different wheels and tires, and a lowered and stiffened suspension. Traction control, a system that controls wheelspin on slippery surfaces, is now standard on all front-wheel-drive A4 models.

SAFETY - Two airbags in the dash, and two more in the side of each front seat are standard, as is side-impact protection and ABS.

OPTIONS - Our car had leather upholstery at $1,320, and a sliding glass sunroof that added $1,190. A stereo upgrade came in at an extra $660.

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