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SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

1999 AUDI A4 1.8T AVANT

by Matt/Bob Hagin

Audi Full Line factory footage (5:48) 28.8, 56k, or 200k
SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,440
Price As Tested                                    $ 27,500
Engine Type        Turbo DOHC 20-valve 1.8 Liter I4 w/SMFI*
Engine Size                                 107 cid/1781 cc
Horsepower                                   150 @ 5700 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               155 @ 1750 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  103.0"/68.2"/176.7"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     3376 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  15.9 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      205/55R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/five-door
Domestic Content                                        N/A
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               N/A

PERFORMANCE

EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            21/29/26
0-60 MPH                                        9.0 seconds
1/4 (E.T)                           16.5 seconds @ 83.5 mph
Top-speed                                           125 mph
     * Sequential multi-point fuel injection

(Bob Hagin has always had a soft spot for small station wagons and felt quite at home in the Audi A4 Avant. His son Matt also likes the little hauler, but wonders how his mom and dad ever fit the whole family in those old-time mini-wagons.)

BOB - For a while there I thought that station wagons in general and small ones in particular were going the way of wooden wheels and side curtains, Matt, but it seems that they're making a comeback. In Japan, this type of little family pack horse is reversing a trend and is beginning to outsell the sport/utility vehicle. I've always thought that they were a practical type of machine that could transport the average family and still have the cargo capability of a small shed behind the rear seat. And parking is lots easier that with a mini-van.

MATT - And if the purchase of a little hauler is necessitated by the need to transport such plebeian items as groceries or purchases made on weekend garage-sale tours, the street racers in the family aren't going to curl up and moan when it's their turn to drive. This A4 Avant is powered by the same turbocharged 1.8 liter four-banger that's in the new and ultra-chic 2000 Audi TT two-seater sports car and the hot-rod version of Volkswagen's New Beetle. At 150 horses, the wagon is detuned by just under 30 horses from the TT, while it has an extra 400 pounds of weight to pull around. The engine is a twin-cam unit, of course, and sports five valves per cylinder. The torque comes on at a very low 1750 revs, which makes it a very strong puller all through the rpm ranges.

BOB - Our test rig came to us equipped with a five-speed manual transmission which makes the machine lots more fun to kick through the twisties. Industry trends, however, say it is bound to play second fiddle to the optional five-speed automatic transmission. The plus side of the automatic is that it comes with what Audi calls Tiptronic, a feature that lets the driver treat it like a stick but without having to bother stepping on a clutch. All it takes is the gearshift lever to be moved into a special slot in the shift gate and, viola, a stick-shift.

MATT - Some people in the industry call them "automanual" trannies, Dad. For some cars, ice and snow may create panic, but not A4 Quattro drivers since most of them are equipped with the Quattro full-time all-wheel-drive system. In adverse conditions like ice, snow and on wet pavement, this almost-imperceivable transfers torque to the wheel or wheels that have traction, and it includes all four wheels, rather than just two. To top off the goodies list that gives this A4 impeccable road manners, it has an electronically-controlled differential lock. Our wagon had an upgraded Sports Package which included 16-inch wheels that carried 205/55 performance-oriented tires. The package lowers the suspension, tightens up the shock valving and adds a front sway bar is a bit thicker than normal. The handling package makes this machine more of a sports sedan than a go-to-Grandma's-house family transporter.

BOB - And it's all controlled from a cockpit that is tasteful and very business-like. Almost every amenity in the book is included and it even has wipers on the headlights. Personally, I'm happy that the upholstery is cloth. I've never been a fan of leather seat covering since it invariably sticks to my skin if I wear shorts when I'm driving. If there isn't enough room in the back to stow skis or whatever, a roof rack is included in the list of standard equipment.

MATT - I remember that the old British wagon we had when I was little was a tight fit when all nine of us went anywhere, but I can't remember how we took any equipment with us when we went camping.

BOB - It was evident that there wasn't enough room on the roof rack for all that stuff so I had a small trailer that we equipped just for those occasions. Getting up some of those California foothills to a campsite was a low-gear operation with that car's measly 54 horsepower.

MATT - That car is still sitting in the backyard, Dad. Maybe we can slip a 20-valve turbocharged engine under the hood, connect it to an automanual and get it going again.

BOB - I think we'd better start by filling in the rust holes, Matt.

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