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New Car/Review - Audi A4 1.8 Avant Quattro By John Heilig


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SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

by John Heilig

SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL:                   Audi A4 1.8 T Avant Quattro
ENGINE:                  1.8-liter turbocharged four
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:       150 hp @ 5700 rpm/155 rpm
TRANSMISSION:            Five-speed manual
FUEL ECONOMY:            21mpg city, 29 mpg highway, 23.4 mpg test
WHEELBASE:               103.0 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 176.7 x 68.2 x 56.7 in.
CURB WEIGHT:             3351 lbs.
FUEL CAPACITY:           15.9 gal. 
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:        31.0/63.7 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down)
TIRES:                   205/60R15 
INSTRUMENTS:             Speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, 
                         water temperature, analog clock, 
						 oil pressure, battery voltage.
EQUIPMENT:               Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, 
                         power seats, cruise control, air conditioner, 
						 AM-FM stereo RDS radio with in-dash cassette player, 
						 anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, dual front air bags, 
						 side air bags.
STICKER PRICE:           $26,440 

This car has a long name. The important part of it is Audi, who has been building quality vehicles for a long time. Modern Audis resemble all-too-closely the Volkswagen; the A4 still has enough Audi in it to make it different.

Our tester this week is the A4 1.8 T Avant Quattro. Let's go through the name.

Audi indicates it's a quality-built German car. The 1.8b T indicates it's a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops 150 horsepower. It drives the wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. I liked the gearbox. It didn't have short crisp throws like the Miata or Corvette, but it wasn't sloppy either like the Mercedes-Benz 230SLK. It was just about right for this type of vehicle.

Quattro means it has all-wheel drive capability. Normally the A4 is a front-wheel drive vehicle, but if the front wheels lose traction, the differential shifts traction to the wheels with the most traction, and moderates the amount of power going to each axle. We unfortunately or fortunately, the week after bad ice and snow storms in out area. There were some remnants of these storms on the road sin this area, but we never had to worry about running across some sneaky slippery spot. If they were there, the Audi's Quattro capabilities would have taken care of them.

For stopping theA4 we had ABS. A few times we lit up the ABS light when we didn't realize we were stopping in slippery conditions. To me that's the advantage of ABS. It works when you're not aware of the need for it. We were able to maintain control when we went over these slippery patches.

We were able to take the A4 over one of my favorite stretches of winding road at a fairly high rate of speed. There were some slippery sections in here and you could feel the Quattro take over. It was a comforting feeling. It's this type of handling and behavior and handling that made Audi the Trans Am champion a few years ago.

The last part of the long name for this vehicle is Avant. Avants are Audi's station wagons. The A4 is the smallest of the line of Audi Avants. A4 is about the same size as a BMW 3-Series, so it's the compact class. The wagon itself is also compact. While folding the rear seat down increases luggage capacity from 31 to 64 cubic feet, you still can't fit a 4 x 8 piece of plywood back there. But how many times do you have to carry a 4 x 8 piece of plywood anyway?

But for the kind of carrying that my wife and I generally do, and even for our occasional trips to visit our daughters, the carrying capacity of the A4 Avant was entirely adequate. In our youth, and when the girls were growing up, we had a large Ford LTD wagon that was ideal for a growing family. For empty nesters, this size wagon is ideal. Until the grandchildren come along. But if I had a lot of objects to carry often, I'd probably opt for a larger wagon.

There were a few things about the A4 Avant that I didn't think were great. The center armrest when it's folded down is in an inconvenient position for using a manual transmission. You have to shift with a bent wrist that becomes painful after a while. When the armrest is flipped up it exposes two cupholders that are equally inconvenient for comfortable use. Ideally, they should be mounted further forward.

But other than these minor annoyances, the Audi A4 1.8 T Avant Quattro proved to be a comfortable, practical vehicle, even though it's a mouthful to pronounce.