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New Car/Review

1998 AUDI A4 1.8T SEDAN

by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 23,790
Price As Tested                                    $ 27,320
Engine Type         DOHC 5-valve Turbo 1.8 Liter I4 w/MSFI*
Engine Size                                 107 cid/1781 cc
Horsepower                                   150 @ 5700 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               155 @ 1750 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                      103"/68.2"/178"
Transmission                              Five-speed manual
Curb Weight                                     2910 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                      205/55R16
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                               Five percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.29


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            23/32/26
0-60 MPH                                          8 seconds
1/4 Mile (E.T.)                       16 seconds @ 85.5 mph
Top speed                                           130 mph
     * Multi-point sequential fuel injection

(The EPA lists the Audi A4 1.8T as a compact car - the size Bob Hagin prefers. Matt Hagin thinks that the government should set up a "fun sedan" category and put the A4 1.8T into it.)

MATT - This Audi A4 has been out for a couple of years now and its sales during that time have put this Volkswagen-owned company back on the American auto map. Its small enough to be nimble around town and its 1.8 liter four-banger is turboed-up to put out 150 horsepower. I'm happy that the company supplied us with a stick-shift this time, Dad. The automatic utilizes that automatic/stick shift Tiptronic device but the real McCoy is more in keeping with the sportiness of this A4.

BOB - In my case, I think I'd prefer the Tiptronic system, Matt. It allows the driver to selectively rip through the five ratios in the automatic almost as easily as with a conventional stick-shift, but a "senior citizen" like myself appreciates being able put the thing in drive and cruise through city traffic. The engine is a work of art with three intake valves and two exhausts. The design has more to due with control of emissions and increased corporate average fuel economy than it does with performance but the only other car on the U.S. market that I can think of that uses five valves per cylinder is the Ferrari.

MATT - And the turbocharger is small enough that it doesn't react like you're releasing the hand brake when it kicks in. The 1.8T has remarkable flexibility too, due in part to the fact that it develops its torque at a very low 1750 RPM. You don't have to spin its heart out to get it going. There's a V-6 engine available in the A4 as well. It's 2.8 liters and it puts out 190 horses without a turbocharger. It uses five valves per cylinder too, just like the 1.8 and it's design is even more sophisticated in that it has variable intake valve timing and an automatically variable length system on the intake port runners. These items give it good flexibility at low speeds, but again it doesn't come on like gangbusters to pull the wheel out of your hands under hard acceleration like some high-powered front-wheel-drive cars.

BOB - The trick four-bar front suspension helps in this area too, Matt. It keeps the front tires in constant tire-footprint contact with the pavement even when the car is in a full-lock turn position. Our test rig had the sports performance package which drops the car almost an inch and adds more assertive valving to the shocks as well different sway bars and stiffer road springs. The car really has a sporting attitude and the driver's position backs up this claim. The front bucket seats are typically Teutonic with firm padding and lots of thigh support. It has full instrumentation with coolant and oil temperature gauges as well as an oil pressure gauge, a volt meter and the prerequisite speedometer and tachometer. The red lighting on the dash panel at night is a little spooky at first but you get used to it.

MATT - The A4 is listed as a five-seater but that crowds things a bit in the back and some leg room may have been compromised to incorporate the large amount of trunk space. Our test car had a cold weather package that included a special built-in ski holder bag that's incorporated into the rear seat back. I guess Audi considers winter sports almost as important as heat to the door locks, front seats and outside mirrors and all the other stuff that makes up the kit. Although it would drop the fuel mileage by a couple of miles per gallon, the Quattro full-time all-wheel-drive system that's offered on the A4 is worthwhile. It's a bargain at $1650 and a very useful item in areas where snow and road ice are constant threats during the winter months.

BOB - I had a couple of Audi 5000s many years ago, Matt, and they were good road cars even when they were old and pretty well worn out.

MATT - Dad, its a good thing that the auto industry doesn't have to depend on guys like you to keep it going by buying new cars. When exactly was the last time you bought a new one?

BOB - Your Mom has gotten into the habit of getting a new set of wheels periodically but the first and last one for me was in '57. I wrecked it a few months later.