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New Car/Review

1998 Audi A4

by Larkin Hill


SEE ALSO: Audi Buyer's Guide

The 1998 line showcase that took place in Santa Barbara was focused on the release of the A6; however, one could not help but notice how the A4 and the Avant stole the show. Their streamline design and peppy feel made the A4 a desirable everyday understated luxury car. Everyone fell in love with the colors, Audi challenged the rules and began playing with the concept that a luxury car doesn't just have to be astute and prestigious, it can also be fun and playful. The A4 embodies the complexities of any good person, it has a distinctive personality; it's modest, sporty, and best of all, well put together.

With the Audi A4 you won't get the immediate looks from the ambitious teens or social climbers that gravitate toward the showy luxury sedans, however you will get a well-appreciated and understated vehicle. Audi has attained recognition and appreciation from the most critical enthusiast. As I stood there scanning over the simple body design and uncluttered interior I saw the appeal.

As I opened the hearty yet agile door and glided in to the shapely front bucket seats I immediately remembered I was driving European. The firm well-designed leather seats were actually somewhat cushier than the basic Mercedes, but not nearly as cushy as the average American. The dash was well shaped and aesthetically pleasing to the discriminating eye. The instruments and control panel was easy to see and reach. This was my size car. While the front seats were comfortable the rear was large enough to accommodate a two medium-sized adults, no more no larger. The A4 seems targeted to the younger audiences that don't have kids, have a young family, or are families with somewhat of a height disadvantage. If you're over 6'4" and claustrophobic you're out of luck, and may want to consider the roomier A6.

The interiors of all the A4's were fabulous; each encompassed a different personality. Like the A6, A4 buyers are treated to the luxury of choosing their own made-to-match "Atmosphere". This breakthrough idea allows the buyer to completely personalize their automobile. Since the average consumer seems to spend more time in their car than they do in their own living room, the entire concept is long past due. Of course, there are recommended colors according to your cars exterior, but the choices make sense.

The system is simple, with the choice of fourteen exterior paint colors the customer can pick three distinctive "Atmospheres"; Ambition, Ambiente, and Advance. All interiors satisfy different personalities of the potential customers, who receive a brochure with samples of the exterior color and interior patterns, textures, and shades. All of the "Atmospheres" are distinctive, Ambition is traditional with Opal Grey Cloth, Leatherette, and Leather, with Graphite/Stars Design Aluminum Trim or Polished Walnut Wood Trim. Ambiente has a modern twist with Ecru Leatherette, Leather and Navy/Ecru blend. The interior is a Maritime Blue/Steps Design Aluminum Trim and Polished Vavona Wood Trim. The Advance "Atmosphere" has a southwestern theme with two choices in colors: Terra Cotta and Onyx. Both come in Leatherette and Leather, however only Terra Cotta comes in Cloth. The trims are Quartz/Stripes Design in Aluminum Trim and Open Pore Burled Walnut Wood Trim. All of which are coordinated to perfection

In addition to the basic look of the A4, there are many standard creature comforts that you would expect from a luxury vehicle. Automatic Climate Control with sun intensity control, pollen filter, Electric Windows, Cruise Control, and illuminated vanity mirrors in the left and right sunvisors. In addition, all power in the car remains active even if when the key is withdrawn, which automatically turns off when the door is opened. There are four cargo tiedowns in the trunk, a third sunvisor located just above the rearview mirror, and a 1120 Watt sound system with subwoofer and 8 speakers which is pre-wired for a 6-disk CD changer.

As with any automobile, safety is a priority, especially in a family sedan. Standard on all models of the A4 are side and front next generation driver and passenger airbags with dual threshold deployment. For the added safety of all passengers there is a safety unlock feature, which would unlock all doors and turn on interior lights if the airbags deployed. For all those who prefer "a little" more Audi offers four optional packages: Convenience, All Weather, Sport, and Audio. All of which offer such additions as a glass sunroof, heated seats, sport suspension, and a 6- disk CD changer with a more advanced speaker system.

We drove the 1.8 liver turbo, while it glided around the city streets it truly came alive the moment it hit the on ramp to the freeway. I had driven turbo's before so I knew about the wonderful burst of energy, but it had been a while and the amount of power took me by surprise. However, unlike some turbo's where it feels like the car has been released from a big rubber band, the Audi turbo provides a smooth burst of energy. The five speed manual transmission gave me all the zip I needed, with some to spare. It's 1.8-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine packed a hearty 150 horsepower. It hugged the curves and sprinted up hills

Overall: I loved it! I adored the body design and the colors; Audi's Silver is the best I've seen yet. I think the "Atmospheres" idea is brilliant. The interiors were roomy enough for me and the ride was comfortably smooth. There were a significant amount of perks that made me smile, the A4 even has headlight wipers, you know, the ones that look like a miniature version of the windshield wipers. To top it off Audi's signature Quattro system is only a relatively small additional cost, definitely worth getting.