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Audi A4 test drive report!

Hi all,

This morning while driving on the road in my 4000 I had a sudden
desire to look at a new Audi A4.  I dunno why, but I think I am being
bitten by the new car bug...

So, since I am in the Sacramento area today I ventured to both
of the Audi dealerships in this area, and found a metallic red
'96 A4 quattro 5-speed on the Lasher Audi lot!  They claim that
this is the only A4 in northern CA at this time, and was delivered
personally by the Audi factory rep.  There was no sticker on
the car, but the asking price is $34.9K.  This is a bit higher
than than '95 A6 quattro also on the lot ($34K).

Although I am not too crazy about the metallic red color of
this particular example, but the A4 is nonetheless a very handsome
car.  The light beige perforated leather interior is nice, but
I would have preferred the non-perforated leather surfaces found
in other recent Audis.  The tight, perforated material reminds
me of the "MB-Tex" vinyl in Mercedes Benz cars.  A bit too industrial

The dashboard is typically Audi, made of high quality materials
and looks very classy.  The A4 instrument cluster pod includes
gauges for oil temperature and voltage, as well as the usual
coolant temp and fuel gauges.  This is a welcome change from the
4000/80/90 cars where some of the auxiliary gauges were located
low in the center console where they are hard to read.

The odometer and trip odometer are now electronic LCD displays,
and there is a central LCD display for ambient temperature.
The climate control is the same unit as those found on the A6.
The stereo is an unusual Audi/Bose unit and it is not standard
DIN size.  It looks about the same height as a DIN unit but is
a good inch or so wider.  Yes, there are two cup holders, but
the design is very minimalist and retracts completely into the
console.  There is also a nice armrest with a built-in container
for odd and ends (and is the perfect size for a cellular phone).

The steering wheel is the standard 4-spoke Audi air bag unit,
which I was a bit disappointed about.  It's a nice wheel compared
to other air bag wheels, but I have seen a much nicer 3-spoke
air bag wheel in UK car magazine photos of the A4.  Guess those
are for the smaller euro-bags and is not legal in the US.

The front seats now have full headrests instead of Audi's
traditional "open" design.  Which is too bad, I prefer the
open design, and always thought that the open headrests were
what gave Audis part of their character.  The seats were not
as deeply bolstered on the seatbacks or the bottom cushions
as I would like (such as the seats in the Audi S6).

The rear seat backs fold down in a 60/40 split and allows long
objects in the trunk to fit into the interior.  The seatbacks
can be locked for security.  The trunk is nicely finished, has
a completely flat floor, and under the cover is a full-size
spare (I guess this is required for a quattro).

The car was fitted with 16x7 five spoke alloy wheels that are
very attractive.  I think the car might look even better with
17" wheels.

On the road, the car impressed me with its refinement.  It is
amazingly quiet, and the V6 pulled strongly, even with 4 people
on board.  The engine revved effortlessly to redline and at
5000 rpm it is barely audible.  The steering is a bit on the
light side for my taste.  I prefer the heft of the manual
steering on my 4000, and even my 5000 Turbo has power steering
that provide superior feel.  The clutch also has a very light feel
which I also wished was not so.  The car dives a bit under hard
braking, which is slightly disconcerting, but is otherwise very
poised and competent.

Getting into my 4000 after the drive in the A4q was a revelation.  
It makes me appreciate my 16 year-old 4000 all the more.  Although
the 4000 is far from stock with its 2.0 liter engine, 5 speed
tranny, Eibach springs, Koni shocks and larger anti-roll bars,
it represents the good 'ol days when Audis were much lighter
and had a more direct feel.  The A4 isolates much more, perhaps
too much so.  Also, I think that despite the A4's V6, my 4000
at around 130hp+ could probably keep up with the A4q from zero
to 60 thanks to the fact that it's much lighter.

I would still consider the purchase the A4, but it won't be long
before I'd want to beef up the handling some.  Perhaps with
stiffer shocks and springs, and more aggressive tires.  I don't
know if the steering can be stiffened up but I remember someone
posting a way to disable the servotronic (if that's what this car
has).  As it stands my 4000 will probably out-handle the A4q
by a large margin.  While I can toss the 4000 into corners at
very high speeds the A4q would start feeling a bit twitchy and
nervous at lower velocities.

But that's not really a fair comparison, since all the mods I
have done to improve the 4000's suspension I can also do to the A4,
and the A4 has a much stiffer chassis that should take such
upgrades very nicely.

The interior fit and finish of the A4 is beyond reproach, and
completely outclasses the old 4000, even my 5000 Turbo.

I am now trying to decide whether I should buy an A4.  If I do,
it will definitely be a 5-speed quattro, since it is a $1500
option, and well worth it.  I would want my A4 to be pearl white,
with leather interior.

The problem is that there seems to be VERY few A4s around (the
Lasher dealership may be full of it, but they said that they
expect only six A4s in the entire 1996 model year).  This means
premium prices and limited selection of colors and options.
Also, dealers are not interested in discounts when there are so
few to sell, and are not willing to deal.  Indeed, the salesman
I met had an unenthusiastic attitude about the whole thing.

So, for now I can only dream about that elusive pearl white A4q.
I'll keep looking...

    ///  Ti Kan                Windows 95 < Macintosh 89 < UNIX 70
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