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A4 test drive report (long)

Hi List!

I've always been complaining that Audi does not promote theirs cars in
Poland, solely depending on traditionally good reputation German cars
have in east Europe. Hence I was surprised to hear an ad on the radio
saying "enthusiasts of good, ehm, sorry, the _best_ cars are invited to
participate in Audi Days from 25th to 29th April. Presentation of latest
Audi models, free snacks and test drives". Wait a minute, did that guy
say "test drives"?! For all of you wondering what's so special about it
let me explain that as strange as it may seem to people grown in the
West, most car dealers in Poland still won't let you drive the car you
are going to buy. Fiat and Daewoo were first to offer test drives of
their POS econoboxes being sold in large quantities here and this
particular Audi dealer is the first to offer test drives of expensive
luxury cars to the public.
So, on Saturday, dressed to look somewhat older and wealthier than I
normally do ;-), I went to the dealer. On display there were two A3s, A4
1.8, A4 Avant 2.4, several A6s with either 2.4 or 2.5TDI engines and a
gorgeous A8 4.2q. From that one A3, one A4 1.8 and one A6 2.4 were
offered for test drives - unfortunately, only FWD models. I asked the
sales person if I could test drive the A4 and he said sure, hop in :-)
Inside the A4 is spacious, there is as much room for the driver as in
the 5K. All materials are of the finest quality and everything feels
sooo solid, just like one would expect from an Audi. The instrument
cluster incorporates small oil temp. and voltage gauges, which is a nice
touch. The test car was equipped with automatic climate control system
that worked very well and made the old GM stuff on my 5K look
particularly old-fashioned :-) Interior can be finished in either wood
or aluminium, which looks very cool and I think Audi is the first
manufacturer to offer aluminium inserts in the interior.
First driving impression: the car is _quiet_. Now I know the 5K really
needs new EM, exhaust system and motor mounts :-) I was expecting the
N/A 1.8l 125hp car to be underpowered and was positively surprised. With
manual transmission, the seat-of-the-pants acceleration was comparable
to my MC engined 5KT automatic, at higher rpms the engine somewhat
lacked power, though. I would rate the power as adequate, would probably
need a 1.8T to be really happy. The 4cyl doesn't sound as exciting as
the I5, but the sound is nice to the ear. The 5sp manual transmission
works well, but I found the clutch difficult to operate. The clutch
pedal travel is very long and it's difficult to feel the moment the
clutch engages. Driving a stick on the highway was fun, but should I
need to drive this car in city traffic, I'd probably miss the slushbox. 
Handling is simply _great_. The steering effort is very well balanced -
enough assist at parking speeds, yet gives excellent steering feel at
highway speeds. I think that's because 1.8 doesn't have the dreaded
servotronic steering so many US listers were complaining about. The
brakes were equally reassuring, without the overassisted feel present on
so many other cars. The front suspension completely eliminates torque
steer, you couldn't believe it's not a quattro. I got it to about 140kph
on the highway and the car felt so stable and was so quiet... I could
drive it for hours. Well, at $29000 it's definitely not in my price
range right now, but who knows what future brings. Thumbs up to Audi for
organizing this wonderful event and sorry for the wasted BW.

Aleksander Mierzwa
Warsaw, Poland
87 Audi 5000CS turbo (mine)
88 Renault Medallion wagon (mom's)
91 mountain bike (just in case both cars broke at the same time :-)