Used Audi A4 review: 1995-1998
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Think German car makers and you will most likely think of Benz and BMW, probably VW, but you may not think of Audi. Despite a glorious history of engineering excellence and sporting achievement, the four-ringed badge of Audi barely gets any attention in Australia.
Audi has been sold here on and off for many years, but those early models are now largely recognisable for the large rust holes in the bodywork, and the copious clouds of smoke belching from their exhausts.
You notice them for all the wrong reasons. That changed a little when the marque made a new start under the stewardship of Inchcape.
The 80 was a decent enough car, nothing remarkable, but good enough to win a small following of those who wanted German engineering, but didn't want to follow the pack into the Benz or BMW fold.
It was the 80's replacement, the A4, that began to build Audi's reputation here. It was a true competitor for the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class.
THE A4 was essentially the same size as the 80 it followed, but was based on a new platform with longer wheelbase and wider track. The overall length was the same, actually 1mm shorter, but it was significantly wider.
The A4's weight was cut by 45kg, not by using aluminium body panels, but by extensive use of non-load-bearing plastics. Aluminium was used in the four-link front suspension.
Under the stubby tail of the front-wheel-drive models was a conventional torsion beam, from the 80, while four-wheel-drive models had a double wishbone arrangement.
Unlike most other front-wheel-drive cars the engine was placed longitudinally in the chassis. That suited the use of four-wheel drive. The engine choices were almost bewildering.
The main four-cylinder choice was a new, long-stroke, fuel-injected 1.8-litre, with five valves a cylinder, which Audi claimed delivered better torque and much improved fuel consumption.
Audi also offered a turbocharged version of the 1.8-litre. With 110kW at 5500 revs and 210Nm from 1750rpm to 4600rpm, the blown four put out 18kW and 37Nm more than its naturally aspirated cousin. When pressed the A4T would race to 100km/h in 8.3 secs, and reach a top speed of 222km/h.
Audi also offered a choice of two V6 engines, both lifted from the larger A6 without change. The 2.6-litre had 110 kW; the 2.8 had 142kW. In 1998 the 2.6-litre was replaced by a 121kW 2.4-litre V6. Braking the A4 was easy with discs at each corner, helped by standard ABS and electronic brake force distribution.
Inside, the A4 had a long list of standard features, including dual airbags, auto air-con, remote central locking, power windows and super sound.
IN THE SHOP
CHRIS Lake, who services many A4s in his Auto Deutsche workshop, says the A4 has no major problems with its body/engine combinations. He says the timing belt replacement is due at 90,000 km intervals, and is a major repair, best done by removing the front of the car completely.
Rebuilding the auto transmission is also an expensive exercise, starting at $4000. Other items regularly repaired are engine mounts, C/V drive shaft boots, lower control arm bushes, front end knocks, oil leaks on V6 engines and climate control displays not reading properly.
The A4 generally stands up to high mileage quite well, but it is important to find one with a verifiable service record from an acknowledged specialist. It is important the engine oil has been changed regularly, because sludge build-up can be terminal.
PETER Colaci's 1995 A4 2.6 has done 140,000km, and he says it drives beautifully. He bought it because of its build quality, safety and styling. In the 18 months he has owned it he has had to replace the thermostat, otherwise it has been trouble-free.
THE BOTTOM LINE
GOOD performance and handling, with build quality expected of a German car, but held back by poor re-sale.
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