Ive had my 1996 A4 Quattro for about a year and a half now, and i love this car. Its very entertaining to drive, the 5spd shifts so smoothly and the all wheel drive makes the car feel solid and stable no matter what conditions you're driving in. My car has been very reliable lately, but when things break, you're gonna feel it. I shelled out 700 dollars to fix an oil leak, just because of the awkward design of the engine. If you find a well maintained one, go for it because you wont regret it. But be very strict on your initial inspection of the vehicle.
Quattro is beast. I have not lost traction a single time and i have driven this car hard, through rain, sand, and both. I live in Florida so i can't comment on snow, but ive heard it takes it with ease. The transmission shifts so smooth and the clutch has a refined feel.
There are of course, many things that could be better about any given car, this one in particular could use more reliable electronics, cheaper replacement parts and some major weight loss. The car makes 172 hp and i believe around 180 ft lbs of torque (unsure about that last one) which are pretty respectable numbers....however it also weighs somewhere around 3900-4400 pounds. Its a fatty.
I don't know if the prior owner just ran the car down, but I've had to replace the heater core, two oil pans, and $3000 of other repairs I couldn't even remember. I love how the car looks and drives, the interior is so nice, but dumb things break. Like the sunroof went out and the vents broke, just little things but they add up. I'm hoping to get a newer Audi and not have as many problems! But it's great in the snow!
I bought my A4 at 201,000 and it runs like a dream. After a few simple maintenance repairs (oil change and new battery) it quickly became the car of my dreams. Every now and then it likes to act up, but I chalk that up to its quirky personality. I wouldn't trade my 96 A4 for my friends 95 A6 if you paid me. For me my car is absolutely perfect and amazing. I cannot sing higher praises to my car. I love it.
I do appreciate the bulletproof reliability of Honda (Acura) and Toyota (Lexus), but the driving experience does not even come close to that of a good German sedan such as Audi or BMW. If you are looking for strictly gas mileage and reliability, those cars are the way to go. But when you compare the feel of a Acura TL, for example, to an Audi A4 of the same year and price, the Audi is more solid and refined. In other words, the car has character. The Audi is the older, more mature brother, solid and stable without trying to be. Just like all the finer things in life though, it comes at a price. That price is maintenance costs that would most likely triple that of your average Japanese car.
The design-even after 10+ years you can still appreciate its beauty. Build Quality-Though the maintenance bills exceed the value of the car, it still does not squeak/quiver over bumps-even with 135k miles. Driveability-driven 100+ cars, and this is the 1st Ive owned that I have nothing to criticize.
Long term reliability. The cost of maintenence is horrendous and the engine seems not to be as long lasting as the 99 and newer models. It will be difficult to let go of this maintenance titanic, but affordable to replace with another, newer, less used model. The clutch is not as smooth as a BMW.
I bought this from a good friend of mine. There were all the service records from new until 89k when I got it. Now at 107k I have replaced the cat converters ($100 - I got universal ones - they work FINE!), the alternator ($165), and the plugs and wires ($130). That's it as far as maintenance. Now, if you want to keep this car affordable do the easy stuff yourself! Taking it to the dealer is a horrible idea - there's nothing magical about an Audi. I have spent hundreds more in extra modifications, but they weren't necessary ;-) If I could do it over again though I would get a 1.8t or the 30v 2.8 (98 and up). The 12v in the 96 and 97, while reliable, is pretty slow.