What's New for 1997
A cheaper Audi A4 1.8T debuts, featuring a 150-horsepower, 20-valve, turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine and a base price in the low 20s. The 2.8 gains a revised deck lid and expanded central locking features. All models have new cloth upholstery, and the console and armrests are trimmed with the same fabric as the seats. Three new colors debut for 1997.
Buy this car. Audi's A4 is sleek, sophisticated, and speedy, and has won praise from the worldwide automotive media. Small but safe, the A4 scored best in its class in the 35-mph offset crash tests performed in Europe, and performed brilliantly in stateside crash testing. For U.S. buyers, this translates into a competent and crashworthy alternative to the BMW 3-Series, Acura TL-Series, and Volvo 850, among others.
For 1997, two versions will be available: the 1.8T and the 2.8. The 2.8 is powered by a 2.8-liter V6 engine putting 172 horsepower through the front wheels. New is the 1.8T, which features a turbocharged, 20-valve inline four-cylinder engine good for 150 horsepower. The 1.8T is available in the same configurations as the 2.8; front- or all-wheel drive with a five-speed manual transmission or an automatic.
The A4 features a multi-link front suspension that virtually eliminates torque steer, according to Audi. We've tried a front driver, and their claims have been substantiated. Quattro all-wheel drive continues as a stand-alone option, reasonably priced at about $1,600. Dual front airbags and antilock brakes come standard. Purchase an A4 and enjoy free maintenance for three years and 50,000 miles.
Audi's new 1.8T model features fresh alloy wheels, a unique Sport package, and a base price starting in the low 20s. All early-build A4 1.8T models will be automatics. Standard equipment on the more expensive 2.8 includes a more powerful V6 engine, alloy wheels, wood trim, and fog lights. The 2.8's eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar support is exceptionally comfortable. Leather upholstery is only available on the 2.8. A theft alarm keeps thieves from making off with the radio or anything else left in an unattended car.
In June of 1997, Audi released a new and improved version of the 2.8. A five-valve 2.8-liter V6 was installed under the hood, putting 190 horsepower and 207 ft-lbs. of torque to the ground through a five-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Audi says the new engine takes the front-wheel drive and quattro versions of the A4 from rest to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds with a manual transmission. Opt for the Tiptronic automatic, and the acceleration times drop to 8.2 seconds on front-wheel drive models and 8.8 seconds for the quattro. Side-impact airbags that reside in the sides of the front seats were added, along with Jacquard satin cloth upholstery. Anti-slip regulation (ASR), an all-speed traction control system, became standard. An optional sports performance package includes a slightly lowered suspension, higher rate springs and shocks, unique alloy wheels, and Z-rated performance tires.
A short options list reveals that almost everything you need comes standard on the A4 2.8. With prices starting near $28,000, this means that you can get a status car that is comfortable, well equipped and costs less than it does to send your kid to college. We think that Audi has a winner with the A4, and the addition of the even more affordable 1.8T and much-improved 1998 2.8 will do nothing but enhance Audi's image with near luxury buyers.