What's New for 1998
The 2.8 sedan gets a valve job resulting in 18 more horsepower and additional torque. Side-impact airbags are standard, as is traction control. Opt for the automatic and you'll get the same Tiptronic technology that allows Biff to manually shift Buffy's 911 Cabriolet. A new station wagon called Avant debuts, while the A4 1.8T gets new wheels, a sport package and an ambient temperature gauge. New colors and stereo improvements round out the changes for 1998.
Buy this car. Audi's A4 is sleek, sophisticated and speedy, and has won praise worldwide from the 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 1998, three versions will be available: the 1.8T, the 2.8 and the 2.8 Avant. A 2.8-liter V6 engine putting 190 horsepower through the front wheels powers the 2.8 models. The less expensive 1.8T, which features a turbocharged 20-valve inline four-cylinder engine good for 150 horsepower, 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 $1,650. Dual front airbags, side-impact airbags mounted in the front seats and antilock brakes come standard. Purchase an A4 and enjoy free maintenance for three years and 50,000 miles.
Audi's 1.8T model features alloy wheels, a unique Sport package and a base price starting in the low 20s. Standard equipment on the more expensive 2.8 includes a more powerful V6 engine, wood trim and fog lights. The 2.8's eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar support is exceptionally comfortable. Leather upholstery is available only on the 2.8. A theft alarm keeps thieves from making off with the radio or anything else left in an unattended car. All-new for 1998 is the 2.8 Avant, a sportswagon version of the A4 that should compete well with loaded Subaru Legacy Outback models when equipped with quattro all-wheel drive.
A short options list reveals that almost everything you need comes standard on the A4. With prices starting near $24,000, 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: the affordable 1.8T, much-improved 2.8, and new 2.8 Avant will do nothing but enhance Audi's image with near-luxury buyers.