What's New for 2002
Audi's entry-level sedan and wagon are all new for 2002. Along with a redesigned body structure and new sheet metal, the new A4 receives a variety of changes to make it sportier. It is motivated by either a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged four or a completely new 3.0-liter 220-horsepower V6, which can be mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Making its debut this year for non-quattro models is a continuously variable transmission (CVT), also known as multitronic. An in-dash six-disc CD changer and a dual-zone auto climate control top the standard features list.
When the Audi A4 debuted in the United States in 1995, it set forth the revitalization of the Audi brand. We've been impressed with the A4 since that time and have enjoyed driving the sedan, Avant wagon and the high-performance S4 and S4 Avant. But seven years is a long time for a car in the entry-level luxury car market, so Audi has completely redesigned the A4 sedan and wagon for 2002.
The new A4 is more sharply styled than before, with clear glass headlights, dual exhaust and a high waistline being this car's key identifiers. One of our complaints about the previous car, namely the stingy rear accommodations, has been addressed with a wheelbase lengthened by 1.3 inches and an overall increase of 2.7 inches. This results in increased legroom for both front and rear passengers, along with extra space for heads and shoulders.
We also felt that the previous A4 wasn't as dynamic as its Teutonic competitor, the BMW 3 Series. Audi responds with a 45 percent improvement in torsional rigidity with a completely new rear multilink suspension that replaces the outdated rear torsion beam; driving fun is further improved with quicker steering response. A Sport package that includes a sport-tuned suspension and grippier wheels and tires is also available.
As before, there are two different engines available, as well as front-wheel drive or quattro all-wheel drive for sedans; wagons are only available with AWD. The 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine carries over, though it now produces fewer emissions and earns ULEV certification. There's also a new ULEV-certified 3.0-liter 220-horsepower V6. Both engines are exceptionally smooth and have a broad range of usable torque. A five-speed manual is available with the 1.8T, and a six-speed gearbox is standard with the V6.
For those who prefer an automatic, models equipped with quattro are available with a five-speed Tiptronic transmission. For front-wheel-drive models, Audi has introduced a continuously variable automatic transmission known as Multitronic. Audi says the Multitronic transmission offers the speed and smoothness of a manual and the convenience of an automatic.
Besides the security that quattro provides in foul weather, the A4 comes with plenty of safety equipment, including antilock brakes, brake assist, stability control and front, side and head-protecting side-curtain airbags.
Those interested in standard comfort features will find that Audi has sweetened the pot in this department, as well. The A4 comes equipped with an in-dash six-disc CD changer and dual-zone automatic climate control system with a sun sensor and an active charcoal filter. As far as optional goodies are concerned, Audi recently announced that it plans to partner with OnStar to bring telematics services to its customers later this year; the first beneficiary of this union will be the new A4. Other extras include leather upholstery, the Parktronic parking assistance system and a navigation system.
With prices starting in the mid-20s, consumers can get a status car that's comfortable and costs less than it does to send your kid to college. Pricing can escalate when heavily equipped, but the new A4 is one of the best entry-luxury cars on the market. And if a sedan or wagon seems a bit too sensible for you, just wait a few months -- Audi will release the 2003 A4 Cabriolet, a four-seat convertible, in the fall of 2002.