Long Term A4 1.8T: An Introduction and Review

How was Audi going to improve upon the previous generation A4 with the new model? This was the main question running around in most owners’ heads as the 2002 A4 debuted. Sure there wasn’t enough rear leg room in the “old” A4, but the lines of the car were so timeless, we could forget that slight flaw. The newer A4 rolled into dealers following a predecessor that was much loved in the enthusiast community and that even rejuvenated the Audi line-up in 1996 when it was introduced.

On the surface, the new Audi A4 seems to have grown up in more ways than one, addressing the lack of rear seat room and general space concerns while continuing to remain a legitimate sports sedan. The “B5” generation was not a bad looking car by any stretch and the new one carries on with its own handsome appearance. Our test car was finished in the unique denim blue metallic paint color, and the optional sports package with 17-inch rims.

While the general fit and finish of the previous A4 was outstanding, Audi has gotten even better at their execution with the new generation A4. This car amazes with how much it feels as if it was carved out of the proverbial block of granite. Doors still shut with the bank-vault-assurance that we have come to expect from Audi. The new “Symphony II” stereo system, which contains a subwoofer mounted on the rear deck behind the passenger’s bench, does a remarkable job of providing quality sound for both front and rear passengers. The in-dash 6-disc CD changer, while a nice feature, can be a bit slow to eject or shuffle disks at times. However, the usefulness of not having to run to the trunk to swap in new music far overshadows the tardiness of the change.

Immediately below the audio head unit on the center console is the automatic climate control system. Initially we thought we were going to have to break out the manual to figure this system out, but in the end it proved to be quite user friendly and offered dual zones for both driver and passenger. This is a particularly handy feature when you have a loved one that constantly wants more air conditioning on than you do! The console itself is situated high enough so that adjusting both the stereo and the climate controls do not mean constantly diverting attention away from driving duties.

Cup holders? In typical Volkswagen and Audi fashion, the beverage binnacle is located above the stereo. Note to drivers: if you are going to drink a soda don’t rush around corners at even a moderate pace as it will likely wobble out of the holder.

As mentioned, the test car was fitted with the optional Sport Package with larger 17-inch alloy wheels. This lowers the car decidedly over the standard suspension package, giving the A4 an aggressive stance. Make no mistake; this is a fairly extreme sport suspension right out of the box. Drivers need to be careful near curbs and other low objects since this car’s ride height can mean easily scratched lower body panel. At speed the ride is firm, but progressive. Given the fact that the test car has such low profile tires, it was surprising how well it performed over broken roads and uneven pavement.

Like most all-wheel-drive cars, the nose of the car has a tendency to push wide going hot into a corner, but given a slight lift the tail swings around. The added benefit of quattro either in the dry or wet is clearly evident, and it is when the ground becomes coated with water that the capabilities of the A4 really become apparent. This car can make a bad driver look good in adverse driving conditions. The A4’s sheer amount of traction in turns as compared to a front-wheel drive or a rear-wheel drive car is clearly evident. Being able to pick the throttle up early before the apex of a turn is key.

The A4, at least with the 1.8T engine, should be considered a momentum car. Since it only has 170hp and 166 ft/lb of torque, getting back up to speed takes a little more time given the car’s curb weight of almost 3,400 pounds. Should Audi choose to increase the horsepower on the 1.8T it would be a welcome addition to compensate for the weight and the added drive train loss of the all-wheel drive system.

Despite the power levels that left us wanting, this car is geared fairly shortly. No doubt this contributed to the peppy feel overall.

When the time comes to stop, the brakes prove up to the task. Pedal feel is adequate but could provide more feedback on lighter applications. During more strenuous stops pedal feel seems to improve. The only complaint might be the tendency for the brakes to fade during more “spirited” runs on backroads. Enthusiast drivers will want to look for a brake upgrade either pads or other performance brake systems that are currently on the market if they tend to run their cars beyond what the day to day grind usually entails.

In the end, the final take on the A4 1.8T quattro is that it is a comprehensively balanced package. Other than the engine needing a literal boost in horsepower and possibly larger brakes, this car does just about everything well. Personally I haven’t enjoyed a “stock” car as much as this one in quite a while. For that reason, I’m happy to announce the car’s entrance into our long-term test fleet.

Our early 2002 quattro sedan is an example that has been sold through Audi’s own Audi Assured certified preowned car program. Over the next several months VWvortex will publish this car as part of an ongoing series with monthly updates highlighting not only the ownership experience of the A4 but also the experience and benefits of the Audi Assured Program.

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