Long-Term Audi Assured A4 1.8T Part 2

Mileage: 18,703

Whenever we get a new car in our hands for evaluation, we all go through the routine of pushing buttons, kicking the tires, and taking it out to our favorite “test course”—which usually means a trip to the local on-ramp. This was the scene that transpired the day our Denim Blue Audi Assured 2002 A4 1.8T, with just less than 15,000 miles, was delivered to us. Though not technically “new”, the car’s fit and finish was still quite tight, and the engine had not loosened up much.

During the course of this long-term test, we wanted to see how the standard sports suspension and overall package fared on a daily basis. On what constitutes “roads” in the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area, we have initially found that the stiff suspension and added 17-inch tires make for a rough ride, but not to the point where it is intolerable. Whether necessary or not, we feel the need to swerve around a lot of the rougher stuff because of the lower stance, larger tires and firm suspension. The harsher potholes are fairly well dampened and not transmitted into the cabin. Hitting bumps in the middle of a corner fails to upset this car even when one side of the car’s suspension is heavily loaded. The nice thing about Quattro and a fully independent suspension is the added stability when confronting uneven pavement. When traveling roads with truck ruts however, we noticed that the car tended to “tramline”, probably due to the aggressive wheel/tire setup of our A4. This side-to-side swaying caught us out a couple of times, especially in the rain.

The Michelin Pilots seemed to have a fair share of tread left in them but were getting increasingly louder as the miles piled on. This is not too surprising given that other 2002 A4 owners have experienced the same effect with this particular tire once higher mileage was reached. We debated replacing the tires for something a bit more aggressive and quieter and the jury was still out on this issue until “it” happened. “It” was an ill-timed blow-out that in true Murphy’s Law-fashion, happened on our way to an early morning meeting. There was no warning, just a loud “BAM!” as the car settled onto the rim. In response, the car was promptly slowed pulled off the side of the road. Out came our trusty VW/Audi jack and off came the tire. Of course we had the option to call Audi Roadside Assistance, but given the morning’s schedule, decided it’d be faster to do just swap the spare onto the car.

Upon inspection of the flat we discovered that an inch and a half sheet metal screw had successfully punctured the inside tire, come out the sidewall and gone back in right into the rim. The sidewall was completely cut open which explains how it lost air so quickly. Once we locked the spare tire into place, the jury came to a verdict: We were throwing out the Michelins in favor of 4 new Bridgestone RE750s. With one tire damaged beyond repair and 15,000 miles logged onto the remaining tires, replacing all four for the sake of the all-wheel drive system also seemed prudent as differing circumference of tires might cause damage.

Having previously used Bridgestone’s RE730 (the predecessor to the RE750), we were familiar and pleased with the added grip and superior wet weather capabilities of the tires. The RE750s built on the excellence of the RE730s with the addition of “UNI-T” technologies. Once we had these tires mounted and balanced, we quickly noticed reduced noise levels and enhanced wet weather traction. It is truly amazing how much a set of new rubber can alter the on-road characteristics of a car. With this transformation, the prospect of taking advantage of the suspension and Quattro became a bit more exciting.

But it was not all champagne and smiles. Roughly 1,000 miles into our test, we noticed the right front speaker was cutting out. This slowly progressed into the whole left bank of speakers cutting out and then annoyingly popping back on at random times. Wanting to minimize trips to the dealership as well as downtime of the A4, we are holding out until the 20k service to get this problem addressed. In the meantime we’ll have to put up with the stereo’s manic personality.

In the next installment, we will be detailing our 20k service, and hopefully, the resolution to our speaker problems. And, just to spice up or ride a bit, we’ll add some anecdotes about our experience with aftermarket parts that we have added to the car.

Editor Quotes

Jamie VonDruska – The A4 is currently one of my favorite cars – super tight chassis, good compromise of ride and handling, great fit and finish and overall not too big and not too small. A few more tweaks here and there and it will be nearly perfect.

George Achorn – The sport suspension is fantastic. It soaks up speed bumps better than much taller stock suspensions, but retains a very aggressive stock ride height.

More info: http://www.audiusa.com/certified

Parts Counter – AMS Short Shift Kit

As part of the ongoing series with our Long-Term 2002 A4, we decided to write about a topic near and dear to every enthusiasts: personalizing our cars. After all, the inability to leave a car “as is”, is the very things that makes us enthusiasts.

One of the more annoying features of the B6 A4 cars is the long shifter throw. Advanced Motorsport Solutions(AMS, http://www.advancedmotorsport.com), developed a short shifter kit to remedy this problem. Their patent-pending design allows a driver to vary throw adjustability from 10 to 35 percent through the use of three slots on the shifter assembly. Drivers can also adjust the height of the shift rod itself and accommodate either the OEM shift knob or aftermarket units. Essentially the AMS Short Shifter is the Swiss Army knife of short shifter kits.

As a fairly decent shade-tree mechanic, we found the installation time-consuming. If you are unsure of your mechanical abilities, we would not recommend this process; however, with help and patience, it is not insurmountable. We would highly recommend investing in the proper wrench extensions, as many of the bolts are deep within the confines of the transmission tunnel.

Installing this kit is almost a shame as its CNC billet design is just an amazing piece of work. We elected to leave our shifter in the “B” slot with the shifter height set all the way to the lowest setting. This was done because we found when shifting into 5th , you sometimes would unknowingly hit your passenger’s leg with the stock shifter in place.

Once on the road the difference was amazing. Should this shifter be included in Audi’s Sports Package? Most definitely!!! Side to side movement was extremely tight and front to back throws were amazingly smooth and precise. Notchiness was not to be found. We also found we were able to cleanly and quickly move between gears since we could keep the turbo spooled up. Our final conclusion: the AMS Short Shift kit should be at the top of the modification list of any Audi A4 enthusiast.

More info: advancedmotorsport.com

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