- Looks great.
- Impeccable build quality inside and out.
- Loaded with interior gizmos.
- Smooth CVT transmission.
- Fairly good value for German luxury car.
- Occassionally harsh ride when equipped with Sport package.
- Small rear-view side mirrors.
- CVT behavior takes time to get used to.
- Slight front-wheel-drive torque steer when throttle is floored.
- A little on the heavy side.
Press Coverage :
The Audi A4 3.0 Frontrak sedan is the most powerful front-wheel-drive model in the A4 range. The Frontrak takes a back seat to its Quattro brothers, but is still quite a decently-equipped and sporty sedan. The only transmission is a smooth Multitronic CVT that combines the fuel economy and performance of a manual with the convenience of a conventional automatic. The A4 comes standard comes with leather upholstery and power amenities. Other not-so-common equipment includes dual-zone climate control with charcoal filtration, concealed headlight washers and a 150-watt, 10-speaker stereo with six-CD in-dash changer. Safety features include antilock brakes with electronic stability program, dual variable-rate front airbags, front side-impact airbags, curtain-style head protection airbags on each side of the cabin, and optional rear side-impact airbags.
To improve responsiveness and handling, a Sport Package for $750 includes sports suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels. Audi's GPS navigation system is also available for $1,350.
Inside, a low-slung seating position and upscale materials dominate. The interior of the Audi A4 is more conventional than the exterior, but no less classy. The gauges are ringed in brushed aluminum, just like on the A6 and showy TT coupe. Controls for the radio and climate control have a carved-in look, thanks to Audi's tight building tolerances. Owing to its sporty side, the seats are harder and elbow room a bit tighter than in spiritual competitors from BMW and Mercedes. When compared to the Lexus IS300 and Volvo S40, however, the A4 is sized just right. The steering wheel is fat, the better to control the A4 with when the going gets twisty.
A hidden innovation and the A4's official ticket to the Technology Club is the drivetrain. The all-wheel drive quattro model returns, and on front-wheel drive A4s, Audi has made the multitronic CVT an option. Used sporadically in economy cars, the multitronic system is the CVT's first appearance in a more expensive mainstream vehicle. The CVT's claim to fame is its lack of gears, in the traditional sense. Instead of a series of gears, the CVT uses a pair of flexible belts, which can move closer together or farther apart to create an infinite number of "gears." This allows the transmission to optimize gear ratios for maximum fuel economy, while still offering smooth power delivery. Phenomenally smooth, in fact. With the CVT there's almost no feeling of the automatic transmission's "shifting" as we know it. On the road there's no difference from a standard autobox, except for the improved smoothness. The A4 is also equipped with a Tiptronic manual selector. Changes between the six preselected gearings are grease-slick as well. We noticed just a hint of torque steer when the going got urgent, but apart from that the A4 was well behaved. The 220-horse 3.0 liter V6 meet ultra-low emissions vehicle (ULEV) requirements. The engine also features five valve per cylinder technology and variable valvetrains, to improve breathing. The result is a broad torque band. Additionally, the engine's adaptability allows the A4 to run on any octane level. Since many competitors require premium gasoline only, it's a significant innovation.
It's ready to tackle the turns as well. The suspension is aluminum-intensive, for lightness and added responsiveness. The four-link front suspension and trapezoidal-link rear both use many aluminum components, reducing overall weight. The rear suspension is also self-tracking, to further enhance its reflexes. It's almost race car-quick. The Audi A4 feels a bit stiff on regular roads. It's far from uncomfortable, but drivers more accustomed to the softer ride to be found in Acuras and Lexuses may be put off by the Audi's businesslike road feel. The A4 has a taut feeling, like a really comfortable shoe that's not quite broken in yet.
It's ready to tackle the turns as well. The suspension is aluminum-intensive, for lightness and added responsiveness. The four-link front suspension and trapezoidal-link rear both use many aluminum components, reducing overall weight. It's almost race car-quick. The A4 feels a bit stiff on regular roads. It's far from uncomfortable, but drivers more accustomed to the softer ride to be found in Acuras and Lexuses may be put off by the Audi's businesslike road feel. The A4 has a taut feeling, like a really comfortable shoe that's not quite broken in yet.
In operation the Multitronic is a very good gearbox and the best yet of the CVTs. It is a very polished piece as is and one can only wonder how good it will get as improvements are introduced. It delivers better fuel mileage and better 0-60 performance than the available manual transmissions -- quite a feat. The Multitronic is smaller and lighter, but only available on the front wheel drive A4s at the moment.
The Audi A4 is a blast to drive with either engine. The 3.0 V6 offers more power than the 1.8T and a slightly bigger smile in use.
The sport suspension package, available throughout the lineup, includes 30% stiffer shocks and springs as well as larger stabilizer bars and high performance 235/45 - 17 tires and wheels.
The A4 comes with a high level of standard equipment, as you would expect in the entry-level luxury segment. Standard features like "One touch" power windows raise the bar for the other players. Dual zone automatic climate control, power door locks and fog lights are standard throughout the A4 line. The standard audio system is exceptional. It has 150 watts of available power through 10 speakers from an in-dash 6 CD player, AM/FM radio and cassette. An optional premium Bose system is also available. The A4 is a very quiet car with exceptional noise isolation which makes the excellent audio systems that much more enjoyable. Safety is heavily emphasized in the A4 line. Passive safety starts with passenger protection from the Audi's space frame construction. Intelligent sensors control the deployment of front airbags, side airbags (at all outboard seating positions) and Sideguard head protection airbags in the event of a significant collision. Further Audi insists on building active safety into its vehicles. It strives to provide 'neutral' or balanced handling capabilities. Its latest version of Electronic Stabilization Program, standard throughout the A4 lineup, takes advantage of standard ABS brakes and traction control. New for this model year is "Brake Assist" that automatically increases braking force when the speed and position of brake pedal operation indicate an emergency braking situation.
Audi further protects your investment by offering one of the best warrantees in the business. A comprehensive 4-year/50,000 mile warranty covers the car from bumper to bumper and all regularly scheduled maintenance during the warranty period is performed at no charge.
1996-2001 Audi A4 2.8
2,771 cc / 190 hp / 207 lb-ft / 3263 lbs / 0-60 mph 7.5 sec.