Audi, the luxury division of Volkswagen, adds side-impact head airbags as a new optional feature on its near-luxury sedan. The side head airbags cover the entire side windows and stay deployed for about five seconds to provide protection in rollovers. Seat-mounted side airbags that protect the bodies of the driver and front passenger also are standard, as are anti lock brakes.
A redesigned A4 sedan is scheduled to arrive as a 2001 model. Styling on the new A4 will reportedly adopt some of the themes from Audi's rounded TT coupe. The new A4 sedan will be followed by coupe, wagon and convertible models.
The A4's front seats provide ample room for large occupants, but the rear seat doesn't have much legroom for tall people. The optional power sunroof steals about 2 inches of headroom. The attractive dashboard places most controls where they are easy to see and operate. Cloth upholstery is standard, and leather is optional on A4 2.8 models.
A new grille and headlights and fog lights relocated to the lower bumper give the front end a fresh look, while the rear benefits from larger taillights. The A4 is a few inches longer than a Honda Civic sedan.
Under the Hood
Engine choices are a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 150 horsepower or a 2.8-liter V-6 with 190 horsepower. Both engines are available with a manual transmission or Porsche's Tiptronic five-speed automatic. Tiptronic allows fully automatic operation or manual shifting by steering-wheel mounted switches. Audi's permanently engaged all-wheel-drive system is optional on both sedan models. Front-wheel drive is standard.
The A4 is short on space but has several selling points. It comes loaded with safety and convenience features, the security of all-wheel drive is available, and Audi pays for routine maintenance the first three years or 50,000 miles. Long-term, the corrosion warranty lasts an industry-high 12 years.
The S4 is a high-performance spinoff of the A4 sedan. Its key difference from the A4 is under the hood, where a 2.7-liter V-6 engine has two turbochargers, one for each bank of cylinders. The S4's engine generates 250 horsepower, 60 more than the A4's V-6.
The turbocharged engine teams with either a standard six-speed manual transmission or Tiptronic five-speed automatic that allows manual shifting with steering wheel-mounted switches. Standard features include Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, leather upholstery, wood interior trim, a CD player and anti-lock brakes. The S4 has side-impact airbags mounted in the front seats as well as Audi's new side-impact head airbags, which inflate from above the windows to protect both front and rear occupants.