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Expert Reviews 1 of 8
By Jim Flammang
May 7, 2003
Vehicle Overview Volkswagens luxury division redesigned its compact, entry-level A4 sedan and A4 Avant wagon for the 2002 model year. Not only did the A4 gain a larger V-6 engine choice, but it could also be equipped with an innovative multitronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Both the sedan and wagon body styles come in 1.8T form with a turbocharged engine or in 3.0 guise with the V-6 power plant. With the exception of the new A4 Cabriolet convertible, changes for 2003 to Audis smaller sedan and wagon are modest. New leather seating inserts are available, and 17-inch tires are optional for the 1.8T and 3.0 models. The outer rear seating positions get LATCH child-safety seat lower anchors and tethers. Option packages have been restructured. Automatic transmissions gain an interlock between the D and S modes, and the Bose Premium sound system now features Audio Pilot technology.
Sedan models are available with FrontTrak front-wheel drive or Audis quattro all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, and the wagons come only with quattro AWD.
Also available in the midsize A6, the CVT promises greater fuel efficiency than a regular automatic transmission. Rather than have it deliver a totally continuous range, engineers incorporated a series of steps in the CVT to make its operation feel more like that of a regular automatic transmission. The available Tiptronic automatic transmission incorporates a Sport mode.
The A4 is Audis top-selling model, with 35,379 units sold during 2001, according to Automotive News. The A4 competes against the BMW 3 Series, Jaguar X-Type, Lexus IS 300 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Exterior The 2002 redesign gave Audis top seller a more rigid body and some styling themes adapted from the round-profile TT sport coupe and the midsize A6, but the A4 is more angular at the rear. A trapezoidal-link independent rear suspension is installed. According to Audis Marc Trahan, the A4s base suspension is essentially equal to a sport suspension on prior models. Aluminum belt line trim on the 1.8T models has been replaced by high-gloss fiberglass trim.
The A4 sedan rides a 104.3-inch wheelbase, stands 56.2 inches tall and extends to 179 inches long overall. Standard tires on sedan and wagon models measure 15 inches in diameter with the turbocharged engine and 16 inches with the V-6. Seventeen-inch cast-alloy wheels, a lowered sport suspension, xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and a sunroof are optional. A Parktronic rear parking-assistance system is also available.
Interior The A4 sedan and wagon seat five occupants in twin buckets upfront and has four-way power lumbar support. The seat cushions have prominent bolsters, and a four-position memory feature for the drivers seat is optional. The seat cushions have prominent bolsters. The 3.0 wagons get 12-way power front seats. Space in the front seat is ample, but the backseat lacks legroom for tall riders.
A multifunction steering wheel is newly available for the 3.0 sedan. Later in the model year, a power drivers seat will become available for the 1.8T. An Audi Telematics system by OnStar is optional for all models. Audis navigation system, which works without a video-screen map, is also available.
Standard equipment on all sedand and wagons includes automatic dual-zone climate control, an Immobilizer II anti-theft system, and a Symphony II radio with an in-dash six-CD changer and 10-speaker sound system. An Audi Telematics system by OnStar is optional on all models. Audis navigation system is available for the 3.0 wagon.
Under the Hood A turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower goes into 1.8T versions of the A4. An aluminum 220-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 is installed in 3.0 editions.
A five-speed-manual gearbox is standard with the turbocharged engine in the A4, while the V-6 mates with a six-speed manual. The CVT unit is available only in A4 models equipped with FrontTrak, but sedans with quattro AWD may be equipped with a five-speed Tiptronic automatic. All wagons get quattro AWD.
Safety Standard curtain-type airbags deploy from above the side windows and cover the entire side-window area. They stay inflated for about 5 seconds to provide head protection in rollovers. Side-impact airbags for front occupants are also standard, and rear side-impact airbags are optional. Wagon models get an Electronic Stabilization Program that incorporates Brake Assist, which provides enhanced emergency braking power. The antilock braking system includes electronic brake-force distribution.
Driving Impressions Handling prowess is the A4s strong point. Both the sedan and wagon joyfully tackle twisting roads and take all turns in stride. The A4 Avants ride comfort is satisfying due to a nicely absorbent suspension.
A manually operated A4 with its gearshift flicking easily between ratios and mating to clutch action is enjoyable, but the levers position may not please everyone. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine responds eagerly but is a little noisier than the V-6.
Even though the A4 is somewhat snug inside, it seems to be a little roomier than its predecessors. The seats are outstanding and provide great support with their cushioning.