2003 Audi A4


2002 Audi A4

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2004.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

More Americanized A4 moves closer to the higher-line Audi A6.
  • Larger and roomier
  • New continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Refined
  • High engine revs at highway speeds
  • Long-throw clutch
  • Ignition switch location

Audi has made its cars increasingly Americanized with broader appeal since the early 1990s, while retaining a strong identity. The 2002 "near-luxury" A4, which is Audi's top seller here, shows how good the German automaker has become in reading the U.S. market.

That market once was a disaster for Audi because allegations about "unintentional acceleration" of the aerodynamically advanced Audi 5000 model by the 60 Minutes television show nearly buried the automaker here. It turned out that 5000 drivers were mistakenly putting their foot on the gas pedal instead of the brake, but the controversy lingered for years.

Audi dealers rejoiced in 1992, when they got the new 100 model. It was the first Audi to which most Americans could relate. It had a V6 instead of a 5-cylinder engine, and a smooth body that could have come from American or Japanese automakers. Special pains were taken to make sure American drivers would hit the right pedals.

Least Costly Audi
The stylish A4 debuted in 1995 and also went a long way toward helping Audi's revival here. That's partly because lower-line trims of the A4 are the least costly Audis. Base prices of the revamped 2002 A4 range from $24,900 to $33,140.

At this point, the A4 Avant station wagon and hot rod S4 2.7T sedan and wagon are being sold as carryover models. They cost from $27,650 to $40,500 but haven't undergone the revamping of the 2002 A4 sedan. The redone version of the A4 Avant wagon may arrive next spring, while a new S4 may not be introduced until 2003. A new A4 convertible also probably will be offered as a 2003 model.

Resembles Costlier Model
The revamped A4 sedan now in showrooms resembles the larger, costlier Audi A6. If there's one thing Americans love in vehicles, it's room. (One reason why so many trucks have been sold.)

The A4 thus is roomier because it's 1.3 inches wider, 2.3 inches longer and a half an inch taller, with a 1.3-inch longer wheelbase. The car also has wider front and rear tracks for a more athletic stance.

More Powerful V6
However, despite such items as a new aluminum suspension, weight of the A4 has increased a few hundred pounds. It thus is a good thing that there's a slightly larger 3.0-liter 220-horsepower version of last year's 190-horsepower V6.

The A4 with the smooth, lighter V6 hustles to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. Almost equally as impressive is the more affordable mid-range A4 1.8T quattro (all-wheel drive) sedan. It has a refined turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine that generates 170 horsepower.

At $26,650 with a manual transmission and $27,800 with a Tiptronic 5-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature, the A4 1.8T with Audi's accomplished quattro all-wheel-drive system costs much less than the front-drive A4 V6 sedan, which starts at $31,390.

Advanced CVT Automatic Transmission
The A4s new, optional continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is only offered for front-drive trims. It's smoother than the car's conventional, optional 5-speed automatic.

Continuously variable automatics take some time to get used to because they don't have conventional gear changes. But, if a driver wishes to use Audi's new CVT for clutchless shifts, the advanced unit allows six clutchless manual gear changes via steering wheel thumb switches. This is the most advanced CVT; it can handle more horsepower and is more efficient than other CVTs.

Former owners of, say, Buicks probably will want the redone A4 with the new V6. But the A4 is the most fun with the turbocharged 4-cylinder and nifty 5-speed manual transmission.

Lots of Shifting
However, the manual gearbox needs a sixth gear for lower engine revs during highway cruising. For instance, the tachometer shows a high 3300 rpm reading at 70 mph. A sixth gear likely would drop revs to about 2600 rpm.

However, the 5-speed manual shifts crisply and works with a light action (but long-throw) clutch. The 1.8T with the manual provides decent 65-75 mph passing without downshifting to fourth gear.

Curiously, the V6 is available with a 6-speed manual transmission when it would do fine with a 5-speed unit because it's larger than the 4-cylinder.

Advanced Turbo Engine
The turbo 4-cylinder feels like a good small V6 during hard acceleration, hitting 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. It has advanced features including five valves per cylinder. But it calls for lots of revs and shifting to get the best acceleration. Lazy drivers should opt for the V6 and the CVT or conventional automatic transmission.

Fuel economy of the redone A4 sedan is in the high 20s on the highway, but only in the teens and low 20s in town.

Impressive All-Wheel Drive
Audi's all-wheel-drive system causes acceleration to be a little slower, but helps give the A4 impressive grip on wet and dry roads and comes with an electronic stability control system.

The A4 definitely is fun to drive, especially with the manual and quattro system. Audi says: "True to the performance tastes of customers in this category, 87 percent of buyers select models with the quattro all-wheel drive and nearly half prefer manual transmissions."

Fun to Drive
Steering is precise, with the right amount of power assist. The A4 is agile and its fully independent suspension delivers a smooth ride that helps sell upscale cars. The brake pedal is easily modulated, and stopping distances are short.

The standard suspension is fine, but the $1,000 Sport package is a good investment. It contains a sport suspension and wider wheels and tires.

There is good space for four tall adults in the quiet, roomier cabin, and front seats are nicely supportive. The dashboard is deftly designed, although a driver may often find himself groping for the ignition switch on the steering column; it should be on dashboard.

There are pull-down front and rear armrests and a large glove compartment. But cupholders have a marginal design and rear windows don't go down all the way.

Impressive Cargo Area
The trunk is large, with a lid that pops well up and out of the way. Cargo space can be increased considerably by flipping the rear seatbacks forward and then using the large pass-through area between the trunk and rear seat.

The A4 is nicely equipped with comfort and convenience items. Safety features include head protection airbags for outboard occupants.

The revamped new A4 sedan can go head-to-head with entry-level BMW and Mercedes-Benz models, and is more Americanized than either of those formidable rivals.


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BB01 - 9/23/2014 5:27:56 AM