Premium compact car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $1,500 – $6,600*


1998 Audi A4 2.8 4-door sedan


1997 Audi A4 4-door sedan


1998 Audi A4 Avant 4-door wagon


1996 Audi A4 interior


1997 Audi A4 1.8T 4-door sedan

Pros:
  • Optional all-wheel drive
  • Automatic-transmission performance
  • Build quality
  • Handling
  • Ride
Cons:
  • Rear-seat room
  • Steering feel

Audi’s A4 has sufficient merits to withstand comparison with the BMW 3-Series, Lexus ES 300, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, putting it in good company at the low end of the premium sedan market. As for build quality, there’s no more solid small sedan on the market than an A4.

Overview

Compared to the 90 sedan it replaced, the new A4 featured a wedge-shaped profile, lower hood, slimmer headlamps, and an integrated rear spoiler. Wheelbase was slightly longer than the 90’s, while overall length, at 178 inches, was a bit shorter. The A4 measured about two inches wider. Combined with a shorter engine bay, that meant more space in the passenger compartment. Beneath the hood once again was Audi’s 2.8-liter V6, rated at 172 horsepower. A 5-speed manual gearbox was standard, and a new 5-speed automatic transmission optional. The A4 came with either front-wheel drive or Audi’s permanently engaged 4-wheel drive Quattro system. Automatic transmissions were not available on initial models, but arrived during the 1996 season.Standard equipment included dual front airbags, antilock brakes, automatic climate control, and a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Leather upholstery and a CD changer were optional.

Yearly Updates

1997 A4
Audi renamed its V6 sedan the A4 2.8, adding a new model called the A4 1.8T. As that nomenclature suggests, the lower-priced model used a new turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine. Rated at 150 horsepower, the turbo four had dual overhead camshafts and five valves per cylinder. After the start of the model year, Audi also launched an improved dual-cam V6 engine with five valves per cylinder (previously two) and a 190-horsepower rating. Both models had standard front-wheel drive, with Quattro all-wheel drive an option.
1998 A4
A V6 station wagon joined the lineup for 1998, dubbed the A4 2.8 Avant. Instead of the conventional 5-speed automatic transmission, the wagon got an adaptation of the Porsche-designed 5-speed Tiptronic unit. Tiptronic allows sequential manual gear selection via a special shift gate.
1999 A4
Audi added a 1.8T wagon to the A4 lineup for ’99. It had the same turbocharged 4-cylinder engine as the 1.8T sedan. The V6 2.8 sedan and wagon continued as the top A4 models. All A4s received a larger right-door mirror, modified center-console cupholders, and first-aid kit for ’99, and 1.8Ts got additional sound insulation.
2000 A4
A high-performance S4 model joined the A4 lineup, with a 250-horsepower twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 and Quattro all-wheel drive. Either a 5-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission might be installed. S4 sedans had a sport suspension, 17-inch performance tires, plus a unique grille, bumpers, and leather-upholstered interior. Sideguard airbags, designed to deploy from above the side windows as a head-protecting “curtain” against side impact, became optional in all models. Other new options included high-intensity headlamps and a satellite-based navigation system, with audio and visual direction prompts but no video-type display screen. Mild restyling this year was accompanied by a reworked center console and standard trip computer. A4 2.8 models added a standard power front passenger’s seat.
2001 A4
Changes for 2001 include standard curtain side airbags and a newly available antiskid system. All automatic transmission A4s now had a three-spoke steering wheel with buttons for manual shifting. The navigation system was not available for 2001 1.8Ts and S4s. And basic warranty coverage was extended from 3 years/50,000 miles to 4/50,000.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/front- or all-wheel drive

For its first season on the market, the A4 came only with a 2.8-liter overhead-cam V6 engine, developing 172 horsepower. A 5-speed manual transmission was standard; 5-speed automatic optional (starting several months into the 1996 model year). An A4 might be front-wheel drive or have Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system. In 1997, an A4 1.8T joined the lineup, powered by a turbocharged dual-overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine (five valves per cylinder). Later that year, the V6 was revised, adopting five valves per cylinder and making 190 horsepower–an increase of 18. A high-performance S4 sedan arrived for 2000, with a 250-horsepower, twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6 engine. For 2001, the 1.8-liter I4 gained 20 horsepower.

Turbocharged dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 1.8/107
Engine HP 150-170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 155-166
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
23/25
21/30
26.3
23.6
ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/169
Engine HP 172
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 184
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
19/27
18/28
21.5

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.8/169
Engine HP 190
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 207
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
20/27
18/28
21.5
Turbocharged dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.7/163
Engine HP 250
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 258
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
6-speed manual
5-speed automatic
17/24
17/24
20.0

Road Test

Despite changing little for 1996, Audi’s V6 felt like a new engine when installed in the A4–smoother, quieter, and a lot more responsive. Although it’s not the most potent V6 in the “near-luxury” league, it feels energetic most of the time and gets the job done nicely. Performance with the more potent dual-cam V6, installed in 1997, isn’t dramatically better. Gear changes with the new 5-speed automatic transmission are so smooth that they virtually set new standards for the entire industry. Downshifts occur promptly for passing, too. Tiptronic on the 1998 and beyond models makes an already-smooth transmission even better. Best bet for the turbocharged model is manual shift, though acceleration is adequate with automatic. With either engine, the manual gearbox is easy to operate.

As for economy, an A4 1.8T Quattro yielded nearly 24 mpg on a long highway trip. On the downside, the turbo engine growls at higher speeds. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system works without any driver input to provide excellent traction in slippery conditions. Still, front-drive models offer better gas mileage and have sufficient traction for most drivers.

Road noise is generally pleasing in the A4, in contrast to the old 90. However, the car’s aggressive high-performance tires generate considerable sound on rough pavement. Riding smoothly on rough roads, the A4’s suspension easily soaks up dips and bumps. Body lean is well-controlled in hard cornering, with good tire grip and stable handling. An optional Sport Package, with a firmer suspension and higher-performance tires, sacrifices ride comfort for a small extra measure of cornering grip and handling agility. As for negative aspects, there are mainly two: over-assisted, somewhat numb power steering, and brakes that seem touchy at first.

Passenger space is generally good, with plenty of room for large occupants up front. But tall people still don’t have an abundance of leg room in back. Furthermore, head room all around is only adequate with the optional sunroof installed. Gauges and most controls are easy to see and intuitive to use, with the exception of the climate-control panel, which is too small and low for easy reading. Cargo space is good, but not great. Detail finish is superior inside and out. Interior materials are also mostly excellent.

Ratings

Model Tested: 1998 Audi A4 2.8 sedan

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Rear - 2
20%
Cargo Room - 3
30%

Other

Value - 4
40%

Total: 45

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.0 178.0 68.2 55.8
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
13.7 16.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 36.8 41.3 33.4
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
103.0 176.7 68.2 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
31.0-63.7 16.4 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.1 37.8 41.2 33.3
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 A4 Quattro 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 5
100%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 139
Injury 62
Theft 60

Trouble Spots

Brakes
Description: Jump starting a dead battery, or charging the battery with more than 16 volts, may blow the fuse to the ABS system. (1996)
Brakes
Description: The ABS (anti-lock brakes) may activate unnecessarily under normal to light application due to cracks in tone wheels. (1996-05)
Cruise control
Description: The cruise control may not hold the set speed requiring replacement of the vacuum servo. (1996)
Dashboard lights
Description: The check-engine light may come on with less than three gallons in the fuel tank. This can lead to a lean misfire. (1996)
Dashboard lights
Description: Using cheap gas can cause carbon buildup on the valves, pistons, and combustion chamber, which will cause poor idling and illuminate the check-engine light. (1996)
Engine misfire
Description: If the battery is disconnected, the engine may idle rough or lack power requiring recalibration of the throttle valve control module. (1997)
Engine misfire
Description: After sitting overnight, the 2.0L or 3.2L engine may run rough, misfire and trigger the check engine light because the hydraulic valve lash adjusters drain down and all must be replaced. (2005-06)
Fuel gauge
Description: The fuel gauge may not register full, due to a bad electrical ground connection. (1996)
Hard starting
Description: The engine speed (crankshaft position) sensor can come loose causing the engine to crank, but not start. (1997-98)
Rough idle
Description: Dirty throttle body bore and throttle control module commonly cause rough or low idle. (1997-01)
Sunroof/moonroof
Description: Broken sunroof slides may cause binding noise. Each can be replaced individually. (1999-2000)

Recall History

1996
Description: Horn may work only intermittently, due to insufficient electrical ground contact.
1996-97
Description: Discharge of static electricity in low-humidity conditions can activate driver’s airbag when driver enters or exits car.
1996-97
Description: The plastic ignition switch housing can fracture causing the ignition key to stick and making certain electrical accessories (windshield wipers, headlights) inoperative.
1996-97
Description: A faulty ignition switch could render the car’s electrical accessories, like windshield wipers and headlights, inoperable. Dealers will install a new ignition switch with an optimized anchor point free of charge.
1997
Description: Rear-seatbelt retractors may not lock properly, or may not remain locked.
1997-99 w/automatic transmission
Description: Control valve in vacuum hose may not open or close fully at temperatures below four degrees (F) under certain conditions; could cause insufficient vacuum to be provided to brake booster.
1998
Description: If engine backfires during cold-start, an air screen loosely seated in airflow meter can become damaged; screen pieces could enter intake system and prevent the throttle plate from returning to its full idle position.
1998-99
Description: Some tie-rod seals may not seal properly; if moisture and/or dust enters swivel mechanism, bearing could wear over time.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.