Used car review

 Audi A4 1.8 Turbo 


This seems to be one of the vogue cars at the moment - Audi's advertising, which took a straight pop at BMW, actually seems to have worked for the most part. According to that advert, these are cars for those who appreciate the engineering and exclusivity of BMW but don't feel the need to be quite that obvious.

The last guy I saw thinking of buying one of these spent hours comparing it with a BMW 318. Without driving either, he was torn between them:  Which would sound better in the pub? Which would look better on the driveway? Which would impress the neighbours the most?  The advertising didn't work for him - he bought the BMW.
Audi A4 1.8 Turbo Those with more automotive mechanical knowledge than myself reckon that this is a great car, a car with build standards that not only approach but may even exceed the much vaunted BMWs. I can't really comment on how well built it is underneath but on the surface at least it is difficult to argue. A quick glance over and around the A4 leaves you with the overriding impression that this is one beautifully made and designed bit of kit.

It's a classy looking car, sure enough, but it is very sombre suited. The colour schemes are nicely executed for the most part, but it's looks definitely err on the subtle side. Inside, it takes the normal classy German route of simple dark fabrics and simple sensible control layout; flash gizmos, jazzy fabrics and weird design are not where these cars are at. Instead, they promote a design that will look good for a long time; it may never be "IN"  in fashion terms, but neither will it be "OUT" next month or next year.

Getting in alone reminds you of the quality of it's engineering. There are no hollow-feeling, clanging doors - just a strong feeling of mechanical solidity. Sitting at the controls, the interior seems to have a precise industrial quality without ever imparting that bare, basic poverty feel of many VWs. 

Audi A4 1.8 1997 Dashboard Without starting it, the car sends all the right signals for those in the  3 Series market. The transmission tunnel is strangely large for a front driver (presumably to handle the Quattro running gear in the same shell???). Personally, I quite like the feeling of sitting in a car imparted by a transmission tunnel and find the lack of one aesthetically strange. 

The seats are firm but well bolstered to stop you sliding about and the steering wheel is decent-looking - thick rimmed and nice to grasp. Very few makers seem able to construct a steering wheel which is both good to look at and contains an air bag. Audi seems to be able to do it better than most. It may seem a minor point but the steering wheel really is the focal point of a car and you really don't want to spend thousands extra for a "Quality" brand name only to receive a ten- bob steering wheel.

It's not the biggest car in the world either, like the older 3-series BMWs it seems to fit more in to the sub Mondeo/Vectra  size bracket. Rear space is quite limited for bigger passengers and the boot really isn't that big at all.

Slipping around in traffic is very easy in this car as it's controls are very light, the gear box is super light and slick, the accelerator, brakes and clutch almost too light and the steering finger-twirling easy. This contrasts markedly with the switch gear which has a solid, indestructible feel. 

Most of the time, this car is all sweetness and light. On smooth roads and motorways it is stable and positive and it never gives cause for concern. My only worry is that it does become slightly fidgety as the roads get worse. Apparently, German roads are like billiard tables and on surfaces like that it would be great. I suspect, as our roads get worse and everyone else's get better, we will just have to put up with this minor discomfort. At higher speeds the steering would become a worry - not because the car will not respond or perform, it's just that with such lightness and digital precision there is very little feedback from the chassis and tyres.
Audi A4 1.8 Turbo 20 Valve Engine This car came equipped with Audi's 1.8 litre turbo motor. On paper this looks like an exciting motor in most people's eyes. 150bhp from a 1.8 is, after all, a respectable amount of ponies. Whilst it's a cleverly engineered unit with little discernible turbo lag, it also lacks any real kick in its rev range and even when pushed it never really feels like 150bhp straining to get out.

On top of that it starts to sound boomy and stressed at higher revs so it's probably better to ride at it's undeniably smooth mid-range torque. This may of course just be a function of a chassis which is capable of restraining the 300 horse Quattro version but either way it never feels very exciting. 

All in all, this isn't too bad a car. Yes, it's very well built but equipment levels can be a little tight for the price and it's probably not as satisfying to drive as a 3-Series. It's appeal is very much badge snob value for those of us whose ties are not quite wide enough to warrant a BMW. But of course if every man and his dog keeps buying them, then the BMW and Audi badges will hold about as much snob value as a Rover badge. 

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