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AUDI A4 2.0 manual

Improving the brand

AUDI A4 2.0 manualEngine:
Aluminium 1984ccm in-line 4 cylinder 20valve (5/cyl.) spark-ignition engine, DOHC, variable intake
96kW @ 5700rpm
195Nm @ 3300rpm
0-100km/h: 9,9sec.
v-max: 212km/h
ave. consumption: 7,9l/100km

The VW/Audi empire has made a bit of a balls-up with naming their cars. That new Beetle, despite it's heritage and shape, should actually be called "the round Golf". And the name "Beetle" should have been used for the A6 Audi, a car with a backside more hideous than the rear-end of a dung-beetle. Whoaaah, stop right there - I've had discussions with a few of my friends, some of whom think it's the most beautiful thing on four wheels. Apologies to fans of the A6 - everyone's entitled to their own opinion.

I had trouble forming an opinion about the sparkling new, silver A4 in front of me on Monday. Is it a smaller dung beetle? Is it a jazzed-up Passat? Both answers to the questions are "no", the A4 has a Beetle-esque back, but it isn't as huuuuge and strikingly ugly as that of the A6. While an A6 still makes me think of manure, the A4 is smaller and less curvaceous - a definite improvement. The front of the car inherits good looks from the Passat but still screams Audi, while the back end and three-quarter view with it's light configuration and sharper edges hint at the TT.

I got behind the wheel and was greeted by a beautiful layout of instruments and creature comforts. This 2.0 comes with cloth/suede upholstery on firm but comfortable seats. Airbags surround you, and the first thing I was made aware of was the ASC button. Active Stability Control helps you when your car looses grip, either if cornering too fast or accelerating too hard.

The driving position was flawless, a height-adjustable steering wheel helped immensely for driving comfort, and the passengers in the back (albeit with complaining) still had sufficient legroom. The back seats also offered more room and a definite improvement in legroom over the old A4.

The instruments have gone from the old A4 all-red to that magnificent Golf4 red & neon-blue glow. The 2 small, outer dials are elevated slightly, while everything is recessed in a chrome ring. Stunning, absolutely stunning. Stalk controls are clearly marked, and you can also check your range, temperatures, sound system and other goodies on the board computer display housed centrally in the instrument panel. Permanently displayed are your odometer and trip meter, the time and DATE, which met up with great approval from everyone. Climate control features separate controls for driver and passenger, something that provoked a lot of laughter and fooling around. The sound system comprises of a front-loading CD/tuner unit and 10 loudspeakers, coupled with reasonably simple controls. The highs were crisp and the bass was strong, if not a bit heavy, same as in the older A4 models.

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The proud new owner looked a bit worried as I got used to the feather-light clutch with miles of travel and self-adjusting gadgetry, but I soon had the hang of the 120km old car. Visibility to the front is excellent, but reversing is a bit of a guessing game - something the new owner also complained about. It's a matter of knowing the dimensions of your vehicle rather than precision parking, as rear visibility is utterly disappointing.

Very noteworthy is the even shorter gearlever which snicks into the cogs in short, precise (BMW-like) movements. Even more impressive are the brakes, after my first attempt at stopping all my passengers had involuntarily discovered the marvel of the self-tensioning seatbelt. The light clutch, initial accelerator dead spot and sharp brakes made for a few jerky and rather ungraceful starts and stops, but I soon had the A4 2.0 obeying my every command to near perfection.

The suspension is rumored to have been spawned off the TT, something I could attest to after braving some of our less-than-perfect Stellenbosch byroads. The car seems glued to the road, the ride is quite stiff by sedan measures but still allows for relative comfort. Cornering was an absolute joy, the steering is very precise and you'd have to take a few risks before getting the ASC system to save your neck. A few days later, the new owner confirmed my suspicions of mild understeer as initial cornering setup.

Unfortunately, I couldn't torture the all new, 96kW 20 valve 2-litre in-line 4 cylinder to it's limits, as this car is still being 'driven in'. I expect the A4 to hit 1000km just after the weekend, at which point I'll give it a proper bash and report back to you. The engine seems lively and very responsive, I managed to clock up 4000 revs in the first three gears and there was a definite indication of a flat torque curve. Pulling away in second worked as well, but really isn't recommendable.

All in all, the new A4 gets my approval and could only be described as a vast improvement over the old series. BMW's 3-series might have the edge on sporty driving, but when it comes to the 318i, I'd take the A4 any day. Same goes for the C180 Mercedes, as I still haven't got used to (and probably never will) that ugly, ugly instrument cluster in the new C-Class. The C200 Kompressor offers much more performance than the A4 2.0, but the word "Kompressor" should keep anyone from doing a direct comparison to this Audi. BMW's 320i is a 6-cylinder, so we can stop right there and welcome the 2 litre Audi into it's very own market gap. Maybe it's main rival will come from further north, Sweden perhaps?

It's refined, different, properly engineered and reasonably affordable at the moment. If you like Audis or German cars in general, I urge you to give this car a test drive. For R170470 (or R184 560 for the Executive model) you also get a 100000km/5 year motorplan thrown in.

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