By on January 9, 2009

60 Minutes nearly killed Audi in North America. After “Unintended Acceleration in the Audi 5000” aired in 1986, Audi sales dropped from 74k sales a year in 1986 to less than 12k by 1991. Sales remained constant until 1996, when Audi debuted a car that would finally tackle the BMW 3-series and the Mercedes C-Class head on. With its still unusual all-wheel drive system, classic German styling and interiors that set the industry standard, the A4 single-handedly revived sales in North America. An Audi fan since birth (when I was driven home in an Audi Fox GTI), I viewed them from afar; Roswell’s nearest Audi dealer lay eight hours away in Dallas. So I rejoiced when I signed the paperwork to purchase the first of the 5-valve V6 powered A4 quattros. Little did I know the next year would be filled with Germanic Sturm und Drang.

“Lola” was a 1998.5 (as Audi always introduces models in the half-year cycle) A4 2.8 V6 with quattro and a 5-speed manual. The blue paint and khaki interior with matching blue piping on the seats really set off the beautifully proportioned car, despite numerous rock chips from several Colorado winters. She was German to a T, right down to the goofy lever by the turn signal to turn on the lights, and the complete lack of cupholders.

I fell in love at first sight. The joy continued as we blasted down I-70 in the cold snow towards Breckenridge. Having driven Plymouths, Dodge Neons and other ChryCo products growing up, I was astounded by the Audi’s steering feel, suspension taughtness and the little Audi’s sheer verve whenever a curve presented itself. I was sure I’d found the perfect car, front-wheel bias be damned.

But as with all affairs, this one didn’t last. Lola loved to torment me with her various “glitches,” for which Audi became justifiably notorious in the late 90’s. Sometimes the climate control would become possessed, and the taillights would refuse to work (at least only one side at a time). However, it was the sunroof that doomed her. The novel rotary dial switch would malfunction, opening the roof at random. It was this problem that led me to find her insides full of two feet of snow. There was no hope after that, and she left me on a tow truck, and I left her in a Mazda6.

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59 Comments on “Capsule Review: 1998 Audi A4 (B5)...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    This is a very good car, but did it ever cement Volkswagen/Audi’s reputation for designing cars that worked correctly just long enough to make it off the assembly line’s exit ramp.

    If you buy one today, have a good VW mechanic give it a thorough once over. If the dash has been opened, if the lights don’t all turn on/off as expected, and especially if the wiring harness has been touched, walk away. If it’s ok, though, it’s probably one of the good ones.

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    This car was truly revolutionary. The interior and exterior design are still relevant today – if Audi had stuck to these proportions instead of today’s A4, they would command the lead in the entry-level luxosedan war. Instead, MB woke up and gave us the new C, which is this generation’s 1998 A4. I was in a C350 the other day, the car is utter magic.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    The B6 was no better. My red 2002 1.8T Sport is beautiful. The interior bits that aren’t pealing are a pleasure to touch. It handles well (despite serious weight distribution issues). It gets great mileage even when I drive it hard. It looks expensive. It impresses my friends. And Audi has over $600 of my hard earned money from the $50 per warranty visit fee. Yes, that is 10 visits in the 2.5 years I have owned it. Everything that could have failed has, except the CVT, which is doomed to any day.
    At least it is paid for. She’ll be traded on an M35x in the next 6 months, or the next time I have to replace the windshield wipers, whichever comes first. Like all beautiful women, there’s some guy some where who’s tired of…well, you know…

  • avatar
    thalter

    Wow, I owned almost this exact car (98.5 A4 2.8 Quattro 5-speed) that I purchased new in 1998.

    The was a great car. IMO, The B5 A4 still represents the high water mark of Audi styling, whose clean lines still hold up well today. The 5V V6 was sublimely smooth, if a little underpowered and less popular then the mod-friendly 1.8T.

    The steering and gear shift were perfectly weighted, and worked with appropriate German precision.

    This was one of the vehicles where Audi began to (justly) build their reputation for interior design. The quality of the materials was exceptional, with acres of real wood and leather. I still love the three-vent center stack.

    In fact, in almost all regards, it was a better car than the contemporary E36 3-series, the only other car I cross-shopped it against.

  • avatar
    RedStapler

    So the warranty effectively has a “co-pay” WTF?!?

  • avatar
    8rings

    My wife and I bought an 01 A4 Avant as our first car. It was obviously the last model year for the B5 and that car held together just fine. I guess they had finally gotten it right.
    The A4 might as well have been a Rolls compared to the 80hp 10 year old Mazda truck I had been driving. The Quattro probably saved our lives countless times in the snowy mountains. I still miss that car, especially the black and white two tone interior.
    But in the end a 7 year old Audi made me nervous as hell and she was sold last year. Perhaps an 08 B6 is the best A4 to buy right now?

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Until it was wrecked recently, we had a 2003 Volkswagen Passat, built on a stretched version of the B5 platform. It was the A4 with more rear legroom, and cheaper. I loved that car. By the time my car came out, most of the gremlins had been driven away. Only 100 lbs heavier than the Jetta, it gave you a lot more room and actually better MPG because it was more aerodynamic. The blue and red instruments have been copied repeatedly since the B5 Passat came out. In 2003, there was no other affordable car you could buy with a turbocharged 4-cylinder 170 horsepower engine, 5-speed manual transmission, side airbags, and heated leather seats.

    (I never had the problems with engine sludge and bad coils that gave the 1.8T engine a bad name.)

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I once sold a 1998 Audi A4 that had more than $8000 in repairs during it’s first 110k miles.

    I sold it to a mom whose spoiled son chose to live out the life of the fast and furious. While I explained to her the importance of letting the turbo cool down after a long drive, junior was busy testing out the sound system and redlining the car. It was so damn loud that we could hear both from the inside of the office even though Junior and the two of us had all his doors and windows closed.

    Two months later I get the phone call that it was my fault for selling them a car that had it’s turbo literally blown to pieces. Earlier in the conversation she tells me that Junior had simply driven to school and back, three miles a day. Later on I find out that the turbo literally got blown on the highway with a nice puff of smoke in it’s wake.

    I referred them to a repair shop and stopped buying A4′s. It was my third and last one.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    Yes, a co-pay. And no loaner car. Ever. I guess they were saving the 2 VW Beetle loaners for the Porsche and A8 owners. I just may have to pay them one last visit this year in my new M35 (the one I will be writing a check for, thanks to my new doctor wife!). Perhaps bending the rules on my 10th visit and tossing me the keys to a 1995 Jetta like I asked would have mended our broken relationship. But, this is all really a stealership issue, not an Audi issue. I was almost willing to forgive them when they built the A5/S5, but I just can’t bring myself give those b@st@ards another dime.

  • avatar
    Geotpf

    Never heard of a car where you had to pay fifty bucks for a warranty repair before.

  • avatar
    thalter

    Yea, the $50 copay seems odd. In fact, when I bought my 98.5 A4, Audi was offering the free scheduled maintenance perk that a lot of luxury manufacturers were doing at the time.

    Not only did I not have to pay anything for the (substantial) warranty work, but I did not have to pay for oil changes, wiper blade, or anything other than gas and tires.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    RedStapler:

    That would be an extended warranty, not the original factory warranty. It’s essentially like buying insurance, and like insurance, there’s a deductible. You could choose to pay more to have a zero deductible, too.

  • avatar
    Cole Trickle

    The copay is for all CPO cars. Not the regular factory warranty, but an Audi product. BMW charges a copay too. Why does that line from Snatch keep popping in to my head? “…protection from who? Ze Germans?”

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The copay is for all CPO cars. Not the regular factory warranty, but an Audi product.

    Fascinating. The co-pay is basically an acknowledgment that they expect problems, and that they’re trying minimize their costs.

    I wouldn’t touch such a car with a barge pole.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    As a good friends says of Audi/VW, “Good cars to lease, terrible cars to own.” All the time I see 10 year old Acura’s or Lexus’ but very few Audi. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Personally know 2 people that got the dealer to take back their A6′s on state lemon laws. Let’s just say that makes me highly skeptical of this brand for my style of ownership ~ 200k minimum on the odometer before I let it go.

  • avatar
    kovachian

    I’ve wanted to buy a good unmolested B5 but I’m just not sure if there’s any good B5s left. Seems like every one left now is being ragged out by some 19 year old college brat who just has to have a trashcan-sized turbo and a fried harness due to all the LED bulbs and 90000K HIDs.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    I have a 99 A4 1.8T MT5 with about 135000 miles on it. I have replaced the clutch 2X (2nd time at 125kmiles), rear wheel bearings, rear brake disks, coming up on second scheduled timing belt/water pump replacement, couple of CV joint boots and a CV joint. Plus regular oil changes, brake pads, tires, etc. No electrical problems ever, no engine sludge (yet). It still feels great and it got my family around in southern New England slop fests like we recently experienced – snow, sleet, freezing rain and finally rain. Would I bother with it in Florida – no. But here, the extra maintenance costs were worth it. And after 10 years I don’t care about the depreciation too much.

    Never paid a $50 co-pay ever, for either bought new or my CPO’ed A6, and always a loaner vehicle, even now, last time an A3. A decent, albeit not inexpensive, dealer makes the difference.

  • avatar
    thalter

    @kovachian

    Try to find a V6. There are few aftermarket performance parts for it, and since it doesn’t have a turbo, it should be more durable and have been driven more responsibly. It also does not suffer the aforementioned sludge and coil problems that the 1.8T does.

  • avatar
    Porsche986

    My ex had a 2000.5 1.8T Quattro ( minor face lift, new tailights) and had nothing but good things to say. But, when the car hit 90K miles EVERYTHING mechanical started going wrong. He had to replace the upper and lower control arms on the front, lower control arms on the rear, front tie rod ends, all 4 wheel bearings, the manual transmission was getting noisy and recalcitrant, the sunroof leaked, the trunk leaked water occasionally, the brakes were replaced no less than 6 times in 90K. It also had the bad coil packs that most of the 1.8T cars had… but it broke down 4 separate times for this issue… even after having them replaced at the dealer. What a nightmare.

    This car was not from Chicago either, it spent the majority of it’s life in North Carolina where it never saw snow, salt, etc.

    Now… it was a beautiful car. No doubt about that… they were amazingly styled. But it is quite clear that the engineering was not up to snuff in the mechanical components department.

    He sold it to a teenager who thought he would do a lot of modifications to it. Good luck with that.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    This thread is turning into a Audi/VW quality indictment. I remember a memorable rant from an auto mechanic on the Car Connection (before the site went downhill):

    http://www.thecarconnection.com/article/1007794_mechanics-tale-vw-heal-thyself

    So are the new Audis and VW’s any better now?

  • avatar

    I find it amazing that Audi has maintained a reputation for quality and reliability in spite of the apparent issues we are seeing here. Even in the small community of the TTAC horror stories abound. It’s a shame, because I grew up with a 4000 S Quattro 5 cylinder 5 speed, one of my favourite childhood cars. The thing ran forever, we racked up over 300 000 kms before selling it, and it continued to be driven for years after that. Then again, it was a lot simpler that newer Audis – mechanical fuel injection, not many electronics, and probably a sturdier drivetrain. I poked around for an Audi V8 last year, but the reliability record and the cam-belt service cost scared me away.

  • avatar
    ktm

    What the poster is failing to tell you about the $50 co-pay was for the CPO warranty outside of the factory warranty (4 years-48,000 miles).

    I owned a 2002 B5 S4 and absolutely LOVED the car. I even put-up with it going into the shop for a period of 26 days in a contiguous 6-month period because it was such a joy to drive. However, when I switched jobs I needed a car where, everytime I entered it in the morning I would not have to mutter “what is going to go wrong now…..”.

  • avatar
    brettc

    The Car Connection article is interesting. My 2003 Jetta TDI has been extremely reliable. I need to do some suspension work because it’s still on its original shocks and struts, but nothing major has broken. I did have to replace a $5 coolant temperature sensor in 2005, but I did that in my driveway in about 30 minutes. I like VW diesels, so I wouldn’t buy anything but a VW diesel. If you want a reliable gas engine car, there are plenty of Japanese appliance brands to choose from.

  • avatar

    The reason Audi (and pretty much everybody else) has a “co-pay” on extended warranties is simple: without it, people would bring their 95,000-mile cars in once a week for squeaks and burned-out bulbs. Even with new cars, a major portion of warranty cost for dealers and manufacturers is what’s called “education” — people who can’t don’t read the owner’s manual and demand warranty service for “broken” items.

    It costs real money to book a car in for warranty service, even when there’s nothing wrong with the car. The vehicle has to be booked, stored, insured, and evaluated by a mechanic. There’s also the unfortunate (for the dealer) fact that many people use their CPO warranties to diagnose out-of-warranty issues and then have their local shop fix said issues. Fifty bucks? It would be cheap at twice the price.

    The saga of the B5 VW/Audi cars is a valuable lesson about modern manufacturing. There are no longer any “secrets” in carbuilding. Instead, there’s a simple matter of adjusting “sliders” in your production. Do you have a $20,000 car? You can invest $10,000 in mechanicals and $2,000 in perceived interior quality, or you can do $12,000 in mechanicals and $500 in perceived interior quality… you get the idea. It’s like “Civ III” and everybody has the same controls.

    With the B5 cars, VW pushed the “styling/features/interior happiness” slider all the way to the right and, frankly, cut some costs to make that happen. There was also the unfortunate supplier fallout from J. Ignacio Lopez. He bullied suppliers so effectively on price a lot of them just gave up on quality… the word “coil packs” comes to mind.

  • avatar
    toadroller

    The A4 was the first car that made my 88 Audi 90 look old.

    It wasn’t, in my opinion, the beginning of the gorgeous Audi interiors, as I feel the 90 was spectacular, as with the original S4s built on the 100 platform.

    My 88 90 went through 240k miles of me absolutely abusing its indestructible I5 powerplant. I squeezed every iota from its 130 hp juice and had the smoothest 5 speed shifter ever. Just perfect. Powertrain- no problems. Electrical? ugh. But I was young and poor and fixed things from junk yards.

    I think the mid 90s platform styling peaked with the original A8 (which I still own, clicking along at 135k). The first time I saw one was a dark green at the intersection of Vindicator and Rockrimmon in Colorado Springs, and I knew I’d have one eventually.

    Eventually came sooner than expected when someone crossed my lane while I was driving my 100cs and ended its life (150k miles, 5 speed, perfect shape, no issues, bought for cash at $4000, with spare set of winter wheels when it was just 6 years old). So in January 2001 I went to the local dealership and took the Intended Acceleration discount on a loaded (summer, winter package) 97 with 70k on the clock for 19 grand + 2k for a warranty. This was a four year old $65k car.

    It was either Audi’s best or a new Honda Accord four cylinder with a cloth interior. You make the call.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    For the record, I haven’t had any significant reliability issues with my 2006.5 A3. I’ve had it for over two and a half years now, and have put 58,000km on it. The only major issue was a temperature sensor that caused the air conditioning to stop working last summer. The dealer looked after me just fine, even giving me a loaner while we waited for a replacement part to come in, because it was a particularly hot summer week.

  • avatar
    Revver

    Cars are not museum pieces, so reliability stories may be relevant. But as a non owner, I can only add that to me the A4 was a true game changer.

    Look back 13 years ago and remind yourself what most cars looked like. The A4 set new standards for beauty in a 4 door sedan. Heck, it was more elegant than most sports cars. Housewives in these parts bought the pearl colored ones by the boatload, boy racers coveted the brilliant blue S4s. Not many cars could so easily attract both audiences so effectively. And yes, it rebuilt the Audi brand.

    That is the true legacy of the car.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    My sister has a 97 A4 V6 that she’s still happy with. As a New Yorker, it has less than 80K miles. Her biggest issue has been random check engine lights, which get an annual fix right before state inspection.

    She’s ready to buy another–probably certified used.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Never. A VW. Or Ford again, ever, in my life.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    I know someone who bought a used B5 Passat with an extended warranty. The $2400 ext. warranty has paid itself over, since the car’s had about $8000 of warranty-related work done to it since he’s had it, with a $100 copay each time. This someone also refers to this car as “dependable.”

    Regarding the quality, I remember reading something a VW exec said: If the car has a gorgeous, well-finished glove box, people assume that same attention extends to the rest of the car, creating the perception of quality.

    Jack Baruth :
    Thanks for the insight into the co-pays. I was wondering why a dealer wouldn’t want to cover the relatively small cost, compared to what they would get for performing the service. Also, I like the slider analogy. Some companies seem to set them all to 0.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    I tell people when you buy an Audi, you expect expensive maintenance. Suspension components go around 100k. When you buy the car, just expect it.

    My 2.8 12v has been dead reliable, just maintenance intensive.

  • avatar

    I’ve found that B5 A4 fans are VERY touchy when I raise the topic of reliability. A4 reliability improved a bit with the B6, and then substantially with the B7. And the B8? Too soon to say. Should have an initial result at TrueDelta in May.

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    equ

    Ahh, my first nice car… So many trips, memories and snowstorms. I had a 2000 2.8 quattro 5-speed and my last car before that was a POS 1988 sentra, so yes, to me as well, it was combination Rolls, snowmobile, m3, you name it. My dream car. I overspent at the time but never regretted it.

    I had mine for 4+ years and about 44k miles, with no major problems. Perhaps a taillight went out and I needed brake pads, which were covered. The windshield wiper did something funny once and I really cannot remember anything else going wrong. The person I sold it to, I caught up with 3 years down the road. He was still quite happy, I toyed with the idea of buying it back but he wanted too much. He mentioned a slight oil leak but no other problems. Granted, I would likely not love it today, have had much nicer cars since, but I still miss it. Perhaps I didn’t keep it long enough, but by my experience, that car was in tiptop shape in the time I had it. I think they get a bad rap, perhaps the 1.8t engine is worse.

  • avatar
    lysine

    I knew mechanic that works on nothing but German cars. When I told him I wanted to get an Audi. This is what transpired.

    Him : Audi’s are good cars. They get a bad reputation nowadays. But the latest A4′s are quite good.

    Me : I wanted to get an S4.

    Him : Now that is a different story. You know what the S stands for? Stripper. You NEVER want a long term relationship with a stripper. She ends up being a REALLY bad girlfriend. What you should do is lease it, ride her hard. Then give her back. :)

  • avatar

    Ah yes the B5

    Gotta love the climate control which had a mind of its own.

    I got rid of mine right before the tranny blew up on the new owner.

  • avatar

    The B5s had cupholders, they are just completely useless for anything other than a 20oz can. Might as well sit your beverage on the dash and drive…

    144k miles, still sludge free, original turbo and coil packs. Roughly everything else has been replaced though… At least when stuff breaks it gives me an excuse to upgrade ;)

  • avatar
    dimitris

    98.5 tqms here (for non-audigeeks, that’s (t)urbo (q)uattro (m)anual transmission (s)port suspension in B5 parlance), bought new almost 11 years ago so the best feature by far is the paid-off-for-longer-than-I-can-remember option.

    156Kish miles and definitely had some issues, the worst being a leaking heater core around 70K. The part was about $200, but the labor… can’t get to the damned thing from the engine bay, so it requires the dash to be disassembled. Ouch.

    I’ll agree with NetGenHoon, “maintenance intensive”, but other than the aforementioned heater core leak, I can’t remember any other “car down” incidents. Just periodic “needs replacement soon” type issues.

    Another thing: Ability/honesty of the dealer service department (ha!) or the mechanic makes a huge difference. 4 years ago I finally found a good and very VW/Audi knowledgeable mechanic, who I only have to see every 3 months including regular oil service so all’s good so far.

    FWIW I feel that the B8 is the first “newer” A4 that offers enough of an upgrade that I’d consider a new one. 2.0T quattro manual with the least amount of electro-bling, basically an updated version of my current pearl-mobile.

    chuckR: Don’t wait too long for the timing belt replacement. The book says 90K but considering the downside of it failing (engine go bye bye) I’m now on a 60K schedule.

  • avatar
    allerton

    B5 S4 owner here – had mine for almost 8 years, but I don’t drive all that much, so the pain of living with a stripper has not hit me as hard as I know it can. Still a great car after this time – and have to agree about the game changer comments about the B5 in general.

  • avatar
    dolo54

    A friend of mine had a similar model. 2000-2001 A4 quattro. I found it extremely competent on the snow, too much so for my taste. I also (at 6’0 200lbs) found the front seats extremely cramped, more so than any other car I have sat in, including smaller economy cars. I remember it as a very safe, very boring drive, but I never turned off traction control.

  • avatar
    Mud

    Good article, but unfortunately gave me nasty flashbacks of our 02 A4 1.8T Sport that we finally got rid of.

    Despite my doing enough maintenance and repair to make me a self-authorized Audi tech, at 100K the thing literally started falling apart. Electrical gremlins were the worst, followed by incessant cooling flange leaks, CV joints, wheel bearings, window regulators, the list goes on. Anything plastic under the hood self-destructed as well, the best was the oil dipstick that simply disintegrated, allowing oil to bath the driver side of the lower engine compartment.

    Our daughter and son-in-law traded it in on another vehicle, I never even asked or cared how much they got for it on trade-in.

    Good riddance, worst car we’ve ever owned. The only good part of it all is that I have several boxes of spare parts I can sell on Ebay.

  • avatar
    a4b5

    I had a 98.5 A4 1.8T (thus my handle – A4B5) that started a short love affair with Audi. The car handled well, got good mileage and looked great. Unfortunately , the “need” for more power kicked in. I tried an after market ECU which helped, but for some reason I still wanted more.

    So, I “went to look” at the B6 S4 (2004 model), and drove that home 2 weeks later. The V8 power was awesome, as was the step up in luxury from the relatively pedestrian A4 that I moved out of. Unfortunately, that move ended up being a mistake – the S4 had the transmission replaced twice during my 15,000 miles of ownership (under warranty, fortunately, or it would have been approx $8k each). As much fun as I had in the S4, I just couldn’t justify the risk of keeping it long term.

    To this day, I look back fondly on both cars even given the issues I had with both. And I still think the B5 platform looks great.

  • avatar
    tejasjeff

    2005.5 A4 owner with 2.0T.
    Always wanted a Audi from the time i saw the first Quattro Coupe in high school.
    My daughter finally ended up with a clean used A4. last summer.
    The depreciation hit on Audis still makes a wonder how you buy them off the floor.
    At 49k the CVT began lurching like a drunken sailor.
    Luckily it was under warranty and Transmission module was replaced. What astounded me was it took a week to round up the part.
    I just bought a factory extended warranty to sleep well at nights.
    I wish someone could round up a original Quattro Coupe for a review to see how they held up.

  • avatar
    pcllc

    hi all,

    i’ve been reading this site for years, but i don’t think i’ve ever posted. but as an owner of an 01 a4 1.8t and a former owner of a 02 a4 1.8t, i had to comment.

    so i still own the 01 a4, originally bought for my wife who gave it to me when she got an suv. i love that audi. we bought it in 2000 and going into its 9th year, the styling still looks contemporary and beautiful. it drives well, has some pep and i feel like it is built like a tank (i mean that in a good way, just that it seems solid and safe and glued to the road). it has been, however, very expensive to maintain…i’ve lost track of the thousands i’ve spent fixing non functioning power windows, or cracked cv boots, or having to always feed it oil (gotta keep a quart of synth in the trunk, never know when she’ll get thirsty) or topping off the blinker fluid (joking), but i guess over 9 years, i try and justify it (it’s only got 75k miles but it’s a 9 year old car! i tell myself)…now my turn signals are only working intermittently…ugghhhh…something electrical and probably expensive to fix…

    now the 02 a4…

    back in 02, when i needed to sell my miata (man, i love and miss that car too) and get a sedan as our family was growing (so to speak, we got a second dog), i bought the all new 02 a4. black on black, sports package and loaded. i loved that car, but that is saying a lot…i think another poster said earlier about for every pretty woman, there’s some guy out there sick of putting up with her @!#$!.

    when it worked, that 02 was badass. but in the year that i had it, it seemed be in the shop constantly. coil packs, interior lights not working, door locks not working, creaks and groans from all over the interior. i spent more time driving a loaner mercury sable it seemed. i finally traded it in for an acura rsx. i didn’t care to have a an audi car payment but drive a mercury. the acura wasn’t perfect, but more often than not, compared to that 02 audi, it seemed like if I gave the acura gas and oil, it was happy.

    i really love audis, but i do worry about the cost of ownership and reliability. i tell people who ask about my audi that it is really expensive to maintain, as i mentioned earlier.

    that said, i still pine for an 09 a4 avant 2.ot or possibly an a3 2.ot…but there’s that feeling in my gut that tells me i’d be better off buying another acura (maybe not the acura, as they’ve debased the tsx…)or honda in the long run.

    i suppose there are worse things to feel conflicted about.

    just my 2 cents…

  • avatar
    NickR

    The new Audi’s don’t appear to be better. My boss has a very nice A4 that is complete lemon, exacerbated by deceitful, inept dealership. The only German car I’d by is a 911. All the rest, from personal experience and seeing my other friends cars, appear to have numerous, expensive problems…often electrical. Never.

  • avatar

    What retard from germany made that insidious “cup-holder” thing. And sorry, the HVAC controls were bullshit. In fact, getting the air conditioning to come on involved slaughtering a goat if I remember right.

    Oh, the sun-roof never opened in mine.

    But, the car had fun handling thanks to the Quattro. For being a beater.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    If there is an Hyundai in Asia there is an Audi in Europe.

    60 mins is always right. I have been wathing that show since I was 13 yrs old. they seem to always tell the truth.

    they are still the number 1 Sunday show ever since and thank god they hate Audi too.

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    Michael Karesh :
    I’ve found that B5 A4 fans are VERY touchy when I raise the topic of reliability. A4 reliability improved a bit with the B6, and then substantially with the B7. And the B8? Too soon to say. Should have an initial result at TrueDelta in May.

    pcllc :
    that said, i still pine for an 09 a4 avant 2.ot or possibly an a3 2.ot…but there’s that feeling in my gut that tells me i’d be better off buying another acura (maybe not the acura, as they’ve debased the tsx…)or honda in the long run.

    i suppose there are worse things to feel conflicted about.

    I think the two of you are saying the same things. A4B5 owners are touchy, maybe just because we really love the car. It doesn’t make sense, but there it is.

    I don’t understand how these cars break so much, but engender so much loyalty….

  • avatar
    pb35

    Back in the 90s when my wife was in grad school at Michigan I used to drive to the Audi store in Farmington Hills on Sunday and dream of buying a new A4. Now that we can afford one, I no longer want one as badly. Weird how that works.

  • avatar

    @ NetGenHoon:

    I don’t understand how these cars break so much, but engender so much loyalty….

    Hell, it’s kept the Italians in business for how many decades now?

    People ask me periodically what car I would want if I could have any car in the world. My usual answer is, “I would say an Alfa Romeo, but I know better…”

  • avatar
    dpr

    I bought a new 30V A4 Avant in 1998 and sold it 150,000 miles later in 2005 with strongly mixed feelings.

    First, what a nice ride! That V6 was so smooth, the seats were comfortable on long drives, the base radio sounded beautiful, and it handled just great with the sport suspension.

    From the clutch on back, I never had a single problem with the drivetrain. The clutch itself even lasted the full 150K. The manual transmission never had any trouble, and neither did any of the Quattro components.

    The engine was a different matter. I took my A4 to the dealer for every scheduled service, even after the warranty and free oil changes were all used up. I figured that spending some money on preventative maintenance would save me more later on. Boy, was I wrong. At 90K, all the seals and gaskets seemed to come loose and the engine constantly hemorrhaged oil…valve cover gaskets and cam shaft seals. Not too expensive to fix, but a real pain to have to continuously worry about it.

    The upper control arms and tie-rod ends had to be replaced, too.

    The only electrical problem was the sunroof. I, too, had the problem where the sunroof would open itself. It seemed like the dial would become misaligned, but if I set the dial half-way between closed and tilted, it would stay closed. Whatever. Annoying, but tolerable.

    But, my A4 never broke down. It never left me stranded. And by keeping on top of the maintenance issues, it ran just beautifully for the entire time I owned it. And I’ll say it again: what a nice ride! And a beautiful car, to boot.

    If Audi had applied the least effort toward convincing me that they gave a flip about improving maintenance issues, I would have gotten another without hesitation. But they seemed too busy taking my money for those continuous repairs.

    So I bought a Subaru, and I have no regrets.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Jack Baruth said:

    The reason Audi (and pretty much everybody else) has a “co-pay” on extended warranties is simple: without it, people would bring their 95,000-mile cars in once a week for squeaks and burned-out bulbs. Even with new cars, a major portion of warranty cost for dealers and manufacturers is what’s called “education” — people who can’t don’t read the owner’s manual and demand warranty service for “broken” items.

    Well, my father’s Corolla didn’t have a single burned-out bulb during his 14 year ownership.

    Car owners don’t need any “education”. Instead, VW/Audi should go back and learn how to build a car properly. Just like what Toyota/Honda do.

  • avatar
    dadsolo

    Ahhh Son, thanks for the fine memory of driving the Audi Fox GTI. The drive home from the hospital in the GTI with our new little bundle of joy only enhanced my confidence that I had purchased a car with robust handling able to carry you safely to your new nest. It was a day of both joy and sadness as you made me smile, but I also realized that my moments of crusing the backroads of Texas at 110 mph in the GTI were over. No longer would I be able to delicately step on the accelerator and flick past a pickup truck, yet I knew I could nimbly drive to the market with you in tow for life sustaining baby food. Look forward to driving your restored GTI again.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    I fell in love with the B5 S4 but bought a B6 S4. One day after getting gas the check engine light came on. I pulled over, opened the hood and didn’t see anything odd. Then I got on the phone with the Audi service department, I was pissed. I thought “this is it, it’s happening. This is what I’ve heard about Audis.” Then finally the service guy, Kevin, picked up the phone and told me “try tightening the gas cap till it clicks.” Boy did I feel dumb. That was the problem and the check engine light went off. Other than a busted cup holder, I haven’t had any issues in 60k miles. Amazing car.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    “Car owners don’t need any “education”. Instead, VW/Audi should go back and learn how to build a car properly. Just like what Toyota/Honda do.”

    Like the endless engine sludge issues that Toyota experienced? They blamed it on the owners, even when they had all the maintenance records. Or the Honda engine fires that plagued the CRV? They blamed those on the owners as well. Don’t even get me started on Mitsubishi, Hyundai or Isuzu and the issues that plague those brands.

  • avatar
    justsayin

    A4 Avant 98 2.8V6 – still love how it looks, the AWD, and the quiet ride. But nothing else. Besides all the maintenance (esp the suspension parts that go out way too early), here are a couple items I haven’t seen brought up in the thread:
    - the ergonomics of the interior: the fussy climate control setup, the lack of lighting that hits the rear seat area, the visor mirror lights that render the mirror unusable, the headlight control and dimmer. No biggy, but so easily fixed with a thought and I know the same designs persisted until at least 2008.
    - the lack of low-end torque and ‘fun to drive’ in the V6 – I wish I had gotten the 1.8T but I was afraid of turbo problems.
    - the huge depreciation

  • avatar
    pickandpray

    I convinced the wife to spend her very first bonus on a 1997 A4 Quattro with the 2.8 liter 12v engine.  It was easily the best car I had ever driven at the time.  I loved it so much I went looking for another Audi and ended up with a 1991 Audi 200 quattro 20v. 

    We had the A4 for about 5 or 6 years and traded it for a minivan when it had roughly 90k miles on it.  I think our A4′s trade in value was around what we paid in taxes for the A4 when we bought it new.  My Audi 200 now has over 200k miles on it and I’m still driving it.

  • avatar
    EFraelich

    I had a 2000 A4 1.8T Quattro and loved/hated it. I bought it in 2003 with about 50k miles on it for about $16,000 so I missed most of the depreciation (intentionally). Thank you to whoever bought it new though, lol. For about the first year I loved this car so much I honestly almost got the Audi logo tatooed on my bicept. This car just fit like a glove. Every knob, every switch, every trim piece just looked, felt and worked amazingly. The little touches like the 3rd visor over the rear view mirror, motion sensor shut off button for “windows down” parking, auto dimming rear AND side view mirrors, seat warmers that have more than “barely on” and “Fire”, an arm rest that is useable while driving, a moonroof that has a suggested stop for noise and pressure OR lets you open it all the way, etc. It’s as if the designers actually treated us like a grown up and put some common sense touches into a car. I also liked how they skipped less critical options (in the 1.8 A4) in favor of better ones. I never minded that my seats weren’t power because no one else drives my cars. Once the seat is adjusted, i’m good to go! Now on to the bad. Please understand however that when I complain, I am talking about stuff that is not maintenance related (brakes, tires, belts, hoses, o2 sensors, etc) but I’m talking about stuff that fails that shouldn’t or that fail long before they should. Don’t get me wrong, this car did require much more time and money in maintenance than most cars however I knew that, accepted it and prepared for it before I even bought it. I am not one of these jerks who trades in their 1992 Camry they had for 20 years and then get mad when a fine German Automobile requires a little more pampering. The trade off was well worth it for me. That all changed after about 90k miles when my check engine light started coming on about every 3 months. It didn’t help that whatever the issue was never cost less than $1,000. Wheel Bearings, Rear Speakers, suspension parts, leaky differentials, etc. Then I got the dreaded “oil pan sludge” issue around 120k miles. After going to battle with my local dealership, they repaired the motor bearings under the sludge recall but it took an amazing amount of energy despite perfect maintenance records. At least they did that though. Audi corporate was just short of rude to me when I contacted them. Like someone else said they first tried to blame it on me. When I produced perfect maintenance records they then claimed it was because of the mileage. They basically said something like “well no car lasts forever”. Then I drove my 1989 Audi 80 up there that had 210k miles on it and still ran flawlessly. That was when I finally got some help. That ALMOST did it for me however my infatuation with this car made me want to think that I had already faced the worst case scenario and made it through. I loved the car too much. Then about a month after this fiasco… my friend “old yellow” (aka the check engine light) came on again. This time it was the catatlytic converter. Hey at 132k miles… it can only be expected right? So no biggie… then they tell me what it is going to cost… $1700!!!! I told them that I would rather just put that down on my next car and that was exactly what I did… on an Acura. Now years later, I have never loved another car like I did my A4 however I have also only spent a fraction of what I spent on that car. My 2003 TL now has 123,000 miles on it and the only “repair” I have ever needed was a transmission at around 80K miles… which Acura covered with very little fighting. Would I buy another Audi? Let me put it this way… I pray every night to 3 different gods that someday Audi can produce a car with the same level of quality and function that my A4 had, with the reliability of a Toyota or Honda. THEN I honestly will get their name tatooed on my bicept!

  • avatar
    JPNev1

    I realize this is an old post, but I just now read it =-). The B5 certainly had a reputation for being flaky, but I feel that Audi came around with the later B6 model, and certainly the B7. I have a B7 (2008 2.0T Quattro Tiptronic), and it has been stupendous. I’m quickly approaching 90,000 miles and have had no issues with the car. I realize it could all change tomorrow, but the car has not given me any indication that it’s going to be difficult to live with.

    The maintenance is kind of expensive (though what car isn’t really), but that’s because I’m paranoid with all of my cars and I tend to over-maintain them, so anything I own would be expensive to maintain. Perhaps that is why I have NEVER been stranded anywhere in any of my cars. I am extremely picky about the finest oils, fluids, and filters being used and I will pay extra for the stuff with Audi rings on the bottle instead of crap from the auto parts store.

    These cars like ZF fluid for the automatics, the specific green power steering fluid used by Porsche and Audi, the pink VW/Audi anti-freeze, and fully synthetic 5W-40 engine oil if you have the turbo four like I do. I can’t speak for electrical glitches on earlier A4s, because I know they suffered plenty of them, but my 2008 has been flawless (including the sunroof dial). I had a brief scare when I replaced the battery with the ESP light coming on and the remote keys not locking the car, but once I started the car and drove it ten feet everything re-adapted and was fine again.

    The A4 is definitely more of a luxury car than the BMW 3-series, which I owned before the A4. The BMW was fantastically reliable (270,000 miles), and nothing drives better than one of those, but the ride is relatively harsh and there are not as many creature comforts. The A4 retains most of the handling one would use every day and has a much nicer ride. The equipment is much more generous than you normally see in a BMW, and the seats are WAY more comfortable (I just did two 1,500-mile trips in the Audi with no back or rump pain; the BMW would have killed me, haha).


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