The Late 90’s was a crazy time. As I had mentioned in my previous COALs, I was freelance IT consulting in Detroit, Michigan. Between Y2K and the explosion of the world-wide web, it seemed like just about anyone could make a buck selling IT servers. So a few friends and I decided to go back to Cleveland and hang out our shingle with the slick but generic sounding name of Sterling Technology. Of course, what we failed to realize was that running a business was more than just putting a name on a door and waiting for the world to beat a path to your door. It requires many competencies, like management, sales, HR, and finance, all of which were in short supply at our company.
Still, we did alright, picking up the odd software development projects and consulting gigs, always kind of riding the knife-edge between success and failure. Soon we came to be acquired by another small consulting firm that was slightly larger, but more or less in the same situation of living invoice to invoice. Shortly thereafter, we were acquired by a venture capitalist who didn’t really know anything about the IT services business, but saw everyone else getting rich off of it and figured he would too.
So over the course of about a year and a half, I worked for three different companies, all while sitting at the same desk. This is a pretty common story from people who worked in those acquisition crazy days before the dot-bomb bust. I was putting in LOTS of billable hours, working at just about all the Fortune 500 companies in Cleveland at the time (Chase Mortgage, Sherwin-Williams, and Moen just to name drop a few). Consulting is a great way to build a resume, and having experience working in a wide variety of clients and industries certainly helped my career, the benefits of which extend to this day. Consulting is an excellent way to bootstrap your career, I would highly encourage anyone who has the opportunity and the ability to to do so.
When I wasn’t working (which wasn’t often), I was still riding the Goof2, and continuing my quest for automotive perfection (a recurring theme in my previous COALs). I was living with a roommate at the time (who was also a consulting coworker), so we were making a ton of money with almost no living expenses. He purchased a 1997 BMW Z3 Roadster with his earnings. Even though the Z3 is one of the lowest regarded of modern BMWs, especially in 4-banger form like my roommate had, it was still a revelation to me. Despite being a convertible, it felt exceptionally solid. I thought my Acuras were solid? This car was SOLID. The 5-speed, while not quite as smooth shifting as the Acura, still felt, well, solid.
Having no real experience with German cars before, I was hooked. Could I have found at long last the automotive perfection that I was long seeking? I had to find out. There was also one other factor at play. 1998 would mark the thirtieth year of my existence (aka birthday). While 30 is certainly not a major milestone birthday (especially in retrospect), I still wanted to feel like I had “made it” by the time I turned 30, and didn’t want to mark the occasion driving a lesser automobile.
So I test drove both the BMW E36 3-Series and the B5.5 Audi A4, going in with a slight amount of bias towards BMW. After driving both, The A4 was really a superior car over the BMW in every way: 30V V6, all-wheel drive, and styling that is among the best Audi has ever done. It was certainly a better car then the Maxima I was driving at the time. Now had the E46 been available at the time, it may have been much closer call.
The B5 generation A4 is really the car that pulled Audi out of the woods of unintended acceleration, and put them back on the path to being a first tier luxury brand with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Stylistically, it was a clean break from the futuristic look created by the 5000, and carried forward in the 100/200 and 80/90 models. While clean and ultra aerodynamic, the look was getting dated by the mid 90s, and more critically, still carried stink of unintended acceleration. The B5 A4 (followed by the C5 A6) set a new, more muscular direction that still holds up well 20 years later.
Like most German cars, it came in with a bewildering combination of options, interior, and exterior color combinations, which meant that I would be special ordering to get what I wanted. Again, I dipped liberally into the option sheet: Bose, leather, power moonroof, heated seats and mirrors, etc. After crunching all the numbers, the lease payment came out to over $600/month, but I didn’t really care because I had to have it.
While the option selection was easy, the color selection was not. Pro car shopper tip: If you are not sure what color to get, look closely at the brochures. Manufacturers labor months over the contents of the brochures, which almost always feature the most flattering color combinations, having been pored over by professional designers. That is how I finally decided on pearl white and black leather, based on some really good photos in the brochure. And as good as the pearl white looked in photos, it looked absolutely stunning in person. It had a depth that photos unfortunately simply do not justice. I was also told that it was a money losing color for Audi because of all the extra time required in the paint booth, which is why it was discontinued on the A4 after 1998.
The Quattro all-wheel drive setup was another revelation, much like the front-wheel drive in the Plymouth Reliant was a decade and a half earlier. My A4 was virtually unstoppable in the snow (which in Northeast Ohio we get a lot of). Indeed, Quattro was known to inspire so much overconfidence that tow truck drivers would refer to winter storms as “Audi Duty Time,” in reference to pulling over confident Audi drivers out of ditches. Luckily I never succumbed to Audi Duty Time. The Quattro system also reaped dividends in the rain, and even in the dry, making sure that the power of the 30V V6 was put to good use, and that I never had to suffer any embarrassing wheel spin.
Speaking of the engine, the 190HP 2.8L 30V was also a gem, with HP and torque specs comparable to the engine in my Maxima, despite being down 200cc of displacement. While the 5-valve per cylinder arrangement would suggest a high-revving engine, it was really more of stump puller, with the 207 ft. lb. torque peak coming at a relatively low 3200 RPM. That didn’t stop me from feeling smug about the 5-valve layout, which was shared with Ferrari and few other cars. The engine, combined with the all-wheel drive, yielded a claimed 0-60 time of 7.4 seconds, very respectable for the day and easily achievable with minimal fuss and wheel spin.
The 5-speed manual, being smooth, easy shifting and having a large meaty knob that one could easily grab, was a huge improvement over the agricultural manual transmission in the Maxima that I complained so much about in my last COAL. The only gripe I had with the powertrain was the clutch, with its characteristic VW high take-up point. To wit: Almost all Japanese cars (including my prior Maxima and both Acuras) have clutches that start engaging once the pedal is barely off the carpet, and then engage very quickly. While a little touchy to learn on (the quick take-up makes it easier to stall), once mastered these style clutches are very fast and make it easy to launch and drive the car quickly. The clutch on the A4 (and Volkswagens in general, I would come to find out) has a take-up point that is much closer to the top of the clutch pedal travel. The first inch or two of pedal travel do nothing, which tends to make the car feel lazy. Worst, the engagement of the clutch is more gradual, which tends to make the car feel even slower still, and frustrate fast driving. While this style of slow clutch if very forgiving to learn on (it is virtually impossible to stall), it does not inspire confidence for spirited driving.
My only other minor disappointment had to do with the unavailability options that were not commonplace in 1998 outside the most expensive cars – navigation, traction control, stability control, and HID Xenon headlights. The latter I was able to resolve by purchasing online a set of Xenon headlights from the German S4 which, at the time, was not sold in the US and was the only A4 variant available with HID headlights. While I paid dearly for them ($1600, as I recall), I was able to sell them for almost what I paid for them several years later when I eventually retired the A4. It was money well-spent: There was literally a night-and-day difference from the stock halogen bulbs, and I have since specified HIDs on almost all the cars I have purchased since.
This A4 is also the first car for which I have digital photos. While some of the early photos are scans of prints, the newer ones were taken in late 2000 with a Kodak DC290 digital camera, which sported a whopping 2 megapixels. It is hard to recall now what a big deal digital photography was back in 2000, but scrolling through this article it is easy to tell which pictures are scans and which are digital.
All in all, I still consider A4 was still one of the best cars I ever owned, and the driving impressions hold up well even after several decades. But where was all this going? My quest for automotive continuous improvement had reached a Pareto plateau, beyond which lied a large expanse of diminishing returns and financial unsustainability. Even small improvement in subjective vehicle quality (A6, 5-series, E-Class, etc.) would require ever-increasing financial commitments.
But more to the point, was my life destined to be a treadmill of working and buying ever more expensive cars? Now that I was in my 30’s, was it time to finally grow up? Come back in two weeks for the surprising answer, after the intermission.
Such clean looking cars, and it was rather incredible how many colors were offered during the run of the first generation. Has any Audi model ever come in so many hues? I always liked the deep Hibiscus Red and bright Pelican Blue, but my absolute favorite by far was Jaspis Green (a pale greenish silver tone).
Seems like “Jaspis” colors were the fashion at the time. Mercedes offered Jaspis Blue, a very nice metallic blue. Just make sure you don’t order base spec.
The latest trend in Germany is to highlight the blue paint colour in the German market brochures and advertisements.
We seem to go through the colour trend every five-ten years or so. Dark green metallic and brown metallic were all rage in the 2000s.
If four colours (black, grey, silver, and white) are so popular, why not charge a ridiculous amount for those colours and make the less popular colours free? That would shift the colour preference to the wider range not seen since 1970s and 1980s.
Yes, the colors available, and commonly seen, were splendiferous. I really miss them in the bland sea of muted colors nowadays.
Although I’ve never really been an Audi fan, this is a nice-looking car.
To what I can relate is purchasing brand new German cars and the monthly financial outlay as I “fell victim” to this trap: 2002 Mercedes C240: $509/month and, 4 years later, 2006 BMW 330i at $557/month.
With my current vehicle, I have no payments, but it’s safe to assume I’ll return to “Germany” again and the land of multi-hundred-dollars-per-month cash outlays.
My uncle in Germany went from air-cooled VWs to Audi and stayed with Audi for all of his driving years, except the most recent ones. He now drives an electric assisted tricycle and he enjoys it a lot. Before that tricycle he owned a A4 like yours. He is not much of a driver, more of an operator of cars. Nonetheless even as passenger one can feel the inherent quality of this car. I would love to have one, but I would hate the bills. I am living in an area were 90: of the corners are 90* because 85% of the roads are straight lines. There are simply not enough curvy hilly country roads to justify (excuse) the expense for such a marvel of a scoot. His A4 is still around but suffers from an electrical gremlin. There is a short that drains the battery and diagnosis alone would be kind of expensive.
The 1996 Maxima had 190 hp, same rating as your A4. Not sure about the torque number.
I worked with a guy whose wife was successful in medical sales and bought an A6, perhaps a bit older. I think it may have been a CPO, but am not sure.
The car was fabulous in every respect but one: Every year without fail it required a 4 figure cash injection. After several years of this (and after she became a stay home mom) it finally became one too many and they eventually gave it to the mechanic after being towed in for the last time.
A fabulous car as long as someone else owned it. Your lease method was undoubtedly a better idea.
I can totally relate to that. I got a C5 A6 (MY2000) when I was a sales person. In Melange Metallic (beige). Beautiful interior, solid driver. Much more interior space and trunk capacity than an equivalent BMW E39.
And yes, it required a 4 figure cash injection for repairs on an annual basis. Got too expensive after awhile and disposed of it.
I also think Audi was at that time a far superior handling, riding, accelerating car than the 3 series. I remember renting one early 2000’s and I was floored with it. As an older car however I think Audi’s could be more trouble than the 3 series of the time. But when they run right my god they trumped BMW back then.
I had a 98.5 V6 Quattro much like this, only in black, with brown interior. It was a nice car (and a Car Lust), but was expensive to repair, and had to be repaired often. Premium-only gas was a bit dear in 2010-11 too. It had the sport suspension but the nice 5-spoke wheel like these instead of the 8-spoke. I imagine the original owner demanded a swap.
I owned a 1996 A4 like yours in a beautiful metallic silver with those gorgeous five spoke wheels. The dealership served me champagne as I signed the papers. You’re correct. The new A4 was so attractive and aspirational that it saved Audi’s bacon in the US and propelled it to the upper echelon position it holds today. I traded it in for a 2000 A6. I had none of the expensive upkeep bills that others mentioned. Just normal stuff. That A4 still holds a special place in my automotive heart.
Great looking Audi!
“Audi Duty Time…”
In Vermont, the parallel would be “Subaru Duty Time.” At the foot of a several-mile downgrade, at Roxbury, is a large Subaru graveyard, an ominous reminder that while All Wheel Drive may help you GO, it does nothing to help you STOP.
Yamaha tried the 5 valve thing and determined it simply wasn’t worth the effort, expense, or the problems it created.
I read that they turned the 5th valve into the location for the direct fuel injector, not a bad outcome really.
Wonderful, wonderful cars. I was the second owner of a base-spec 1997 B5 A4 1.8 manual with FWD. I got it just after the odo hit the 220 000 km mark and ran it up to 540 000 km, and I can unequivocally state that this was by far the very best car I’ve ever owned. Great fun to drive, durable, easy on the liquified dinosaur, and easy on my pocket as well.
The driving experience was stellar: as secure as the AWD V6 versions were, they felt a bit lumpen when compared to the FWD 4-cylinder cars. The 6-pot was a fair bit heavier than the compact 1.8 20 valve engine, and the AWD system added extra weight all round as well as increased driveline drag, making it feel like the quattro V6 was towing a caravan when compared to the FWD 1.8. The lighter engine up front gave a much crisper turn-in, and weight transfer was more accurately controlled. With a simple torsion-beam rear axle, it lacked the final layer of polish exhibited by the AWD cars, but it made up for that by keeping the up-spec car’s fancy 5-link front suspension.
The combination worked a treat. It wasn’t overly firmly sprung, but body motions were well controlled, and the radical front suspension separated steering- and driving forces from roads shocks, letting just enough info through to the driver’s fingers. I don’t exactly remember the details of how it worked, but the results were profound. Superior control over camber-, caster- and toe changes throughout the suspension’s long travel gave it a front end with real bite and predictable responses. It was a car which encouraged the driver to maintain momentum and steer by the throttle, in much the same vein as an Alfasud or late-80s Honda.
And maintaining momentum was imperative. The engine was never endowed with an abundance of low-rev torque. Sure, it sort of pulled OK from 2000 r/min, but 173 N.m could only do so much. In standard trim, the torque delivery is flat – fairly smooth and linear, but never enough to make for anything more than adequate motive power. Quattro simply wasn’t necessary with this engine… No turbo meant very little low-down torque from the 20V 4-pot, necessitating a fair amount of clutch slip on pullaway and frequent trips to the top of the rev range to round up its mighty 125 (initially) horses. My car was somewhat different from the normal ones, though…
I fitted and fine-tuned an aftermarket piggyback engine controller soon after taking ownership, along with a tuned-length branch exhaust manifold and a free-flowing exhaust system. See, the 1.8-litre 20V ADR engine was severely detuned in the factory to keep it from stepping on the turbo model’s toes – which in turn was detuned to keep it from stepping on the range-topping 2.8-litre V6’s toes.
It’s an interesting piece of trivia: At the A4’s launch in 1994, the top V6 was still a 12V design making only 128 kW (172 horses), while the new 20V turbo made an easy 130+ kW and a lot more torque. The little one was subsequently brought in line by detuning the turbo mill to 110 kW and 210 Nm, which in turn wasn’t far enough ahead of the 105 kW and 180 Nm initially drawn from the nat-asp 1.8 20V. Many local tuners took (and still take) advantage of our lax emission enforcement laws to delimit strangled engines, just like I did with my own A4. Torque peak only jumped from 173 Nm at 3250 r/min to 180 at 4800, but top end power was vastly improved, and it now chased the red line with glee (and a nice bark from that open exhaust).
You still had to keep it on the boil with generous stirring of the gearstick though, which fortunately was no chore at all, as the gear shift action was simply gorgeous: short of throw and slick of syncro. Incidentally, I love that high clutch take-up point – to me, it facilitated quicker gearchanges when driven in anger, because the clutch released with only a quick dip of the left foot…
And yet, it was remarkably frugal, even when driven in the fashion it encouraged. High speed and laden cross country cruises returned low 7 litre/100 km figures in spite of short overall gearing (3600 r/min at 120 km/h in top) and frequent downshifts. It was also remarkably refined, with low cabin noise levels, well-insulated mechanicals, and a lovely loping ride thanks to its beautifully judged ride/handling balance. Most SA-spec A4s came with a Bose active speaker sound system, and that was nice too.
Overall, a really great car to live with. Considerate too, with a sizeable glove box, plenty of little hidey-holes for stuff, and intricate but utterly useless folding dual cup holders right behind the gear lever. I hated the climate control system, but eventually adapted to the multiple button-presses to get the settings I preferred. But come on… those bootlid hinges were a work of art. Look it up on google. It was also well-made, with no trim rattles after driving to the moon and back, and the cloth upholstery was still smooth and with no torn stiching.
In its time with me, the following went wrong:
– A set of bent valves, because the previous owner neglected to replace the cambelt tensioner for two consecutive cambelt services. Fortunately, I’m really proficient with a ratchet set, so the costs were fairly minor (think US$400 back in 2005). Of course, the Audi stealership quoted me about three times that amount, but seeing as it was a fairly straightforward repair, I got it all done by myself in 3 days (only working on it in the evenings).
– A replacement gearbox, after the diff packed it in around 400k km. This was entirely my fault, as I was forced to limp along for the better part of 1000km using front wheels and tyres of differing diameter, following a blowout in the middle of nowhere on a Saturday afternoon. In retrospect, I should have swapped the front and rear wheels… The constant rotational speed difference between the front driveshafts put undue strain on the diff assembly, making it eats itself in record time. The reason for the different tyres? Well, the stock wheels were 15-inch items with hideous plastic covers and delaminated Continental tyres, while I happened to have a set of four OEM S4 17-inch alloys with matching Michelins lying in my garage. No brainer. If only I’d thought about matching the spare with the new footwear…
– A replacement throttle body around 500k km. This generation of stepper-motor-equipped VWAG throttle bodies are prone to failure, and I’m frankly surprised it lasted as long as it did. A cheap replacement from a breaker’s yard sorted me out after about an hour of spannerwork.
– The driver’s window regulator cable drive died around 350k km, and was a surprising hassle to repair. Once again, a breaker’s yard sorted me parts-wise for the equivalent of about US$100, but I paid a panel shop as much again to fit the new door frame (it’s all contained in a single assembly).
And that was it. No other weird expenses, no other mechanical or electronic failures, only regular servicing. Cambelt every 75k km (really easy to do yourself once you’ve figured out how to remove the radiator cradle and bumper), replacement coolant pump and ancillary drive belts every 150k km (every second cambelt service), three batteries, two sets of shocks, front brake pads every 50k km and two full sets of brake disks in its time with me, one set of front control arms and three outer CV boots – nothing too challenging for a moderately equipped home workshop. A recurrence of the cambelt tensioner failure was avoided by engineering an non-OEM solution using a 16V Golf tensioner pulley, mounting stud and lock nut – I never replaced that part again.
It wasn’t a difficult car to work on, parts were reasonably priced, and it was extremely tolerant of driver abuse, a very “enthusiastic” driving style, and poor road conditions. I towed racing cars all across South Africa with it, used it as a training vehicle during my stint as a stunt driving instructor, frequently cruised well past 160 km/h for hours on end, used it as my daily commuter (when my BMW E34 was broken, which was depressingly often), went on long touring holidays into Africa, and it always made me smile while driving.
I finally sold it off when the time came for replacement of all the wheel bearings, all brake disks and hoses, suspension- and subframe bushes – it simply wasn’t economically viable to repair it, and I had better use for that money elsewhere. Its next owner performed the bare minimum of repair work to the suspension and brakes, and then proceeded to add another 150k km to the odo with nothing but basic servicing over the past 4 years. Yes, it’s still running, and its current owner still adores it.
Frankly, I struggle to understand how these A4s have such a terrible reputation for durability and maintenance in the US and elsewhere, because it’s actually been the most solid car I’ve ever encountered. The sheer depth of engineering and quality which went into the B5 A4 still stands as my personal yardstick for compact executive saloons.
I wish I still had it in my life. My heart is still broken from betraying our relationship the way I did…
“I struggle to understand how these A4s have such a terrible reputation for durability and maintenance in the US and elsewhere, because it’s actually been the most solid car I’ve ever encountered.”
It was very expensive to fix when it needed it, even at independent mechanics. $1300 for a front suspension replacement every 100K miles, $1K-$1500 for a timing belt (V6) every 75K miles (or earlier if you were a careful person), and $2K for a clutch can really add up. And that’s just regular maintenance. $500 to replace the ignition switch, and that mechanic botched the job. $800 for rear wheel bearings. I could go on.
Ultimately what led me to trade mine away was the price of gas at the time. I was driving 650 miles per week at 25 MPG to the tune of about $140/week in gas and I was staring at about $3K in maintenance (not repair) costs in the next year (timing belt and clutch). I traded it for a 2012 Cruze Eco and cut my fuel costs in half. The fuel savings alone nearly paid the monthly note, plus it was under warranty.
Wow… Front suspension replacements every 160k km! What do you do with your cars over there? That said, it’s quite probable that V6 cars (which I presume was the big seller in the US) could have suffered more issues in that regard due to increased load in that system – that extra weight, again. It also appears that your mechanics and parts are ruinously expensive. We’d pay half as much for the same work over here.
I forgot to mention the ignition switch replacement, that happened around 300k km as I recall. But $500? Nope. Cost me about 150 with an OEM part and a day’s struggle. That said, my Jeep WJ needed a switch replacement before 200k km, and let’s not get me started on my Fiesta’s infernal cylindrical lock effort…
I think the main difference in maintenance/repair costs is that you did most of the work yourself. The timing belt changes, valve replacement, and throttle body replacement that you mention in your original post above are not cheap if you do not have the skills/time/space/ tools to do it yourself.
Martin, I’ll follow up on your question about suspension durability, or apparent lack thereof. One of Audi’s main selling points is the Quattro system, so a disproportionate number of them are sold in parts of the U.S. with Real Winters. Those places can also get pretty hot in the summer, a fair amount of precipitation, and the combination is tough on roadbeds (talk to the people who design and build roads if you don’t believe me). Despite this, the state and local governments rarely budget enough to keep up with the damage. So,what do we do our cars over here? We drive them on the roads we have, not the ones in the advertisements and the tourist bureau pictures.
The other side of the coin is what Audi did to some of their U.S. Market cars. I bought a new 1998 A6. It was a bit lardy around town but it was a fabulous highway cruiser, quite roomy, and had possibly the nicest interior I have experienced in any car that I have owned. However, at about the 3 year mark it developed terrible squeaking and scraping noises in the front suspension. It turned out ALL the bushings were shot. The repair was quite expensive because A6 bushings were not separate, replaceable components. You had to replace all the control arms, tie rods, and other metal bits. There were a lot of them because it had the much-vaunted 5-link front suspension. Audi initially said sorry, they wouldn’t pay. I challenged them and pointed out they had softened the bushings quite a bit for the U.S. market. I told them the failure was a direct consequence of inadequately testing the change and I didn’t like spending $40K (or whatever it was) to be their beta tester. I also said I would be reporting the problem to NHTSA (the U.S. safety agency). Amazingly, they folded and replaced the suspension bits. The ride definitely got a little harsher and the steering feel improved, which indicates they already knew there was an issue and had changed the bushing materials.
There were no more suspension repairs after that, but as Jeff noted, it seemed to need something big ($2K-3K) every year or two once the warranty ran out. I know at least two other A6 owners who had similar experiences. On the other hand, I do see some A4s and A6s of that vintage still in operation, so I guess not all of them were unreliable money pits. And, the exterior and interior design holds up extremely well even 20 years later. They will always be very good-looking cars.
A coworker of mine has an early 2000s A6 Quattro (with the coveted manual transmission). He just had the timing belt service done (on age, the car has something like 84K miles on it) at the dealer – $4495. That is not a typo. They must have done something else too but it was all regular service.
Who buys a luxury car and doesn’t know it’s also going to cost more to keep up than whatever generic econo crapbox would be it’s rough equivalent anyway?
Fact is that these Audi A4s or Mercedes C/E-Classes are considered here in Germany as middle/upper middle class cars. Of course they are more expensive than a Opel or Ford but still the real luxury cars are Audi A8 or the Mercedes S-Class. But of course it depends all on the trim level and engine.
My personal opinion, but I wouldn’t bother with one of the German triumvirate of luxury Marques unless it was at least an E/5/A6. At least in my section of the world (Anerican Midwest) in 2017 AD the small German luxury cars are for real estate agents who don’t totally suck at their jobs, yuppie wannabes, spoiled kids and lease deal ballers.
If you are worried about a car draining your account because of upkeep, obviously it either isn’t worth bothering with or one is too impoverished to even consider such a car.
Your take is frankly such a personification of everything I have now later in life found to be what I hate about most of the Midwest. Don’t fit within the middle class? You were clearly faking wealth, or dirt poor trash. I was born and raised in Minnesota the first 30 years of my life. Showing any sort of wealth within my community was such a signal to be labeled as an outsider, regardless if you were or not. Yet nobody would bat an eye at a loaded Lariat F-150 growing up, but you sure would catch hell if you drove an Audi… Asinine.
Some people like things because they prefer a smaller car. Some people like things because they don’t know “better”. Some people like things because they want to feel they still have control of a sense of personality. Some people like things because they simply can.
Please cut out the “I’m projecting” and “living beyond my means” BS.
You misread what I wrote, but I’ll chalk that up to the mental abuse you suffered at the hands of Midwesterners. Sorry to trigger you.
“At least in my section of the world (Anerican Midwest) in 2017 AD the small German luxury cars are for real estate agents who don’t totally suck at their jobs, yuppie wannabes, spoiled kids and lease deal ballers.”
What exactly did I misread here?
I wasn’t trying to be rude in my response, or single you out personally. I only wanted to point out what I think is an unfair opinion. Your snide response wasn’t needed, yet it sure does a good job backing up my initial observations.
Certainly, a BMW 3-series, Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class is still a “middle class” D-segment car. Just like a Ford Mondeo, VW Passat or Opel Insignia.
And frankly, despite their price level, they have become the norm and the most common sedans (or wagons) in said segment. Needless to mention these three also own the E- and F-segment. Japanese and Korean models are completely chanceless in anything beyond the C-segment (compacts).
Regional differences folks, regional differences.
What would be the price premium that the first three makes would command over the latter three though? 20-30%?
I guess that’s about right. Keep in mind that the depreciation of the three “premiums” is lower too, especially in case of the Benz. Say a very basic C-Class costs the same as a fully-loaded Mondeo (Vignale) with the most powerful engine, both cars bought new. Guaranteed the Benz holds its value better than the Ford, assumed both cars have the same yearly mileage.
One of my favourite Audi designs. I almost pulled the trigger on one the last time I was on a hunt for a car. The price on them now at least in BC is around the $2000 I had. I soon realized that would probably be the down payment. I took my own advice for a change when it comes to vw and Audi products that unless you are doing the repairs yourself the labour will make your bank account go in the red. And coming from a long line of easy to repair ( although often) aircooled vw’s the thought of all the extra wires and hoses seemed a bit too daunting. If I could find a well kept manual fwd gas or tdi I would be tempted…
A friend of mine bought one of these, either a 1998 or 1999 model (can’t remember now) with the AWD and 5-speed.
It was a great car for a few years until the engine started to stumble badly. The wiring harness had melted from the engine heat. Apparently, after doing some research, my friend found out that it wasn’t an uncommon problem- the harness was routed too close to the engine with inadequate shielding in some setups.
The dealership regarded it as a warranty issue, but the Audi regional office refused to cover it, so there went thousands of dollars to fabricate and install a new harness.
Martin: your comment was worth a COAL article.
Obviously, being mechanically skilled and equipped is going to help with the maintenance cost not only with items that need to be done but also with those that a service department may “recommend” even if they are not needed. That alone makes up for the occasional self inflicted damage.
I actually have about 18 cars’ worth of COAL material, but I don’t have any pictures of most of them (not even of this beloved B5).
I also looked into submitting a few pieces for this site, but gave up when I saw the requirements attached to publishing anything here in terms of form and layout. It looks like huge schlepp, so I’ll just hang around and read what other people say…
Working on my own car undoubtedly made a big difference to my ownership experience, as well as having good relations with some VWAG technicians giving me pointers as to problem areas and how to solve them. That said, I’m shocked at how much fairly affordable outwork on these cars cost over there. Non-franchise workshops here are clearly far less expensive than in the US.
18 COALS is a lot. But you should not be dissuaded from writing them, in particular if you can find pictures of the cars on-line. Once you have written one or two you get the hang of it. Start with an Outtake or a curbside find.
Agreed. Especially since you can bring a European slant. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but it gets to be pretty easy.
Don’t let my borderline-obsessive photo collection intimidate you. Lots of people use representative photos. What matters is the story.
+1 I’m not into photography so when I did my COAL series, I had very few pictures of the actual cars but found their twins online.
I loved my 96 2.8 A4. So many came off of lease when I bought mine that it was on par in price with a Passat. Bought it for 12K in 2000 with 75K miles on it.
I always wondered something about my car. My back license plate display area was extra wide to hold a euro plate…most cars and all later cars were all american plate sized, so it seemed…did they ship a few euro plate trunk lids in ’96 to keep up with initial 1st year demand? I’d only see the euro trunk on a few cars…I preferred the proportion….
Also had the teeny passenger side mirror and the old style door pulls….
Loved my A4…..drove it for 250K miles until the plastic heater/AC core disintigrated…..still be driving it otherwise…
Interesting reading, both the article and other owners’ comments. Definitely one of the cars that really drove Audi’s revival.
The comment about the digital camera triggered a memory; the first one I used was I think 640kB resolution and used a floppy disk for storage. Memory cards were available, but I think they cost something like $60 for an 8MB card; less than what a $5 box of floppy disks would hold. Great as a tool of trade though, much more convenient & cheaper than film.
Gorgeous car – ranks up there with the 240D as perfectly designed. I too had Audi lust, and picked up a 1978 5000 – a design I admire to this day. At 50k miles though it started nickel, diming and then finally $2-800 repairs quite frequently. I wasn’t in a position to do that and pay for housing so the Audi had to go.
I disagree that one should expect higher maintenance and costs with a luxury car – Lexus, Infinity and Acura all know how to keep repair frequency down. Audi, BMW and MB have no incentive to do so though since most of their cars are leased and they know the cash cow they’ll have in owner 2 and beyond…
In the early 2000’s a friend of mine owned an Audi TT. It was fine for the first 5 years; then started requiring more and more cash infusions and dealer repairs.
I heard all about it’s virtues and it’s “Superior German Engineering”…..as I gave it’s owner frequent rides to and from the Audi dealer in my 2011 Camry LE. A car the Audi owner looked down his collective, superior German car nose at as being “dull and appliance like”.
My usual greeting to him was something along the lines of “What broke on your Audi lately? Need a ride to the dealer in my dull but reliable Camry?”
My 98 2.8 5 speed was dead reliable. Drove it from 85k to 195k miles. Never replaced the clutch, didnt burn any oil and barely ever stumbled or had a check engine light. Very solid. Tires, brakes, wheel bearings, valve gaskets and normal stuff is all i did. The only questionable item was the ABS main computer going out. Not a biggie, just took it out and sent it to be rebuild for $150 and we were back in action.
Hands down the best car I ever had in the rain. Won’t get stuck in the snow and plenty of torque from the V6 30 valve engine.