Classic CARmentary: 1998 Audi A4 Avant

Another in a series of my reviews that appeared in the online version of African Americans On Wheels, a now defunct automotive magazine that was included as an insert in the Sunday newspapers of major cities.

While my wife really enjoyed the A6 sedan, I was partial to this little wagon.  Although I really wanted to drive the 1.8T since I’d already experienced the V6 in both the A6 and the Passat, I didn’t mind experiencing it again.  It was a fine engine.  Unfortunately, the only thing I really remember about this car is that someone left the rear wiper on and it took me quite awhile to figure out how to shut it off.  I kind of pride myself on being able to sit down in a car and be familiar with all of its controls within the first five minutes.  Of course, that’s not really possible today, but in the late ’90s, it was entirely possible.

This review ran on November 30, 1998.

Okay, last time: the station wagon is NOT dead. In fact, wagons like the Audi A4 Avant may pry people out of their big, cumbersome sport-utility vehicles and minivans.

The A4, which heralded Audi’s recent surge in popularity, is a good looking sedan, and this is not lost on the Avant wagon. It maintains the stout, muscular stance of the sedan, with a canted rear window that parallels the slanted C-pillars, resulting in a slick “forward motion” look. Thick five-spoke alloy wheels on fat 16-inch tires complete the effect.

Under the hood lies a 190-horsepower, 2.8 liter V6 linked to either a five-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic, Audi’s “manumatic” transmission developed by Porsche for the 911. Our example did not have the optional all-wheel drive Quattro, but standard traction control more than made up for it. Acceleration is quite brisk, and the suspension is tuned for twisty autobahn driving. The price is a firm ride that transmits most road imperfections to the cabin. For 1999, a turbocharged 150-horsepower, 1.8 liter four cylinder comes standard, and the V6 will only be available in Quattro form.

But this is still a wagon aimed at young couples, and Audi hasn’t forgotten that. The interior of our example was nicely appointed with wood inserts and optional leather heated seats. Climate control, power “one-touch” windows, power driver’s seat, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel are standard.

While in price the A4’s closest competitor is the Volvo V70 wagon, it is closer to the Escort and Saturn wagons in cargo volume. The Avant’s short 176.7 inch length and slanted rear window result in a tight 26 cubic feet of cargo space; with the seat down, there is a more respectable 62 cubic feet. Although there is a leather-covered pass-through for skis so the 60/40 split/fold rear seat can remain up, rear passengers will not be happy for long back there. A standard cargo net and retractable cargo cover are convenient touches.

If cargo volume is not a primary concern, however, the A4 Avant offers a sporty and practical alternative to a sedan without the “soccer mom” stigma.

For more information contact 1-800-FOR-AUDI


Type:5-Door Station Wagon
Engine:190-horsepower, 2.8 liter V6
Transmission:Four-speed Automatic with Tiptronic
EPA Mileage:18 city/29 highway
Tested Price:$33,945

I’m sorry to say that wagons did not pry people out of their “big, cumbersome sport-utility vehicles,” and those minivan drivers switched to SUVs.  Fortunately, there’s still a niche market for wagons, at least for now.