A little while ago I wrote on here about my search for a new car. Well, drum roll please, I bought one, however, not wanting to jinx anything I thought I’d leave it a few months before sounding its praise and telling everyone what a wonderful job I’d done. I did this deliberately, having learnt from experience, as the car this one replaced broke down and caused me considerable financial hardship from day two of ownership! So you’ll understand my reluctance.

Now though, 5 months down the line and 3000 blissful warning light free miles later I feel able to tell you how lovely my Audi A4 1.8 Turbo Quattro Avant Sport is. I’ll admit that this specific car didn’t actually feature on my list of potential buys. However you’ll find an Audi S4 Avant did and after concluding that I liked the look of an estate over a saloon but couldn’t justify a 2.7 litre twin turbo charged V6 as a daily driver, this top of the range (back in 2000) Quattro fitted the bill nicely.

a4 1

As for fulfilling the other aspects of my car search? Well, it ticked the clearly very German theme, it ticked the faster than you might think, street sleeper brief and to boot it features a very similar Haldex AWD system and 20 valve turbo engine as the Audi S3, the car I actually thought I would buy. Timing, price and condition also played a part. This car came with a lovely documented history, had been beautifully presented, came in at under 3 grand and was advertised 10 minutes from my house.

The B5 A4 also holds significance for me as it was the car I adored the most in the 96/97 BTCC (it won the 96 title and was runner up in 97). Watching it bounce over the kerbs in the hands of Frank Biela I never thought as a 7 year old I’d actually own one later in life. The A4 was a bit of a game changer for Audi too, thanks in part to its touring car success (win on Sunday sell on Monday) but also because it was better built and finished to a higher quality than its predecessor the 80. It was the first car Audi built that was a serious contender to their German rivals the Merc C-class and BMW 3 Series. My car with the 1999 facelift marked the end of B5 A4 production with B6 starting in 2000. This means that my car wasn’t around for too long especially in Quattro Sport guise, that slight rarity factor just makes it all the more appealing.

a4 btcc

Now I know visuals are very subjective but I love the way its smooth curved surfaces look. There are little touches that really set it off for me too, the one piece projector headlights, and the crisp red of the rear lights broken only by the clear indicator strip instead of a nasty amber one. The 17 inch dished wheels with 235mm profile tyres, the Bose sound system and the Quattro badges on the grill, dash and on the boot. When you shut the doors there’s a reassuring Germanic clunk which I love too and the whole car including its half leather sports seats has aged very well given its 113000 miles.

a4 2

a4 3

a4 4

To drive, well it’s a fairly relaxed affair. The engine produces a very useful 180bhp which makes overtaking and motorway driving very easy; however don’t get fooled into thinking it’s a rocket ship, the car is fast but feels big and heavy. However, teamed with Quattro the A4 really does give you a sense of security when it gets damp. Sports suspension and low profile tyres do mean the ride is a little crashy at times but at least they keep the car pretty level when cornering. Push it hard though and the A4 does tend to wash out into understeer, even with Quattro. This is due to the engine being mounted ahead of the front axle, as it is in most big Audis, meaning that even with all the will in the world the car can’t counteract the heavy pendulum in its nose. I’ve found the trick is not to go into corners too hot and once turned in dial in the speed and let the Quattro propel you out the other side. Personally I find it quite rewarding to drive but it certainly isn’t a hot hatch.

To conclude then, I know this has been a very biased article but I adore my newish car. It has the rarity, slightly left field factor I was after, it looks good, it brings back happy childhood memories and it has been utterly dependable. From this very selfish article, if anything, I’d want you to take away this. If you are in the market for a second hand car consider one of Ingolstadt’s offerings. Because Audi’s, even today, still play second fiddle to BMW’s and Merc’s and I just don’t think that’s very fair.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonysphotos/6590574479/”>tonylanciabeta</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>