|August 25, 2002
Road Test: 2002 Audi A4 3.0 quattro
With the model changeover from its tried-and-proven A4 2.8 to the redesigned A4 3.0, Audi not only tinkered with the exterior of the vehicle, but added more punch with the 3.0 liter V6 powerplant. Having owned a previous generation A4 2.8 Quattro I eagerly awaited my turn at the helm of the new B6 platform A4. How would the A4 3.0 quattro stack up against the earlier model?
After depositing my 2001 S4 Avant at Anderson-Behl Porsche Audi for some power steering maintenance service, I was surprised to be offered an upgrade from the standard Enterprise Rent-a-Car in the form of a brand new 2002 A4 3.0 Quattro in Tiptronic trim.
My initial impressions of the car were swift and undeniable: it was the best, bar none, rental or loaner car I have ever received in my many years of working with car dealerships. I was further astounded at the level of options this specific car had, since it was essentially loaded save for the navigation system, the sports package (with 17-inch wheels and sports suspension), the ski sack, and the soon to be available Onstar / Cellular phone option.
To my dismay, I had already made previous commitments for most of the weekend that I had the new A4. Since I knew I would not be able to do any extensive testing, I decided to grab another Audi enthusiast friend of mine (Frank Amoroso from UrS4 fame) to get another opinion on the car's overall driving and handling.
Our test track would be a nice stretch of Northern California road in the hills behind San Mateo/Belmont. We set out on Highway 92 from Burlingame, past the Interstate 280 freeway, and up to Skyline Boulevard. Skyline - to those who have never experienced an empty stretch of road like Skyline Boulevard, it would be difficult to articulate what you're missing. Distilled to the basics, it is a stretch of road mostly on the top of the ridge that separates the San Francisco Peninsula from the coastal towns just south of San Francisco. The pavement is unusually smooth and silky with consistent radius or increasing radius turns - just the ticket for a nice romp in a new A4 3.0.
With good luck on our side, we actually found a fairly deserted stretch of road to play with on this Sunday morning. Pushing the car through the twisty corridor from Highway 92 to La Honda, we could not help but to reflect on the substantial gains Audi has made since the early 1990's. For one thing, this A4 was definitely stiffer than any stock Audi I had ever driven before (and keep in mind that this specimen was not even shod with the optional 17-inch wheel/tire package). For another, the stock tires felt better than previous Audis I have owned. I attribute this wholeheartedly to the suspension tuning which, like previous Audis, exhibited a bit of understeer. Also, it nearly goes without saying that Audi has once again raised the bar in terms of the comfort and appointments of the A4 3.0.
Feeling pretty satisfied with the stock setup of the A4, we did what any enthusiast would naturally do next - we opted for a quick wheel and tire swap. In our case it was a set of lightweight SSR Competition wheels and R compound tires. As shown in the pictures, however, the car looked a bit high in the saddle with this setup. If one were to change to a set-up similar to this, I would suggest getting a nice set of coilovers to set the ride height to a more desirable level. By now there are a number of aftermarket vendors that would be glad to offer the A4 3.0 owner with a viable solution for this suspension issue.
The new B6 platform A4 3.0 will definitely appeal to the masses and be a direct competitor to the BMW 330i. If BMW of North America is worried about this car, it is with good reason. Drivers in the market for a replacement for a BMW 325-328i, Mercedes C-class, Saab, or Volvo would do well to include the A4 3.0 on their list of candidates. The car will appeal to people looking for the refinement of a V6 engine, as well as all the other amenities that go with today's option-laden sports sedans. It's more refined than previous models, tauter, and actually comes off as sportier without sacrificing the established comfort that the V6-model A4 has come to be known for.
A special thanks to George Demar, Audi Service Manager of Anderson-Behel Porsche Audi who set me up with this new A4 for the weekend. Hey George, any S8 loaners around?