September 3, 1999

A4.Org Test Drives the 2000 Audi Models.
Article and photos by Matt Daniels

I don't know if it's a good idea letting a bunch of kids lose in a candy store free to take what ever they want, but I can tell you that the kids don't really care. That's exactly how I felt when I first looked at the parking lot full of brand new Audi 2000 models waiting to be driven by myself and 120 other journalist at the 2000 model press unveiling in Monterey, California.

All of these new models for the 2000 model year are part of what Audi is calling a "Performance Initiative" and from what I have seen so far it seems like they are on the right track. From the S4, which is to become the key foundation for the performance range of the North American Audi models, to the TT that is being used to help rebuild the image of the Audi brand in America, all of these new cars have plenty of performance to give. Available for test drives were the S4, the two new A6 models - 2.7T and 4.2 V8, the updated A8 and the two TT models - the quattro and front wheel drive.

Audi S4 test drive
First up for me was the Audi S4. The S4 I drove was Brilliant Black with black leather and silver Alacantara. Earlier in the day, Audi of America Vice-President Len Hunt described the S4 as a "silken rocket", meaning that for normal every-day driving, the car is very smooth and rather tame, but when pushed it would spring into action without hesitation. Right away I could understand what Mr. Hunt meant, driving in the heavy traffic around the eastern hills of Monterey, the car was very smooth and rather enjoyable. After turning off the main road and waiting for the cop to stop following me, I had a chance to really test the power of the S4. With a press of the gas pedal, the S4 jumped into action with very little turbo lag, and it kept giving power all the way to red-line. I was able to get it into 6th gear for a few seconds before I had to slow down. This car was amazing, the power was always there no matter what gear I was in. The braking and handling were both exeptional. My only complaint was that the steering seemed a little darty, but this could have been a result of the less than perfect country roads I was on. My time behind the wheel was all too short, I hoped I could have another drive in it later in the day, but it never happened. My short test drive more than made me excited about the S4. I can't wait to have more time behind this car.

Audi A6 2.7T test drive
Next up was the A6 2.7T, which shares the same engine, 6-speed transmission, and braking system as the S4. It also has a revised suspension from the A6 2.8 sedans. The car I drove was also equipped with the optional sports package, which consists of split spoke 16" wheels, and Dunlop SP 9000 tires. My first impression of this A6 was that the seat-of-the pants acceleration seemed almost identical to the S4. Audi's 0-60 time for the A6 2.7T is only .1 second slower than the S4, so it wasn't very surprising that the acceleration seemed identical. Driving through a fairly twisty canyon, the differences between the S4 and the A6 2.7T became apparent. The S4 had a very tight feel and very little body roll when taking corners, whereas the A6 2.7T was a little softer and more body roll. This could have been because the S4 was equipped with 17" wheels with more aggressive tires. Overall I was very impressed with this A6. Since the A6 2.7T is only about $1000 more than an S4, I believe it would be the perfect alternative to the S4 if you were looking for more room.

TT's lined up waiting for a drive

Audi TT quattro test drive
After the 2.7T A6 it was time to really have some fun. My choice was a silver TT quattro. I took this car to my personal limits on some very nice and challenging canyon roads. The TT is definitely a true drivers car and it really shows it stuff when driven hard. The handling was beyond amazing in my opinion, I never once felt like I wasn't in control of this car and if my driving skills were more up to par, I bet I could have taken this car to even further limits. The best part about my driving experience with the TT quattro was the other TT quattro that was behind me the whole time. After the drive was over, I discovered that the other TT was being driving by an Audi of America representative. It was nice to see them out there enjoying the cars too.

Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to test drive the A6 4.2, the updated A8 or the TT fwd model. Although I did get some drive time in a 4.2 A6 the next day on the freeway. It was the perfect car for cruising the long stretches of highway. Hopefully I'll be able to test one of these in more detail in the near future.

The year 2000 looks like it will be very exciting in the Audi community. All of the new models are very performance minded and should more than please the enthusiast and the general consumer. The S4 will definitely be a hit among the enthusiast and with the similar performance numbers and pricing, I believe the A6 2.7T will be popular among the people who wish for more interior room than the S4. It was also mentioned at the Audi press conference that sport wagons maybe the next big market for automobiles. If so, we can expect Audi to be ahead of the pack with Avant versions of all their new performance cars. Of course, this is at least a year away at the earliest. But it is something to think about.