1999 Audi A4 2.8 quattro

Emerging from the sales slump brought on by the recession and actual fake news, Audi solidified its position in the small executive luxury market with its brand new A4 model in 1996. While in truth the car heavily borrowed from the evolution of the B3/4 series and started life with the same flaccid 12 valve V6 that had replaced the sonorous 7A inline-5 for 1993, the A4 was exactly the model Audi needed to redefine its image.

And redefine it did, going from near zero to hero in just a year’s time.

Car and Driver immediately named the A4 one of its “10 Best” cars, a position it would repeat in 1997 and 1998. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the perennial favorite as the BMW 3-series was for the magazine, but still, that it was mentioned in the same breath was impressive. New sheetmetal was smooth and tight, full of great angles and well-placed curves. The bumper covers were finally integrated well again – something the U.S. specification B4 had inexplicably failed miserably at. Inside was evolution rather than revolution, but the cabin looked and felt upscale and modern. And the market responded to this instant hit; consider, in 1994 Audi sold 12,575 cars in total. In 1996, some 15,288 of just the A4 models were sold. That was before the many variations and improvements Audi rolled out in the B5, too.

Seemingly every year new changes offered refreshment and redesign to the A4. In late 1995 and 1996, you could only get one specification – the 2.8 either with or without quattro. But ’97 saw the introduction of the 1.8T, while ’98 gave us the Avant and more potent 30V V6. Okay, it didn’t pack a knockout punch, but new wheels and a sport package, along with a subtle refresh to the tail lights, gave the model a more sporty look:

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2000 Audi A6 4.2 quattro

The A6 4.2 quattro falls into an unappreciated middle ground of typically unappreciated Audis. Unappreciated, that is, for everyone outside of the Vier Ringe, because the C5 has gone down as one of the most devoted fanbase Audi models I can remember, perhaps rivaled only by the B5. But while the cheap speed of the B5 attracted the Volkswagen and BMW crowd, the C5 fans seem to be more traditional Audi folk; offbeat, eclectic and fiercely loyal to their particular model.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the 4.2 gets so thoroughly overlooked by the market in general is due to the depth of the C5 lineup. On the performance end, you had the cool S6 Avant and the outrageous twin-turbocharged RS6. On the practicality end, the standard A6 2.8 and 3.0 models provided Mercedes-Benz like quality and adequate stateliness in both sedan and Avant bodylines. Outdoor adventures and tech-geeks loved the Allroad, which could be had with either a twin-turbocharged 6-speed or the subdued and upscale silky smooth 4.2 V8. And finally, for secret performance lovers, the twin-turbo’d V6 could be mated in narrow-body sedan with a 6-speed manual in the A6 2.7T quattro.

Frankly, it was hard for the 4.2 sedan to stand out in this crowd, yet it managed to appear quite special at the same time. This was the defacto S6 sedan, with aluminum front end and engine, along with wide flares and shark-fin door blades. It was longer, too, to accommodate the V8 tucked in the nose, giving a more menacing appearance overall. Special wider track was met with unique Speedline wheels (later replaced by the forged “Fat Fives”) and meaty 255-40 section tires as an option. And with 300 horsepower, out of the box the 4.2 was the top trump for the 2000 model year in the C5 lineup and would remain so until the 2002 introduction of the S6.…

Drop-top Double Take: 1996 and 1997 Audi Cabriolets

Every semester at the culmination of my teaching experience with the college students who have selected my course rather innocently, I let them in on my super-secret double agent identity as your author here. Having suffered through a few too many of my lectures already, most treat the news with about the same amount of enthusiasm and interest as they do when I tell them about the Sudanese Kush Pharaohs – which is to say, none (seriously, it’s a very interesting topic. Egypt basically denies they existed!). But occasionally I get a student who is much more interested in my double-life than in my lecture notes. One such student passed through was perhaps as unexpected to me as I was to him. He nonchalantly aced the class with seeming little difficulty, but upon seeing my announcement regarding German Cars For Sale Blog, he excitedly emailed me about his shared love of Audis. He revealed that he owned a ’97 Cabriolet, which proves two things: first, smart people buy Audis, and second, Audis turn up where you least expect them. And the Cabriolet might be the least expected Audi Audi made – coming from a manufacturer renowned for turbocharged inline-5, manual all-wheel drive coupes, sedans and wagons came a front-wheel drive, automatic only (in the U.S.) V6 2-door convertible. Expensive, a bit slow and soft compared to the competition, the Cabriolet sold slowly with only around 1,000 units moved per a year during its availability here with a total of 5,439 imported through 1998. I think a fair amount of fans view the B4 Cabriolet as the least interesting of the Audi lineup in the 1990s, but to me it’s always been a very pretty and underrated car. In particular, the rear 3/4 view is very attractive and the shape changed little with its progeny.…