I have to say the fascination with BMW wagons and their ensuing high prices sometimes perplexes me, as Audi offered a sporty, manual, all-wheel drive Avant that is great looking, reliable and long-lived and will make you feel pretty special. That’s especially so when it’s optioned in one of the more rare shades available on the B5; today’s example is Cactus Green Mica. It looks great offset by Celebration wheels, and it’s got a lot of recent maintenance – so let’s take a look!
We look at a lot of infrequently seen cars on these pages, but sometimes one really stands out to me, and that was the case with this 1997 Audi A4. Now, rarity is not on the side of the Audi A4, even in its least sold configuration. In its launch year of 1996, Audi shifted more A4s than it sold cars in total in each model year of 1991, 1992, 1993, and 1994. In fact, the only reason the company didn’t sell more 1996 A4s than 1995 total cars was because a few 1996 models were sold at the end of 1995, upping the overall sales for that year. It was a wildly popular model though underneath there were overall few changes to what you could buy in the 1995 90 quattro. Even the look was a scaled down version of the 1993/4 ASF (A8) concept. But that didn’t matter – it was great looking, sporty and compact with a quality feel and still held the trump card for all-wheel drive in the small market. Unlike earlier models where the front-drive version of the chassis outsold the quattro versions, the A4 was also the first to really sell with a majority of all-wheel drive; about 80% (16,333 out of 20,671) of those that were sold in 1997 were so equipped. That would make a FrontTrak model much more rare than what we’re seeing here, so why claim this car isn’t often seen? Well, it’s just not. Think about the last time you saw a really clean pre-facelift A4. I’ll wait. Sure, there are a handful out there, but as with earlier Audis the residuals dropped and most were neglected. The A4, in addition to being a sales success, also brought Audi fully into the disposable luxury class. People that had previously bought Audis generally treasured them, especially so of the quattros. But with the A4, in many ways the small executive just became a German Camry. It was a nice Camry and that name has such a negative connotation it’s not fair to associate with, but moving into a more mainstream sales bracket also diluted the enthusiastic ownership of the brand.
On top of that, 1997 launched a new direction for the A4 which was the introduction of the 1.8T turbocharged power plant. While not a potent mill out of the box, enthusiasts (especially those downstream of initial purchase) welcomed the return of turbos to Audi and the ensuing modifications began. The result of all of this was that while the A4 was popular, it was no longer the heirloom quality automobile that models like the 4000 had been. It became, in many ways, just another car, and ultimately these factors contribute to the result of a model which isn’t often seen in the wild any more: