If you walked into your local Audi dealer in 2006, this was the absolute cheapest new car you could drive away in. However, it was far from a stripper. Based on the Golf 5, the first A3 to come to the US packed a punch with a 2.0T base motor cranking out 200 horsepower and good for 6.5-second 0-60 runs. Your $25,000 base price also got you a pretty nice interior, and (unlike the bulk of Audis today) it came with a manual transmission. Tick the Sport Package option for $1,800, and you got 17″ wheels, a sport suspension, aluminum interior accents, fog lights, a multifunction three-spoke steering wheel, front sport seats with leather trim, and a roof spoiler. It gave you Audi’s version of a four-door GTI, and as the styling has aged well, these are a compelling alternative to the normal Volkswagen:
Tag: Sport Package
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, and the Sport Package got some revisions as well with new Ronal ‘Swing’ 16″ wheels. Today’s Laser Red example has to be one of the better examples out there:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Audi A4 2.8 quattro on eBay
Even though for me the B5 chassis A4 was the beginning of the dilution of the Audi brand, I admit I have always had a soft spot for nice examples. And the first A4 had plenty of things to celebrate. First off, it effectively saved and resurrected the brand in the U.S. from near extinction; consider for a moment Audi sold a total of 18,124 cars in 1995, the same year that the A4 was introduced as a 1996. By 1997, Audi sold 16,333 of just the A4 quattro model alone. As a success, that subsequently meant that there were a plethora of options to be had in the new chassis as production opened up. Soon we had the 1.8T turbo model joining the V6, the V6 was soon revised to have 30 valves, there was a light refresh in ’98 as well and another in ’01, the Avant joined the lineup for ’98, and of course we got a new S4 in 2000.
Considering that for some time there had only been one way per a year to get the small chassis in quattro form, this relatively dizzying array of chassis configurations meant that there are still quite a few nice ones out there to be had. Today finding clean examples is getting hard, and they’re heading up in price: