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Reader test: Audi A4 1.8T

2008-07-28 13:52

Justin Jack, Cape Town

2005 Audi A4 1.8T (Red T) 6-Speed Multi-Tronic

Having been pried against my will from the svelte arms of a 1999 Audi A3 1.8T, in my forlorn state I stumbled upon an A4 1.8T (and it’s a red "T"). It was whiling the hours away, quietly running system checks and doing engine mapping exercises at the back of a Volvo used car lot. One year old, it’s owner had taken a R120 000 hit on the car’s value and traded it in on a Freelander.

Was that love I felt again? So soon?

Somewhat of a Q car – the 1.8T entered the market quietly half way through its generation’s life span. Offering lowered suspension, 235/17-inch wheels, 140Kw and 240Nm of torque from afour-cylinder 1.8-litre turbo-charged whizzer, it packs unexpected performance and aesthetic punches.

Wearing knickers underneath all of that, M’lady?

It’s funny how a few centimetres off the ride height can change the character of a car. I’d always thought of A4s as quintessential ‘insurance salesman’ cars. Probably very good, but a bit frumpy and uninteresting to look at.

The 1.8T does away with all that. The bulbous boot is transformed into a set of hunkering haunches, doing real justice to the designer’s vision. The lowered nose and large wheels also add aggression to the package. Not so much that you’d hide your daughter from it, but you’d definitely be slightly worried until she came home after the date, no doubt wearing a medium-to-large smile, lipstick slightly smudged.

No really, it’s a gearbox, just not as we know it Captain…

Cogs are swapped, or rather ‘manipulated’, by Audi’s multi-tronic constantly variable transmission (CVT). At the heart it’s simply a very smart scooter gearbox. But it is phenomenal. Test results yield faster 0-100 times than the manual version of the same car (7.8 sec vs. 8.2 sec for the manual), and you’d be hard pressed to massage smoother gear changes out of a manual shifter; even armed with a feather boa and a tube of KY Jelly.

While launching, the gearbox can take its time to lift its skirt and get going, but once on the job it’s all serious business. To ride on the wild side, select "Sport" mode and a sharp shooting fem-fatale is set free. Everyone runs for cover at this point for she has many pistols strapped to her long, slinky legs.
High speed cornering on twisties can become a complicated game of "knock-knock, who’s there?" as the transmission hunts for ratios that fit the bill, but the solution is simply to shift gears yourself using the gearlever, or the steering mounted buttons.

It’s no DSG, but for everyday driving I’d take it over a manual transmission without having to give the matter too much thought.

I’ll take that with a dash of Hyperdrive, please

On the road this car will be whatever you want it to be. Smooth urbane cruiser, raunchy test missile, high speed bullet express – you choose. Driving is, on the whole, effortless with lively, crisp steering response. Maximum torque is delivered constantly from 1800 through to 5500 r/min making it feel as though you’re hooked up to a hyper-space elastic band that catapults you from pillar to post. Fantastic, especially given the average town consumption of 10 l/100km (not bad in light of the performance you get in return). Highway cruising returns as little at 7.8 l/100km, squeezing just under 900km from a 70-litre tank of fuel.

Ride quality has been described as "a near perfect balance of sportiness and comfort", and I’d agree. It’s tight, supple, engaging and forgiving all at the same time, while hard cornering is welcomed and rewarded with the sensation of a job neatly done.

Parting is such sweet sorrow

We’ve been seeing each other for nearly two years now, and I’m still smitten. I sometimes wake in a cold sweat having dreamt about the day we may have to part ways. For a car that is two generations old, it’s still hugely relevant and desirable. It’s my Linda Evangelista and I think that this may be what true love is.


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