There are cars that are brought to market that eventually doom a brand. The Pontiac Aztek is an example of this unfortunate scenario (R.I.P. Pontiac.) On the flip side there are cars that revive a brand, perhaps so much so that they bring a brand back from near extinction. The 2002 Nissan Altima is an example of this more positive outcome. This week’s Car of the Week celebrates another such example:
1996 Audi A4
The Audi brand was quickly being forgotten as we entered the 1990s. The Car and Driver “10-Best” winning brand of the 1980s (namely the Audi 5000) became a dated brand in the early 90s. This was compounded with the unintended acceleration issues and lawsuits overshadowing the Audi name. Audi had not come up with anything for years to preserve its place as a prominent German luxury brand. It looked like time was standing still for the German automaker.
This all changed with the arrival of the 1996 Audi A4. Honorable mention goes to the 1995 Audi A6, which is the first Audi model released with the “A” model naming scheme. In reality though, the A4 deserves all the credit for bringing Audi back from the death bed.
The ’96 A4 brought modern euro compact styling and performance that was able to go head to head with BMW’s 3-series sedan. Because of this, Audi experienced a nice bump in sales and returned Audi to relevance in the German luxury car market. The Audis we see today are due all in part to this first generation A4.
About the Car
Audi first introduced the A4 to the world in 1994 as a 1995 model. The 1996 A4, which was its first year in the U.S., was only available as a sedan. Later years saw the introduction of a convertible (2003) and then the introduction of the A5 coupe (2008). In ’96 the A4 was available with only the 2.8 L V6. (The 1.8 L Turbocharged I4 was introduced in ’97.) All models were available with manual or automatic, and either FWD or Audi’s Quattro™ AWD.
The A4 received a significant visual and mechanical update in 2001 and then again in in 2005 and again in 2008. Though the current generation is considered a little long in the tooth, it remains the mainstay of the Audi range and is a popular alternative to BMW’s perennial 3-series.
Chuck can be followed on Twitter @ChuckWhatTheF where he tweets about cars and other things “dudebros” are talking about.
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