Jun 292012
 

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

Why?

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.

Other Resources

Wikipedia: Audi A4 (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Audiforums.com (Enthusiast community for all Audis)
Autos on MSN: Audi A4

Chuck can be followed on Twitter @ChuckWhatTheF where he tweets about cars and other things “dudebros” are talking about.

Some photos in this article are freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact us and we will remove it.

Apr 272012
 

There have been a number of changes in my life over the last several months, but none were bigger than my most recent career decision. I was offered (and accepted) a position at a local BMW dealer. My role there is still somewhat in flux, but overall I am thrilled with the move. Learning to work with BMWs, though, has presented a number of challenges for someone who has spent the majority of his automotive life focused on Honda/Acura and Volvo. I wanted this weeks’ COTW to reflect that, so I picked the first BMW that came to my mind:

2000 BMW 323i sedan

Why?

This probably doesn’t seem like the likeliest BMW model to discuss on a site like this. The 323 was the bottom of the E46 3-series line in the U.S. market when it was introduced, taking the place of the defunct 318.  The 323i sedan had smallish 15-inch wheels, leather and power seats were options and, though it was powered by a straight-6, it wasn’t long on power (168 horses). It seems like an odd choice for Car of the Week. So why did I choose it?

Well, put simply I almost bought one and I needed to do a bunch of research to make an informed decision. The car in question was a white 2000 model with fabric, non-power seats. It was clean, but needed work that, if it were done at the dealer, would have cost the owner between $2500 and $3000. None of it represented a major issue, though, and since he was already in a selling mood, I decided to make him a lowball offer. If he took it I could easily take care of the work myself for way less and flip the car for a profit.

Turns out he wasn’t so keen on my offer and, in hindsight, my wallet is probably happier as well. In any case, though, I learned that the 323 was a really sturdy car and, for a BMW at least, not terribly expensive to own. If another one comes to my attention I will have to give it serious consideration.

About the Car

With the elimination of the 318 from BMW’s 3-series line, the 323i became the entry level sedan for the U.S. market. While its 2.5 liter straight-6 engine was an upgrade from the 318′s inline-4, it still only made 168 horsepower. It was a reliable motor, however, and many examples are still ticking with over 150,000 miles on the clock.

In terms of cost-of-ownership, the 323i was the best value of the 3-series line as well. Leather, power seats, powerful stereos and the like were all options, keeping the initial purchase price was comparatively low. Some wear items were also less expensive as well. The wheels, for instance, were 15-inch alloys, meaning tire options are plentiful and inexpensive.

In 2001, after only a couple of years, BMW replaced the 323 with the 325, which sported a more powerful engine and the option to add the company’s new XDrive all wheel drive system. Since the cars with the more powerful motors are more desirable, the 323i can frequently be found for very wallet-friendly prices these days.

Other Resources

E46 Fanatics (enthusiast community for this generation 3 Series)
Wikipedia: BMW 3 Series (to be taken with a grain of salt, of course)
Cars.com Expert Review

Some photos in this article were freely sourced from Google. If you take issue with usage of any image, please contact me and I will remove it.

Mar 052012
 

It’s a copycat world, I guess.  Every self-respecting car magazine, it seems, has to periodically do a top-whatever (-5, -10, -50, -100, etc.) list of the best cars in whatever arbitrary category they have decided on for that month’s issue. That being the case, my own humble publication is clearly lagging behind. So what to do about that?

Back in 2008, on the 10th anniversary of the “immaculate reception” (otherwise known as the day I got my driver’s license), I wrote a large, all-encompassing piece on the top ten cars I had driven in those ten years.  Some day, perhaps, that will find its way up here as a really long feature, or in parts. In the mean time, though, I need something a little smaller—not to mention easier to read.

I first tried to think about what my readers would like to read about. Then I remembered that I don’t really have any. And even if I did, what do I care what they want to read about? This is my blog, right? I don’t know who I’m expecting to agree or disagree there, since I literally just got done pointing out my lack of readership, so I’m going to go ahead and agree with myself. Right.

With that out of the way, I decided to simply contemplate what are the 5 best inexpensive used cars for car enthusiasts like me.

Here, loyal reader, is what I came up with: Continue reading »