1999 Logbook II: July 26, 1999 My New A4 is Here!!

July 26, 1999

Itís here!!! 

This past Saturday I picked up my new 1999.5 A4 1.8T.  I have to tell you that receiving my car in only three months is simply incredible.  My salesman has been amazing and I couldnít ask for a better purchase experience.  Rather than talk about the purchase details here Iíve created a completely separate page with all the relevant information.  I really, really suggest you check it out, as you will want to know just how I managed to get my new A4 for several hundred dollars BELOW dealer invoice. 

For those of you who have been disappointed with my lack of logbook entries the past couple of months get ready for what will likely be my longest post ever. :-) 

To recap, my new A4 is a Hibiscus Red/Onyx 1999.5 1.8T with the following options:  Quattro, Sport Package, Sport Seats, Moonroof, All-Weather Package and Trip Computer. 

Since the 1999.5 A4 is pretty much the same vehicle as I had with my 1997 model Iím not going to go into the basics of the car but rather Iím going to concentrate on the myriad small changes that have been incorporated into this production run.  Some of them I like and some of them Iím not so keen on.  Iíve only had the car for a little over a day but I have a loooong list of observations and musings. 

Everyone is probably wondering at this point about my front bumper.  Is there a plate on it?  I am happy to report that my front bumper is in pristine condition.  Rector Motor Car Company does not mount a front plate unless requested by the customer.  That is how things should be!

The first thing to talk about is the color.  I had only seen a hibiscus red A4 on rare occasions and was not entirely sure that that is what I wanted.  I can happily report that I made the right choice.  The hibiscus red is a very rich, dark color that looks great both in the sun and in the shade.  I like how it takes on different colors based upon the angle and amount of light.  I had searched everywhere on the ĎNet for some decent photos of hibiscus red but none that I found can do justice to seeing the color in person.  The black (onyx) interior complements the red very nicely.  One noticeable difference in the interior color scheme is that the fabric of the headliner and the pillars is a darker color than on past A4ís.  Instead of being a cream color it is a darker neutral tone.  It looks good.

The next item of note is somewhat of a disappointment.  Despite the slight hope that I would get the new Symphony in-dash CD and stereo with the car this was not the case.  My new A4 has the standard Concert in-dash cassette head unit.  As noted before, I elected to forgo the Bose system this time around as I couldnít justify the $1200 price tag.  Iíll simply be getting the factory CD changer from Clair for about $300 and installing it myself.  After listening to the Standard Concert unit I have to say that it actually sounds better than how I recall the original non-Bose unit sounding.

Probably, the first thing I noticed about the car upon sitting in the driverís seat is that the leather-wrapped sport steering wheel is different in a couple of ways.  The leather is completely smooth on this model whereas my 1997 wheel had textured leather.  My preference is actually for the old wheel.  This one feels somewhat strange since it is so smooth.  Another change is the dimple pattern around the center of the wheel and the fact that the center of the wheel where the airbag resides is actually flatter than in 1997.  I assume this is due to improvements in the airbag used that allowed an even smaller package than before.  My recollection is that at the time the A4 steering wheel airbag was one of the smallest in production.  Itís even smaller now.


While on the subject of leather in the cabin, it should be noted that the parking brake handle is now leather wrapped.  This adds a very classy touch.  I like it.

The next obvious change is in the center console.  Not only is the Concert stereo new but the climate control system is also changed.  Instead of having climate control systems split between the top row of buttons and the actual control console down below, all of these functions are now incorporated into a single unit.  Also, instead of two larger graphical displays the control console now sports one smaller display.  I like everything being group together but I canít say Iím fond of the smaller display.  I thought the older unit (which was also found in slightly altered form in some Porsche models) was pretty neat.  The controls for the seat heaters are together with the console in a very logical fashion.  Nice.  Finally, the plastic bezel for the center console is made of a smooth plastic.  Once again, I prefer a little bit of texture as was present on the 1997 model.  Not a big deal but something I noticed.

Turning to the Moonroof and its controls I was dismayed to find that the Moonroof is (as far as Steve Sherwood and I could tell by measuring our two cars) the exact same size as previous model years.  If Iím not mistaken, one of the improvements for the 1999.5 models was supposed to have been the addition of a larger moonroof as found in the A6.  This is apparently not the case.  The moonroof control console is nicely laid out but it does bulge down into the cabin a little more than before.  As noted by others, the console also includes two recessed red LEDs that bathe the center console area below in a soft red glow.  The effect is pretty much limited to the area right above the gear shift and fades quickly if you move your hand outside that area.   It is really not that noticeable in my opinion.  Iím not even sure itís really necessary given the amount of illumination present in the dash.  Iíll get to that in nextÖ

One of the nicest improvements is the addition of more dash control illumination.  The sunroof and dome light controls are now illuminated in red.  The dash vent controls are illuminated (they look very cool!) and every button on the center console is lit up.  It actually seems like a little much at times.  The dash has so many buttons lit up it looks like a Xmas tree!  Even the icon for the in-dash cup holder is illuminated.

One negative I discovered with the illumination of the moonroof controls is that when you use the daytime/nighttime feature of the rearview mirror as intended you get a reflection from the moonroof controls in the mirror.  Basically, when you pull the lever towards the rear of the car to avoid being blinded by a car following behind you the mirror gives a perfect reflection of the moonroof controls lit up in red.  I didnít find this disorienting as one person had recently posted on A4.Org but it was annoying.  I solved the problem by changing how I use the rearview mirror.  I now have it set up to move the lever forward to avoid bright lights from the behind the car.

The instrument cluster is largely the same except that some of the gauges now have fewer hash marks.  That is fine for most of the gauges but the analog clock now only has marks for the hours.  I liked having more lines on the clock.  Just a personal preference.

The gearshift now has a larger, rounder shift know with the golf ball dimple pattern.  I think that it will be swapped out with something else pretty soon.  Iím not particularly fond of the new style.  Likewise, there is a thin chrome ring at the base of the shift boot.  I canít say I like it much either but I donít think thereís much to be done about it.

Other items of note are things that were once only standard on the 2.8L A4 but are now included with the 1.8T like the armrest inside and sound insulation on the underside of the hood.  My A4 also came with a cargo net.  This net is really only marginally better than the Mercedes net I purchased for my 1997 A4.  It does not have a drawstring and is about the same size as the Mercedes part.  It is also made up of a similar elastic mesh.  The Audi part is better in that it has a bungee cord type of line that runs the perimeter of the net to hold down items more securely.  Apparently, whether or not you receive the cargo net automatically is still up in the air.  Some cars arrive with them and some do not.

One really cool new feature that I have not heard anyone else mention is that the car now monitors the status of your brake pads!  If you have the trip computer and Autocheck system a warning icon flashes in the display when the pads get below a certain level.  Without the trip computer there is a light in the instrument cluster than illuminates.  I like it!!

The floormats no longer have an A4 logo or even Audi rings, which is rather sad, BUT they now have a much-improved fastening system.  Rather than having a locking mechanism that was somewhat difficult to use and often led to the latch being torn out of the mat, the new fastener simply snaps down onto the carpet connector.  Iíve had the old latching mechanism torn from my old mats by car detailers who couldnít figure out how to unlock the old mats.

The metal strike and latch for the doors is now a polished metal rather than the flat metal of the older model and the door handles are also more cleanly integrated into the car.  It seems that Audi is trying to streamline the A4 to bring it more in line with the A6 and other models while at the same time increasing its overall level of luxury.

Other cosmetic changes include the movement of the windshield washer nozzles from on top of the hood to the top underside of the hood.  This looks much better.  The black plastic nozzles of the old style were really not that big a deal on my black A4 but they stood out on other colors.  The hood also has another nice change in that Audi has added a rubber strip to the bottom edge underneath the grille.  This prevents the hood from scratching the top of the bumper cover when the hood is closed.  The grille itself has a more aggressive look in that it only has four instead of five horizontal slats and the chrome trim around the edge goes back inside the grille more.  The hood latch that pokes through the grille now has a rubberized cover on the end that is easier to grip when opening the hood.

Inside the engine bay the main obvious changes are the addition of a cover extending across the top of the engine bay that covers the battery, brake booster and ECU housing.  Also, the logos on the engine cover are now read left to right rather than front to back.

The new projection beam headlights (not HID or Xenon) have the same European light pattern as the E-Code lights I added to my 1997 A4.  There is a very distinct horizontal line that tapers up and to the right.  These headlights are far superior to the older style.  I donít think that I will need to upgrade to HID.  The lenses on the new lights are also virtually transparent and the reflectors are clearly visible.  This gives the front of the car a lot of silver/chrome to look at.  For this reason I donít believe that I will need to swap out the grille.  The chrome trim around the grille gives a continuous chrome look across the front of the car.  Iím not sure on this issue yet since the silver rings would probably accomplish the same thing.  We shall see.  The fog lamps are now located down below on the lower grille and provide much better lights than the integrated fogs of the old units.  This is a great change.

Having the switchblade key is pretty cool.  I like it not so much because of the ďswitchbladeĒ feature but because it integrates the key and the remote for the alarm system into a single unit.  Itís much easier to carry.

I received my Porsche Cup Wheels from Autobahn International last week so they were waiting in the garage for my new baby to arrive.  Yesterday, I cleaned and waxed the new wheels really well and have already mounted them on the car.  The wheels are 17 X 7.5 (35mm offset) and are shod with Sumitomo HTRZ II 225/45ZR17 tires.  They look sweeeet!  Iíve since put one of the original seven-spoke sport wheels in the car to replace the donut spare.  No factory supplied full-size spare yet!  One nice change is that the handle used to lift the carpet in the trunk is now placed off to one side.  This allows it to miss close fully even when a full size spare is used.  In the past, the handle would bump into the tire and not go completely flush with the carpet.

There were a couple of things I noted during my swap of the wheels.  Audi is now including a skinnier and longer plastic tool that is used to pull the plastic covers off of the lug bolts.  When the seven-spoke wheels first appeared on A4ís Audi was including the shorter and fatter tool that only worked with the five-spoke wheels.  Theyíve corrected this problem thank goodness.  The full-size spare locking bolt is still useful only for the five-spoke wheel, however.  The supplied locking bolt will not work with any wheel that is convex instead of concave like the five-spoke wheel because the bolt itself is too short. 

Another nice touch was the addition of an actual toolbox to hold all the tools used for changing a tire.  Itís much nicer than the standard roll-up tool kit found in lesser brands.

Finally, and it may just be me, but the horn for the alarm seems a little more muffled than in my 1997 A4.  I may be imagining things but there you go.

After reading all of the above it may seem that Iíve gone over this car with a fine toothcomb.  Actually, being so familiar with the A4 to begin with makes even minor changes stand out.  Besides, I had the help of my buddies Steve, Sharon and Corey from the NorCal A4 Owners Club who I got together with Saturday within hours of picking up the car.  :-)

There is one problem that we discovered while checking out the car.  On the trunk lid around the 1.8T emblem on the right there is a flaw in the paint that can be seen depending on the light.  Itís somewhat of a jagged line that starts on the left side of the emblem; goes down and under the emblem then up the right side.  We tried some swirl remover in case the blemish was on the surface but the flaw is clearly in the paint.  Itís not very visible but I now know its there.  I spoke with my salesman David Leibenson at Rector and he was familiar with the problem.  Apparently, this is a side effect of moisture getting under the protective wrapping placed on the cars during shipment.  The wrapping is called Rapgard and there is a technical service bulletin with a procedure for eliminating the discoloration.  The discoloration will go away on its own within a few days according to the TSB but can be accelerated using a heat gun and Isopropyl alcohol. 

Performance wise the car is great with the exception that there appears to be something missing!  Could it be a chip? Ha!  The car is still perky in its stock trim and gives a nice pull when taking off due to the stock torque levels but that feeling quickly disappears once you get going.  The extra torque and horsepower provided by the chip in my 1997 A4 is clearly absent.  I will be living with this level of performance (which isnít at all bad!!) for a while to come as I allow the car to break-in.  Iíll be revisiting the issue of chipping in a few thousand miles, perhaps after my first service at 5K.  Whose chip will I choose?  HmmmÖ.

Well, thatís about it for now.  Now that Iím back on the road Iím sure Iíll have a lot more to share with everyone.  Itís late and Iím going to bed. :-)

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