1999 Logbook III: July 28, 1999 to September 03, 1999

July 28, 1999

So Iím on day five of my new A4 ownership and figured Iíd post my latest set of observations about the new car.  Iíll also include some items that I overlooked or forgot about the first time around.

I mentioned the extras like the hood insulation and center armrest last time but there are other items that are now included as well.  There is a neat first aid kit in the rear seat center armrest and an reflectorized emergency triangle mounted on the inside of the trunk lid.  Audi cares about your safety! :-) .

I especially like how the tool kit and the CD changer are now hidden away in a fixed mounting location on the side of the trunk area.  This is much better than hanging the changer from the rear deck where it always got in the way.  Its also nicer to not have a simple roll-up tool kit that gets shoved into a hole in the floor of the trunk.

Noted below are a few obvious and not so obvious items that I failed to mention the other day.

The car now has full-size mirrors on both sides of the car and it has lost the Audi ďfootballĒ logo from the fender.  The side marker light is now elongated and white instead of clear and orange.  I like the new side marker as it really fits the character of the car but I do miss the football logo.  I like it.

In addition to the door handles being redesigned Audi has also removed keyholes from all the doors except for the driverís.  As I recall, on older model A4s the passenger front door had a keyhole also.

As part of the redesign of the center console the cigarette lighter has been relocated to the side of the parking brake area in a flip up arrangement.  The ashtray under the climate control system has been widened but there is now a nice open storage cubby underneath it.  This is very convenient for storing frequently used items and at night the cubby is illuminated in red, as is everything else in the car.

In regards to the cigarette lighter, donít depress the button then flip the lighter door closed.  Many owners have reported that the lighter can shoot out and jam the door so that it can no longer be opened!

Those infernal cup holders of previous models have now been banished.  In their place are some more useful units in the center console.  They are basic but functional.  (I only tried it once to test it out!  I swear!)  The cup holder in the dash is another story entirely.  Itís a neat idea but it seems extremely flimsy.  I would not trust it to hold anything with liquid or otherwise.  I can just imagine the mess it would create with a spill.

Speaking of flimsy, I do like the sunroof control redesign but I think Audi cheaped out on the dial component.  When turning the dial it does not seem to have a very ďsolidĒ feel to it.  The older version seemed very beefy when it was turned like it was a quality part.  Iím not so sure about the new one.  Weíll see if it holds up.

It may be my imagination but it seems to me that the turn signal ďclickerĒ in the dash is much more muted than in the past.  It sounds nice and is not to ďclickyĒ or overpowering.

I discovered that the wind buffeting or ďthump, thump, thumpĒ that occurs when the sunroof is open while driving still exists.  As in the past, simply cracking any of the four windows completely eliminates the noise.

The range of the alarm remote does not seem to have improved any as far as I can tell.  It still seems quite anemic.  Guess weíll have to live with that one.  Another item about the alarm is that the alarm flasher has been moved from the fog light in the dash to small LEDís by the front door locks.  Itís a much better solution that is more visible if you ask me.   This is a nice improvement.

This evening when I carried some passengers in the car I found that if the car is running and any of the passenger doors are opened up that a single ďdingĒ or chime would sound to indicate that a door was opened.  Another nice touch.

I havenít read anything about the GALA feature on the radio recently so I checked the radio manual.  Sure enough, we still have GALA.  With the new stereo they have improved the configuration procedures and information display but I donít know if weíll ever be able to tell that GALA is truly functioning.  Isnít that the point, though?

After a few days with the Sumitomo tires I can so that I am quite impressed.  I havenít been racing around or anything (we are still in the break-in period!) but a few corners Iíve taken at significant speed have been with the car firmly glued to the road.  Itís a nice feeling and the tires have been dead silent during such maneuvers.  They also donít appear to have hardly any road noise that I can perceive.  I canít wait to try them out for auto-x and at the track.

Finally, I want to talk about the color Hibiscus Red.  I LOVE this color.  Yes, I was rather concerned about how it would look but it is great and there donít seem to be hardly any of them on the road.   I really like the color because it has so many sides to its character.  I have seen many different shades depending upon how much and what kind of light is shining on it.  Itís truly unique.  Sometimes it looks like a pearlescent or metallic color and other times it looks to be a solid.  Itís very cool.

August 08, 1999

Let's see...  We're now over 600 miles on the odometer and nearing the end of break-in.  I haven't been working the car but at the same time it hasn't necessarily been babied either.  It sure is tempting to get on the gas in corners and test out the sport suspension and tires.  The tires seem to grip really, really well.  I want to push them but am waiting for 1000 miles first.  Tick, tick, tick...

The more I drive the car the more I miss the chip.  Its not too bad with just me but when I load up a couple of passengers and run the A/C it is so obvious that the car is really underpowered.  The car definitely needs some more pull under the hood.  I can't wait for these first few thousand miles to go by so I can then look at correcting this situation.  The car isn't necessarily slow but it does need help.

I know that everyone is waiting to find out what chip vendor I'm looking to use this time around and I can't say for sure at this point.  We'll have to see how the market looks when I'm ready to buy in a few thousand miles.  The current front-runner is APR because of their complete chipped ECU.  I like this concept much better than either chipping my stock ECU or installing a socket because it allows me to TRULY go back to stock if necessary.  I'm also considering their Borla exhaust that they have just released.  Its a complete Cat-Back unit which is really the way to go.  I'll keep everyone posted as this issue develops.

It looks like this time around I won't be doing any integration of my garage door remote into the car.  At least not electrically.  Since Audi switched to a different cupholder arrangement and removed those ridiculous pop-up pieces of crap there is now a small and fairly useless cubby where they used to be.  My current remote is a very small item and it turns out it fits in this cubby perfectly.  Its sweet.  I may event try to create a plastic cover to make it look built-in.  Here's a picture of what it looks like right now: Garage Door Remote.  Now that I think of it, this remote is a simple 12v unit that can be powered by the car directly.  Maybe I'll tap into the cigarette lighter for power since its so close.  Hmmm....

My next project is to integrate my Nokia 5160 cell phone into the car.  From the postings and FAQ's at A4.org it appears that this is a fairly simple operation.  The Nokia hands-free kit (without privacy handset which I don't really want) is only about $140 and can be integrated into the car without any modification to the car itself.  That is perfect as far as I'm concerned.  I need to get one of the kits ordered so I can get it done.  Stay tuned.

There have been so many little changes to the car since the '97 model year that I keep noticing then forgetting about them.  Some have been present since '98 and others are new to the '99.5.  Here is another list of changes I've noticed or had pointed out to me.  Some I found on my own and forgot and others were so obvious I neglected to mention them:

The trunk emblems are now lower on the trunk on either side of the license plate.  I liked them in the old location but the new spot grows on you.  There is also the aluminum trim with the word "Audi" embossed on it that sits at the base of the front doorsills.

The wind deflector for the sunroof has been reshaped from previous versions.  It used to have a kind of "saw tooth" pattern to break up the wind as it flowed across the sunroof opening but it is now smooth all the way across.  It beats me if it works any better.  I can confirm that it does serve a purpose and reduces wind noise and buffeting in the cabin.  All you have to do is press down on the deflector with your hand so it retracts (its just spring loaded) and you will immediately experience an increase in wind noise and disturbance.

Speaking of the sunroof, I am more and more disappointed with the quality of the sunroof controls.  My dial seems to be kind of "sticky" and made of what I consider to be a cheap plastic.  The movement is not smooth at all and feels like it might break quite easily.  It doesn't seem to be very well made and I'm wondering how long it will be before it goes.  The buttons for the front seat map lights are likewise cheaply made.  They really have a crappy feel to them.  Check them out and you'll see what I mean.

The side moldings on the car are much wider than in the past.  The blend in very nicely and are hardly noticeable but they do provide better protection than in the past.

I've noticed that when the car is running and any of the passenger doors are opened the car gives of a single chime to alert the driver that a door has been opened.  Cool.

I wasn't sure at first whether or not this was a change but I found out it was.  The instrument cluster is now illuminated whenever the ignition is on.  I noticed this driving in the parking garage at work but couldn't remember if this was different than on my '97.  I've had confirmation that this is indeed new.  In the past the instruments were only illuminated when the headlights were turned on.  Another headlight change is the small green headlight icon that is in the tachometer.  I've read in the past where some found this annoying but I find it hardly noticeable.

There are now small safety lights on the bottom edge of the doors that illuminate when the doors are open.  The grab-handles on the ceiling now have a soft return rather than the quick spring loaded return of the past.

Finally, the trim between the front and rear doors used to be a matte black but it is now glossy

August 30, 1999

Yes, I've been slacking off on the logbook updates but I've been busy.  I swear!  I finally have some stuff to talk about other than how the car is different from previous model years.

I drove my first autocross in the new A4 a week ago and let me tell you, it sure was fun!  I was really missing the rush of driving the car fast around the cones.  My times on each of the four runs were progressively faster each time I went out.  I even managed to avoid hitting any of the cones on my runs.  I came in fourth out of ten in my class but once again I could definitely tell the chip was missing.  Trying to pull out of a couple of corners left something to be desired even though my foot was on the floor.  The car wasn't slow but it wasn't as fast as it could be.  To a small degree the slower acceleration was offset by my Sumitomo tires.  They were great.  They did make some noise but they stuck very, very well.  I felt much more in control with these tires than I did on the old Continentals or the Dunlop SP Sport 4000 tires.  I'm now a convert that to really have fun in the car you need to ditch the all-weather tires.

I received the Nokia hands-free kit in the mail about a week or so ago but haven't had time to install it.  I was looking things over and suddenly realized that the A-pillar microphone was no longer there.  I for the life of me could not find it until someone on the forum at A4.Org pointed out that the microphone has been moved to the sunroof controls overhead.  Sure enough, there is a little grille there for the microphone.  I've read that some owners who have used the factory microphone are experiencing poor quality and performance.  Either their voice's are too loud or they are muffled.  As such, I plan on using the microphone supplied with the kit in place of the factory microphone.  The plan is to mount the Nokia microphone overhead in the sunroof controls just as the factory microphone is.  I'll post more details as the project progresses.

I spent the past weekend in Monterey at the Monterey Historics where Audi/Auto Union were the featured Marquee for 1999.  As such, I got to meet and hang out with a lot of new and old Audi friends.  The number of cars was incredible and I took about 100 pictures.  I'll be posting them all soon.

At the Historics, Audi had a tent up with all the 2000 model year cars on display.  You will read a lot of posts on the Forum at A4.Org about the event but one thing that several of us noticed that is sure to generate some controversy is that the S4 has a reinforcing bar behind the dual firewall.  A lot has been said about the A4 not needing any more structural reinforcement via items like strut tower braces (like the one I had briefly on my 1997 A4) because of this dual firewall.  Apparently, Audi feels that reinforcement is not necessarily a bad thing!  The bar is a thick flat piece of metal that is connected to the cabin side of the front firewall.  It is very beefy and uses what looked like two bolts on each end that went through the firewall towards the front of the car.  Pretty interesting, I say.

Driving back from the Historics late Sunday night I had ample opportunity to experience the new projector-beam headlamps on very dark highways.  Much has been said about the very pronounced cutoff of the light pattern with these headlamps.  It is a very distinct horizontal line that has a slight stair step up and to the right.  The area within the beam is very clearly illuminated.  In the city this is very good but out in the dark countryside where ambient light is virtually non-existent I found that beyond the cutoff line it was so dark that I wished for more distance on the lights.  It seemed that the area of illumination was not as far as I would like.  In the city this is not a problem but when all you have are you headlights it can be disconcerting.  I think I may have the dealer raise the headlamps a degree or two to see how that works.

Speaking of lights, another change between '97 and '99.5 is the addition of courtesy lights in the footwells of the front seats.  Now when you open the doors the floor in front of the seats is illuminated.  Very nice.

I may be having a problem with the gas tank on the car.  The last few times I've refueled I've found that the fuel gauge does not go completely to the Full indicator but stops at about 7/8.  My mileage seems to be OK but I'm going to keep an eye on this.  Normally, when the gas pump stops pumping the tank is truly full.  Now when the pump stops it might not be the case.  Hmmm.

After living with the new climate control system for a month I've reconsidered my position on it and have found that I do like it better than the old unit.  At first it seemed busy and the small display was not to my liking but I've found that the new unit grows on you.  Its great to actually have an off button for the the system and integrating the seat heater controls as well as the rear window defroster into it was an excellent move.  The buttons have a distinct and precise click to them that I like.

While at the Historics I had a chance to get a first-hand look at the new Symphony in-dash CD/Cassette stereo.  I really like it and wish I had one in my car.  I took a close look at how it was designed and think that it should be possible to fit into '99 model year cars that have the Concert Stereo and new climate control system.  The Symphony unit is a double-DIN unit that takes up twice as much vertical space as the Concert unit.  As such the climate controls and the climate control sensor have to be moved downward to accommodate it.  It appears that this should be simple enough and would only require new bezels to surround the climate control and stereo displays/buttons.  There will surely be interior mounting hardware necessary as well.  The big question will be how much it will cost.  I'll be looking into this and will post my findings.

Well, I'm now at 2100 miles on the odometer.  I really, really, really want to get a chip and new exhaust for the car but would prefer to wait till after 5k miles to let the car loosen up a little.  We'll see if I can hold to that desire and wait that long! :-)

September 03, 1999

Bad news everyone!  It appears that the at invoice deal at CarOrder.Com is now over.  I saw a post over on the A4.Org forum today about ABOVE MSRP pricing at the web site.  Sure enough, I checked it out and was surprised to find that the deals offered by CarOrder.Com are now for between $1600 and $2500 OVER MSRP.  That's not a mistake on my part.  We're not talking invoice but MSRP.  Its clear that at this point they do not want to sell any Audi's.  Either they are getting more inquiries on Audi's than they want or they're really trying to fail as a business.  I say this because most dealers will readily give you $1500 over invoice if not less.  To charge over MSRP for standard Audi's (S4's etc excluded) is ludicrous.  It would be interesting to find out what is going on behind the scenes.  Hopefully, the prices will be adjusted or you got your order in earlier.  One thing I did notice is that it is only the base price of the car that is much higher.  All the options are still offered at invoice.  Hmmm...

I added my first oil to the engine a couple days ago.  I added 2/3 of a quart of 20w50 Pennzoil.  Burning only 2/3 of a quart in 2200 miles during break-in is just fine by me and to be expected.  I recall having about the same burn rate on my '97 A4 as well.  This shouldn't be a problem unless I find that the car continues to burn oil past say 5000 miles.

I saw the open-trunk display in the trip computer for the first time the other day.  The car was running and the trunk was opened so I got the little car display showing the trunk as being unsecured.  Pretty cool.  It seems silly that they did not include an indicator for all four doors, though.  I hear that this will be the case on 2000 model year cars.  Doh!  My 99.5 car only gets the single ding of the door chime whenever a door is opened with the engine running.

The anti-pinch protection mechanism on the windows is definitely sensitive.  I was rolling up my window as I drove over a speed bump at work and the window reversed direction with the minor jarring when the tire started up the incline.

One of the defects I had on my '97 A4 was the often reported windshield distortion.  On my '97 their was a small area at the very bottom of the windshield in the center that was distorted if you tried to look through it.  The distortion was so low that it only afforded a view of the hood so it was never a factor in driving.  As such I never worried about having Audi replace the windshield.  I figured the factory install would be more watertight than any aftermarket work.  I'm happy to report that my '99.5 A4 has a perfect windshield with no distortion whatsoever.  Maybe their quality control for their glass is getting better.

Speaking of defects.  My last logbook entry indicated a potential problem with my gas gauge.  Tonight I confirmed that I definitely have a problem.  My last fill-up resulted in the needle only going to 7/8 full when the gas pump indicated the tank was full.  I've watched the trip computer and it seems my gas mileage is normal but the miles-till-empty reading was not quite right.  Well, earlier tonight I parked the car with the gauge reading about 1/4 tank.  I came back out and upon starting the car the fuel gauge needle refused to budge off of dead empty.  The trip computer also indicated that I had zero miles-till-empty.  The car started fine and I headed for the Chevron station.  I pulled in and pulled up to the pump.  While sitting there looking at the gauge the needle started jerking a little then popped from zero up to about 1/8 of tank.  The trip computer then indicated that I had 15 miles-till-empty.  It looks like I have a bad sending unit in the fuel tank.  I checked the Audi TSB site and there is a TSB for bad fuel sending units but it only applies to A6's.  Now the big question is do I wait till my first service in about 2800 miles or take it in now.  I guess I'll take it in next week. :-(

I'm still looking for the proper full size spare locking bolt.  Jim Simone who actually got one from his dealer was kind enough to forward the part number to me.  For those of you with the 7-spoke wheel that needs a longer bolt (the 5-spoke wheel works fine with the one supplied with the car) the part number is "4A0 803 899 L".  The only difference is the last letter.  The 5-spoke bolt part number is "4A0 803 899 T".  The numeric part number is found on the plastic handle for the tie-down and the letter is located on the plastic cap that covers the end of the bolt.  I've been in touch with my salesman and he will be sending me the proper part for my wheel.

Other observations:  It seems strange to me but even without a chip in the car I can really hear the turbo wind up when I take the engine up to higher revs.  On the '97 you really couldn't hear the turbo until I got a chip.  This is strange because the '99.5 has the hood insulation that was missing from the '97 and you would think this would deaden more of the sound.  I've also noticed that the rearview mirror in my '99.5 is a little "fatter" on the vertical side.  The area right in the middle has a little bulge that was not present on the '97.  Its not much but there.

The Monterey Historics page is not up yet but I hope to get it done this weekend.

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