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Audi A4 Avant (1998)

Audi Avant debuted the model in 1995 on Volkswagen's B5 platform, which it shared with the fifth generation Volkswagen Passat. Like the Passat, it had a longitudinally-mounted engine and standard front wheel drive, although the vast majority of A4s Audi sells in North America come optioned with their quattro all wheel drive system. The Avant station wagon arrived a year later.

A wide range of engines were available to European customers, between 1.6 and 2.8 L, and a 1.9 L Diesel available with VW's new "pumpe-düse" technology, capable of achieving a then high power value of 110 PS (81 kW), although Audi's 2.8 L V6, carried over from the old 80/90 was the only engine option in North America until 1998.

Audi A4 Avant 1998

The Audi A4 was the first model in the Volkswagen Group to feature the new 1.8 L 20V motor with five valves per cylinder, based on the unit Audi Sport had developed for their Supertouring race car. A turbocharged version produced 150 PS (110 kW) and 210 Nm (155 ft.lbf) of torque. This technology was added to the V6 family in 1996, starting with the 2.8 L V6 30V, which now pumped 193 PS (142 kW).

Audi also debuted their new Tiptronic transmission on the B5 platform, based on the unit Porsche developed for their 964-generation 911. The transmission is a "manumatic", meaning it offers the driver a choice of driving the car as either an automatic or a clutchless manual.

The B5 A4 is arguably a watershed model for Audi. Previously regarded as somewhat of a bit-player in the luxury car segment, the massive improvement in quality and engineering with the B5 A4 made buyers realise that there was now a marque other than BMW and Mercedes. Combined with the radical TT concept (later a production car), Audi emerged as a leader in the luxury car market.

Audi A4 Avant 2.4 1998

B5 facelift (1998-2001)

Audi Avant refreshed the model in the 1997 Frankfurt Motor Show, with sales beginning in Europe in early 1998. Besides the introduction of a 2.4 L 30-valve V6 (replacing the outdated 2.6 V6), the most important additions to the range were the 2.5 L V6 TDI engine with 150 PS (110 kW) and standard quattro and a 6-speed gearbox, as well the new high-performance S4, now part of the A4 lineup (the previous S4 had been a Audi 100). New taillights, headlights, door handles, and other minor exterior/interior changes rounded out the cosmetic updates.

In mid 1998, the 1.8T engine available outside Europe had its power output raised to 170 PS (125 kW), while the 12-valve V6 was replaced by the 30 valve unit that had been available in Europe for two years.

In 1999, Audi debuted an even higher performance model, the RS4, like its predecessor RS2 available only in the Avant body.