I think it's a matter of what you consider to be "more reliable." If you mean "fewer problems," then no. Audis are Audis. They all have problems of one type or another so it's a matter of figuring out what your priorities are and what problems you can live with. For me, I care less about my heated seats working and more about five forward gears always being available.
A buddy of mine works on Audis professionally, and his opinion is that the 5000/100 and 80/90 are the pinnacle of Audi reliability. By the mid '90s they were amazingly built cars, but increasingly prone to dumb problems, especially with electrical systems. Lots of components are shared across cars, so there is a reasonable change what affects an A4 will affect an A6, especially in more recent years.
I would go hang out on audiworld or audiforums for a few weeks and watch the posts that go by. Read the repair FAQs. You'll quickly get a sense of what fails on these cars, since most of the problems are recurring and/or affect everyone. I think the good news is that very few of them fail to start, but a good number of them have malfunctioning central locks, etc.
From talking to my friend and keeping up at audiworld, I personally think the Audi to go for is a '99-'01 A4 1.8t Quattro with a manual transmission. I think that is a good mixture of reliability and ease of DIY as there is. Unless you have to do a clutch. Heh. The automatics are no better - expect a failure at about 150k. Like clockwork, says my friend (who rebuilds them for $2k).
In any case, I think you buy an Audi because you want an Audi, not because it's a cheap car. I bought mine because there weren't a lot of options in a compact AWD wagon that doesn't struggle in the Sierras (thanks to its turbo). Coulda bought a Subaru but the pedestrian ones are gutless in the mountains and the 2.0 automatic turbos terrifying or unreliable or both. Coulda bought a Volvo but the AWD ones are even more unreliable than Audis. It came down to small/midsize SUVs and the A4, and I found the right A4 first. :)
If you just want something nice to drive that's fairly cheap and a NG900 isn't doing it for you, the right answer (IMH0) is an E36 or *maybe* a Volvo 850. Lots of good sub $3k options. An Audi is a love affair (or a product of necessity). It *will* kill you in maintenance.
posted by 12.195.130...
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