Another M-Design! I’ve featured a string of these ultra-limited ’94 325iS models built by BMW Individual recently. Today’s VIN ends in 478, produced 40 cars after the one I looked at last June. Visually equipped with most of what would become the M3 in ’95, the M-Design is an interesting footnote in United States E36 production.
Of course, “interesting”, “obscure” and “BMW 3-Series”, when combined in the right proportions, usually equate to dollar signs in seller’s eyes. Asks on these cars often rival or exceed M3 prices. Crazy, right? Who would pay more than they would for a M3 to have less than a M3? Well, some people do. Recently a ZHP E46 coupe traded for $26,000. Scoff all you want, but clearly there is a market for the limited edition 3-series. But since some trade for high numbers, many sellers equate their 3 as priceless. Not the case today, as we get a true market indicator of where a driver-quality 325iS M-Design is valued at:
Twenty years ago, the Audi TTS would have been a very exciting proposition. Built on the universally praised MQB platform, the third generation 8S TT is lighter than the original, better balanced, and more powerful. With close to 300 horsepower and 280 lb.ft of torque from the 2.0 TSFI turbocharged inline-4, it’s a Golf R in a slinky dinner dress. Equipped with the impressive dual-clutch 6-speed S-Tronic transmission and launch control, the results are hard to argue with: 0-60 in 4.2 seconds and a quarter mile in 12.8 at 108 mph. Unthinkable for anything but the most exotic exotics a few generations ago, this is all wrapped up in a reasonably affordable and attractive package that is usable year-round and has few drawbacks.
But the TTS falls into a no man’s land today. It’s $10,000 more expensive than the base TT – already quite an impressive car. It’s also more expensive than the more practical Golf R on which it is based. A lot more expensive. But more troubling, with a few options like today’s it is also dearer than a base Porsche 718 Cayman. And while it soundly out-drags the base Cayman, which would you rather impress friends in?
What is the price for rarity? As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, enthusiasts will sometimes go to extremes to have something just a bit different than the norm. Take today’s Golf. Like the 1989 Volkswagen GTI I looked at a few weeks ago, something odd will stick out to the brand faithful that will probably go unnoticed by nearly everyone else. First off, for the U.S. market, the VR6 was limited to the GTI range. This looks like a GTI with the dual chamber headlights and foglights, VR6 badges and BBS wheels. But another minor detail then rears its head – or, in this case, rears its doors. That’s right, this is a 5-door Golf VR6 from Europe. Look closer and you’ll notice items such as the textured flares, deeper chin spoiler and fender mounted directionals that differentiate ROW A3s. So what will getting into this rare-to-see VW cost you today?
For such an important vehicle, there’s very little fanfare that surrounds the Audi B1. Badged the 80 in Europe and the Fox in the United States, Audi’s small front-drive sedan was a complete transformation for the brand which was emerging from the reshuffling of DKW and Auto Union. Mercedes-Benz had a hand in bringing 4-stroke engine technology to Auto Union in the 1950s and early 1960s, and but freed of their reigns, the Audi engineers produced an all-new motor for the clean-sheet B1. It was the EA827, and it (and the B1) would go on to be the basis for basically every Audi/Volkswagen product since 1972. The 80 was the first to launch, but quickly the 80’s platform would be used to produce the first Volkswagen Dasher (née Passat) and, engine turned transversely, then the Audi 50. The 50 was then the basis for the Golf and Scirocco, and the all-new Volkswagen lineup was complete. So while most internet comments will sometimes dismiss modern Audis as little more than re-badged VWs, you can now remind them that historically it was the opposite. The 80’s traditional longitudinal engine layout ended up being convenient a few years later to help spawn the might Quattro, too.
Motor Trend (and notable automotive historian Karl Ludvigsen) called the 80 the “best new affordable small sedan in the world” in May 1973. Horsepower was modest from the 1.5 liter version of the EA827 at only 75, but then the weight was quite modest, too – curb weight of the sunroof-equipped model was still under 1,900 lbs and fully laden the 80 weighed less than an empty B2 4000CS quattro. Capable of over 30 mpg, the Fox sold surprisingly well in the gas-crunch era as a result – Audi sold 142,511 of them here. While that number sounds modest by today’s standards, consider for a moment that Audi sold only 123,764 of the Fox’s successor, the 4000, in total.
Yet today, finding an Audi Fox seems like something of a minor miracle – never mind when it’s in great condition!
I promise that this post wasn’t by design, but rather is completely a coincidence that it follows hot on the heels of the neat supercharged E34 540i 6-speed from yesterday. How do you possibly trump that potent hot rod? Well, starting with a M5 is probably a good bet.
If the E34 was a potent athlete, the E39 comes across as a consummate professional. It was immediately the new benchmark for sports sedans once again, and when BMW finally did make the call to bring a M5 to market they produced what many consider to be the definitive driver’s car in super sedan form. Whatever you had from the period, the M5 was just plain better. With 394 horsepower kicking out of is snorting S62 V8 and mated solely to a 6-speed manual transmission, it was hard to conceive how that package could possibly be improved upon.
That didn’t dissuade Steve Dinan, though. His S2 package fixed a car that wasn’t broken according to Car and Driver. Power was up to a massive 470 yet the car was still naturally aspirated. Bigger, better intake was met with bigger, better exhaust, and the whole package was kept up with bigger, better suspension and slowed down with bigger, better brakes. It was…well, bigger and better. 0-60 was dispatched in a tick over four seconds and it would do a standing quarter-mile in 12.7 seconds. These numbers won’t scare a Dodge Demon, granted, but are still really respectable today.
Of course, if “respectable” isn’t quite enough for you and you really need to surprise that Demon driver…
The M Coupe has moved from cult legend into one of the most desirable M products produced. Late production S54 equipped models can top up to $60,000 asking prices. Add in a rare color and great combination, and they’re all the more desirable. While not quite a 1:1, the M Coupe is like the Porsche 964, and the S54 models are the RS America of the lineup.
For most of us, that means if you want a ‘Clownshoe’ you’ll need to look towards early production when they were equipped with the venerable S52. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as lower running costs and higher production numbers mean much lower asking prices. Still, it’s not unusual to see atmospheric asks, such as this 2000 M Coupe in Estoril with Estoril leather. With only 56,000 miles on the clock, the seller wants $39,900. While it’s not likely that number will be even close to realized, good luck convincing them of that.
Yet occasionally a nice one pops up in a no reserve auction format to give us plebeians a chance to own a legend. So here we go, with this ’99. It’s the same Estoril/Estoril combination as above, which is fairly desirable – one of just 313 imported in this pallet. Condition looks very good and there are some high quality modifications, but is there a catch?
In the early years of the 1990s, the writing was on the wall for the high-strung M88 derivatives. They were excellent motors, no doubt, but power levels were rising to the point where the M5 was no longer top trump. It enjoyed a small power advantage over cars such as the V8 4.2 quattro, true – with 276 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque, the Audi had less punch but more pull. But cars like the M119-equipped 500E changed the playing field; 322 horsepower was enough to overcome the S38 in the M5, but the big number was the 354 lb.ft of torque. That was nearly 100 lb.ft more than the S38 and it was more usable, too.
BMW wasn’t to be outdone, launching its own series of V8 for the 1992 model year. in 3.0 and 4.0 form, the modern aluminum motors dubbed the M60 brought new levels of power to the third generation 5. In fact, so potent was the 4.0 version that BMW decided the more expensive M5 was effectively redundant in the marketplace. The M60B40 was rated at 282 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque and and good enough to scoot the luxury car from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds even when equipped with a 5-speed automatic.
But there was a 6-speed manual option as well, and of course you could opt for the sport package that would give you better seats, springs and a limited-slip differential. These options turned the two-ton Teuton into an athlete. While this particular E34 started life as a 525i, it’s been given the full 540 treatment and then some, culminating in a Vortech supercharger for some serious punch:
Audi’s S products from the early 2000s are a conundrum for me. I think the S6 Avant is neat, but I don’t love it. I think the S4 is neat, but I don’t love it. Even the mighty RS4 should capture all of my attention – but it doesn’t. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is about these cars that I find lacking, but collectively they all fall short for me.
But the S8? I love the S8. And for the same reason that I can’t quite identify what’s missing from the other models, I’m at a loss to fully quantify what it is I find so perfect about the D2. But it is just about perfect; arguably the best looking big-body Audi made to date, and though newer cars have far more power, when it came to the early 2000s this was the punchy package you wanted if you liked to drive rather than be chauffeured.
Unlike some other early 2000s big executives, the S8 still looks the boss today. Mean, low and long, it is remarkably fresh despite the design being the best part of 20 years old. Yet they remain some of the best values out there. Find a good one, and you’ll have class, speed and style which defy the price you paid:
Typically, our ‘Roll the Dice’ features have been cars that are a bit of a gamble; little history is disclosed, there are no photos to show the car’s condition or no description, something’s odd about the example, it’s got a million miles…you get the point. Today’s S6 Avant is a bit of a different gamble, though.
To be fair, jumping in to any 15-odd year old German car today is somewhat of a leap into the unknown. You’re entering territory where the complicated electronics begin to fail, oil seeps from every joint of the motor and rattles permeate the body structure. Often, you’re left chasing the ghosts of deferred maintenance. Add up the number of things that could potentially go wrong on an older car and then cross reference the part costs, and you’ll quickly see the problem.
So what does that look like when we consider today’s S6 Avant? Well, if the seller is to be believed, in the past year they’ve spent $14,079 fixing this Audi. The last nice S6 Avant that I looked at sold for $13,000. You don’t have to be a math wiz to figure out that’s a bad deal. And that last nice S6 Avant was in much better condition than today’s model with only 50,000 miles on the clock.
So if you’re getting in to today’s car, you’re rolling the dice a bit that the $14,000 “invested” in this one has resolved all the problems. But there are positives, because the seller has opted for a no reserve auction format, and…oh yeah, it’s supercharged.
Update 6/28/18: The best part of a year after originally being listed, this reasonably clean 1985 Audi Coupe GT is back in a reserve auction format. Since the Buy It Now was $4,950 last September, we can guess the reserve is probably at or over $4,000. The Coupe GT market has moved forward since last year, so will it sell this time?
The 1985 Audi Coupe GT debuted the aerodynamic B2 refinements in the 2-door version of the Type 85. Just like the 4000CS quattro I looked at the other day, smooth bumper covers front and rear were met with wide molding and new rocker covers. DOT-required 9004 halogen lights replaced the upright quad-rectangle arrangement on 1984 models, and the new grill sloped to meet stainless trim which surrounded the car. Inside was met with a revised dashboard with new softer-touch plastics, a leather covered steering wheel and few other changes. Mechanically, just as with the 84-85 4000 quattro, there were very few alterations between pre-facelift GT and the ’85. The same KX 110 horsepower inline-5 and 5-speed manual (3-speed automatic available) drove the car, but the ’85 up wore the same 4×108 hubs and brakes (in front, at least) as the quattro.
As with the 4000 line, most of the manual bits available in early B2s disappeared, and in you bought a late model it probably came standard with power locks, mirrors and windows. Most GTs also came equipped with a sunroof (manual and pop-out) and the rear wiper. Today’s example follows that convention minus the rear wiper. The package proved to generally be considered more than the sum of its parts, and in 1985 Car and Driver tested eight GT cars and proclaimed the Audi Coupe GT the best package available, beating ‘sports cars’ like the Supra, Mustang, and Camaro. One of the 3,586 sold in 1985, this Alpine White example reminds of a more simple time when you could drive a car at 10/10ths and still remain (mostly) at legal speeds: