A sleek aerodynamic design, modern electronics, luxurious appointments, all-wheel drive and available small displacement turbocharged engine. This is the recipe that nearly every luxury automaker has taken on in the past few years, but in the 1980s there was only one available car in this configuration – the C3 Audi. Okay, it’s taken the best part of 30 years for that blueprint to be the go-to design, and the market has changed in many ways since then, both from a buyers prospective and from the regulations that govern cars. But to say that the Audi Type 44 was an advanced car in its day was no leap – it really was about as technically sophisticated as cars got in the mid 1980s. Under the aerodynamic and efficient body lay a rally-bred drivetrain which was robust enough to carry the torch after the Group B cars had extinguished. Indeed, it was the Audi 200 quattro (5000CS quattro in the U.S.) which went on in 1987 to win Audi’s next major rally – the Kenyan Safari Rally – where the luxury sedan went 1-2 with Hannu Mikkola and Walter Rohrl. Not satisfied, Audi then took the large sedan racing; first in 200 quattro form in the Trans-Am championship, then later in the modified D11 V8 quattro DTM car. It was an unconventional race car which was very successful – something Audi excelled at, historically. But nearly extinct are the road-worthy versions of the early 5000 quattro; the complicated pattern of electronics and hydraulics systems, originally its strength, being the downfall of many. Today I have the three rarely seen variants of the 5000 that were available in the mid 1980s; 5000CS quattro, 5000CS quattro Avant, and 5000S quattro. Which would you want to take home?
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Following up on yesterday’s super-loaded A4 I’ve moved forward a decade to the last of the B7 series cars. Between the B5 and B7 generation cars, Audi made significant improvements to their small car, with more upscale and tech-heavy interiors and impressive power output from the new line of motors. While the A4 was introduced with the 172 horsepower 12 valve V6, by the B7 generation the lump had grown to 3.2 liters with the new “FSi” direct injection. While the B5 generation had introduced 5 valve technology as we saw yesterday, the B6/7 went back to 4 valves per a cylinder with variable intake manifolds. The result was impressive; despite the small bump in displacement, the 3.2 FSi motor produced 255 horsepower; more than the B5 S4 came to market with. Audi backed up the performance with its new “sport” designation, the S-Line package. That added the 1BE sport suspension, the sport steering wheel (with paddle shifters for Tiptronic-equipped models), and special aluminum trim. If there was one downside to the S-Line package, it was that you could only get it with black interiors – unlike the vibrant color combination we saw yesterday. To make up for that in some regards, Audi then offered an even more premium exterior option; the Titanium Package. Selecting that option would equip your A4 with 18 inch quattro GmbH Ronal multi-spoke alloys in Titanium and blacked out trim both inside and out. Generally, these S-Line Titanium Avants are considered the most desirable A4 Avants made – and for some, they’re more special than even the S4 Avant:
There aren’t too many cars that I look at today and think that down the road they’ll be viable used cars. I can look back at the previous tech-heavy generation cars for the trends of what will occur – take the BMW E31 for example. Sure, it’s a really neat looking car, and the lure of the V12 is made even more appealing since you could get a manual transmission. But then there are the horror stories of the 15 or more computers that it takes to run all of the electronic systems, and I wonder how people will keep them running in the future. That’s even more compounded when you look at newer models. For example, about a month ago I took a trip out to Coventry Motorcar and drove their modified CL65 AMG. It was when new, and still is today, an amazing car with every sort of electronic gizmo possible, from heated, cooled and massaging seats to the twin-turbo V12 under the hood. It’s as if Mercedes-Benz took a Brookstone catalog and attached it to a Saturn V rocket. But can you imagine maintaining that car as it creeps towards 120,000 miles? I certainly can’t, and it’s a feeling I have about nearly all new luxury German cars.
There are a few exceptions, even in my favorite brand of Audi. While I’m not a fan of most of the models they’ve come out with recently in general, there are a few special ones that I’d consider owning down the road. It’s not that I don’t like or admire the cars; the performance of the new generation motors is stunning and the interiors and exteriors are, I think, the best in the business. It’s that I just can’t contemplate how you’d keep a new S8 running down the road. Having owned cutting edge, tech heavy Audis in the past, it’s a recipe that I would be concerned with in the future. I might make an exception, though, for a car like the this: