1985 Audi 5000S Avant

1985 Audi 5000S Avant

It’s hard to believe that only eleven years separate the genesis of the inline-5 Avant wagon design and its culmination with the 1995 Audi S6. Audi’s groundbreaking aerodynamic design for the C3/Type 44 looked from the start as if it were intended to be a wagon; a sleek, modern design with flush windows and a sweeping D-pillar. It would be two years until Audi’s quattro drivetrain would debut in the large package, which left you with the sole option of front-wheel drive for 1984 and 1985. Audi also opted to leave the KKK turbocharger out of the package until all four wheels could deal with it, as well – so basically this car was a luxurious 4-door Coupe GT for the first two model years. Thankfully, though you were only allowed about 110 horsepower, Audi allowed drivers to opt for a manual transmission even in front-wheel drive form:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay

1995 Audi S6 Avant

1995 Audi S6 Avant

Okay, enough dangling carrots and arguments over what’s the best Audi of all time. If there was a do-anything, do-everything, you only have one car for the rest of your life type of car, it’s the S6 Avant.

Today it’s not abnormal to have a car that can out-drag sports cars, carry a family of five dependably and their gear, go through any weather and be a luxurious car that even returned reasonable mileage. In the early 1990s, though, what were your options in that category, exactly? That was a time where Audi had the market cornered with its S4 and later S6 Avants. Though they were available in Europe earlier, it took until the 1995 model year for Audi to introduce the concept to Americans. And just like that, it was gone again, with only a few hundred imported. Nearly every single one is unique as a result of mid-model year changes. Yet all are equally legendary among U.S. Audi fans:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

1996 Audi S2

1996 Audi S2

While some may feel that my foray into BMW ownership has swayed me to the dark side of German motoring, I still have a very large soft spot for the classic inline-5 powered Audis. And one of the most outstanding deals, until very recently, was the S2 range. Oft copied in the United States as it was never offered, the S2 was available in frequently seen Coupe and far less found sedan and Avant variations. The last is best known in its ultimate development as the Porsche-built RS2, but even the standard S2 range was nothing short of impressive. With 220 horsepower available from the 3B and later ABY turbocharged dual-cam inline-5s driven through all four wheels, they weren’t the fastest off the line but could hang with their countrymen easily on the fly. As they near legal importation status, prices have started to rise slightly – but they’re still quite affordable compared to many other contemporary limited-run performance options. This ’96 is a great example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Audi S2 on Car and Classic

Tuner Tuesday: 1995.5 Audi S6

Tuner Tuesday: 1995.5 Audi S6

If Sunday’s A4 represented the new wave of Audi products, the C4 S6 was the end of the decade and a half dominance of the turbocharged inline-5 in the brand’s marketing. True, it continued on in other parts of the world a bit longer, but the writing was on the wall and the 1995 model year was the last in the American market. There’d be a big gap until the next S model launched in the U.S., which helped to solidify the legendary status of these stealthy super-sedans. Since there was no immediate replacement for half a decade, the S6 maintained its top-trump status among four-ring fans for longer than it probably would have been expected to.

The result of that was that they retained a strong fan base of owners and many more who wished, but could not afford, to grab one. As soon as they were out of warranty (if not before, in some cases), the wick began to be turned up – and those that know the AAN know that there’s a lot of wick there to burn. In recent years, the wave of electronic fuel injection tuning and aftermarket support has not waned but grown for these cars; like German Supra Turbos, they’re the evergreen forced-induction chassis you just never tire of seeing. Today’s example is no exception to the rule, and with 500 horsepower and a host of high-dollar upgrades, it’s ready to embarrass much newer metal.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995.5 Audi S6 on eBay

1999 Audi A4 2.8 quattro

1999 Audi A4 2.8 quattro

Emerging from the sales slump brought on by the recession and actual fake news, Audi solidified its position in the small executive luxury market with its brand new A4 model in 1996. While in truth the car heavily borrowed from the evolution of the B3/4 series and started life with the same flaccid 12 valve V6 that had replaced the sonorous 7A inline-5 for 1993, the A4 was exactly the model Audi needed to redefine its image.

And redefine it did, going from near zero to hero in just a year’s time.

Car and Driver immediately named the A4 one of its “10 Best” cars, a position it would repeat in 1997 and 1998. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the perennial favorite as the BMW 3-series was for the magazine, but still, that it was mentioned in the same breath was impressive. New sheetmetal was smooth and tight, full of great angles and well-placed curves. The bumper covers were finally integrated well again – something the U.S. specification B4 had inexplicably failed miserably at. Inside was evolution rather than revolution, but the cabin looked and felt upscale and modern. And the market responded to this instant hit; consider, in 1994 Audi sold 12,575 cars in total. In 1996, some 15,288 of just the A4 models were sold. That was before the many variations and improvements Audi rolled out in the B5, too.

Seemingly every year new changes offered refreshment and redesign to the A4. In late 1995 and 1996, you could only get one specification – the 2.8 either with or without quattro. But ’97 saw the introduction of the 1.8T, while ’98 gave us the Avant and more potent 30V V6. Okay, it didn’t pack a knockout punch, but new wheels and a sport package, along with a subtle refresh to the tail lights, gave the model a more sporty look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Audi A4 2.8 quattro on eBay

1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V

1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V

Just as they had with the development of the 10V Turbo for their top tier products, Audi’s work on the Group B, Sport and later RR 20V Quattro (along with the creation of the original S-series cars soon after) trickled down into the rest of the range, but only in a very limited fashion. The 7A 2.3 liter 20V motor was the beneficiary of that racing work, and it was at the time a pretty impressive unit. Out of 2.3 liters, Audi squeezed a very reliable 164 horsepower with a screaming 7,200 RPM redline. While it’s true this was down on peak power to racing motors like the M3’s S14, the adding of the second cam and a modern EFI engine management also yielded nearly 160 ft.lb of torque.

So why does everyone claim that this car was under-powered?

Weight. The luxury-oriented B3 was most popular in Coupe form, where at 3,300 lbs in 1991 it was in need of a diet. It was 30 horsepower down on the BMW, and weighed 500 lbs more, with a more frontward weight bias. A performance car this did not make, and the result was that the expensive Audis leisurely gained speed. Despite the near 50% power increase over the outgoing Coupe GT, a stock B3 Coupe Quattro shared near identical 0-60 times and cost $10,000 more.

But if you were a clever buyer, you could get slightly better performance out of the 4-door variant of the naturally aspirated double overhead cam inline-5. That’s because concurrent with Coupe production, the motor and drivetrain was offered in the slightly lighter 90 quattro 20V:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V on Chicago Craigslist

1982 Audi 4000S 4E 2-Door

1982 Audi 4000S 4E 2-Door

Do you know how many times I’ve heard “It was just too nice to part out” when referring to an older Audi? Heck, I’ve personally had three that I’ve said that very sentence for, and at least one more I should have said that about. One time I bought a 4000S front wheel drive 5-speed simply because I wanted a door. No, I’m not joking. The entire car was in mint shape – Sapphire with Marine Blue velour, and because I was 18 and had fully subscribed to the idea that the only good Audis were all-wheel drive Audis, I paid $300 to rip what was otherwise one of the nicest 4000S models I had seen to that point in my life apart. Most of it went to the junkyard, in fact. It’s something that near 40 year old me is mad at 18 year old me about, still.

Fast forward 22 years into the future, and since then I keep hearing the phrase in relation to all sorts of obscure, slightly crusty and forgotten examples of the brand. So when this 4000S 4E 2-door popped up for sale with just that thought in the seller’s advertisement, it was worth a look.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Audi 4000S 4E 2-Door on eBay

2003 Audi RS6 with 23,100 Miles

2003 Audi RS6 with 23,100 Miles

If yesterday’s post on the Audi 4000CS quattro represented the genesis of my love for the brand, if I’m honest the C5 RS6 was the start of where I started to question the choices of Ingolstadt’s design. It wasn’t that the RS6 wasn’t a hugely impressive car; though they seem pretty new still, this amazing ride is over halfway towards being considered “vintage” in some states. 14 years has passed since the original owner plunked down the heady $80,000 for what was briefly the world’s fastest production sedan. Audi brought two turbochargers to the Cosworth-built 4.2 liter V8 party, offering 450 horsepower, sub-5 second 0-60 times and a car that would easily bump into its 155 mph regulated top speed – and it came to America!

Consider, for a moment, that in 2002 when this car was ready for launch, the car that had existed 15 years before that was the very 1987 4000CS quattro I wrote up yesterday.

It was a monumental leap for the company into the throes of the top-tier performance sedans, but alas, it was a war of escalation that hasn’t stopped since. Audi has already announced that the new RS6 will have a gazillion horsepower and may even come here. In response, BMW has promised to up the new M5’s power to no less than whatever Audi produces, plus 50. To me, though the newest and biggest and baddest sedans are certainly mind-boggling, none of them really appeal to me in the same way the 4000CS quattro did. The 4000CS quattro had been a car I could conceptualize owning downstream of the original owner (maybe I’d even be the second owner?), but the RS6? It’d have to be many years and many ownerships before I could even hope to own one. And then, did I really want a seriously complicated car that hadn’t been well maintained?…

1987 Audi 4000CS quattro

1987 Audi 4000CS quattro

You either get old Audis, or you absolutely don’t.

It’s something I’ve never quite understood. Put a 1985 Audi 4000CS quattro next to a 1985 BMW 3-series, and the Audi looked more slick. The interior details were certainly on par with the BMW, too. Tech? Sure, the Type 85 had basically all the same gadgets that came on the E30, too – which is to say, not many. Electric windows, sunroof, power antenna, power locks were pretty much standard fare in the marketplace by that point in the near-luxury class. The Audi was reasonably quiet going down the road, fit five in a pinch, had a reasonably sized trunk and got reasonable mileage – though admittedly the “power of six, economy of four” idea of the inline-5 worked out generally in the ‘economy of a 6’, power of a 4 direction. The quattro also featured fully independent suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes and sway bars front and rear. None of this was particularly revolutionary at the time.

What was somewhat revolutionary, though, was what Audi had done in 1983. No, it wasn’t the introduction of all-wheel drive; the Quattro had already been on the market for a few years, and in all honesty the Jensen FF well and truly beat it to the technology by a full decade and a half. Unorthodox, though, was taking that basic supercar (for the day) platform at plunking it in the more reasonably priced 4000 model. Removing the turbo and boxflares reduced the asking price by over 50%, yet you got 90% plus of the Quattro’s performance and driving experience. For an entire generation of rally enthusiasts and VW fans, the 4000 quattro was legendary even while it was still on sale. BMW owners would quip that it was slow and underpowered (apparently, in that case, never having driven an early 318i); Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts would counter that the W201 was better built.…

1988 Audi 80 quattro

1988 Audi 80 quattro

The Audi 80 quattro was a great replacement for the 4000 quattro in many ways. And, in many ways, it was a complete let down. It was more quiet with better interior materials and better technology. It also had more power with the 2.3 liter inline-5, but additional sound deadening and more technology all meant more weight, so the new 80 quattro felt slower than the 4000 had. That technology meant it wasn’t quite as “cool” as the 4000 had been, either – you could only lock one differential thanks to a new center Torsen unit, and then at 15 m.p.h. the rear diff would unlock electronically. BOOOO, Audi, BOOOO! How am I supposed to channel Hannu Mikkola if your electronic nannies are undoing my sick slide?

Did it matter that the second generation of quattro was probably better in most conditions for the majority of drivers? Not really. It didn’t matter that fundamentally the 80 was a better car, either. The 80 had three strikes against it before it even went on sale here. First was the price; at around $24,000 out the door with a few options, it was considerably more expensive than even the expensive 4000 quattro had been. Second was that it was no longer top fiddle; the 90 quattro was the upscale model, meaning that if you wanted body-color bumpers, for example, you needed to pony up even more for the “nicer” model. Heck the 4000 had body-color bumpers in 1985 for less money. What was Audi thinking? And to top it off, there was the whole 60 minutes fiasco.

Those factors combined to doom the B3 here, no matter how good it was. In 1988, with the release of a fresh model, Audi barely managed to outsell the antiquated 4000 quattro. The 80 and 90 quattro combined to sell just 94 more examples than the 1987 4000CS quattro had (3,023 v.…

2007 Audi A4 2.0T quattro

2007 Audi A4 2.0T quattro

Okay, let me get this off my chest first: I don’t like the A4. My reasoning is most likely completely irrational from the standpoint of being an Audi fan. Quite simply, the A4 made Audi popular, and I didn’t like that. Each successive generation made it more popular, too, to the point where my neighbor “Tiffy” (no joke) bought (of course) a 2007 Dolphin Gray Metallic sedan brand new. Predictably, it was Tiptronic. Tiffy represented to me the sale of the soul of Audi to the heartless masses of New Jersey housewives that replaced their Honda Accords, Acura TL, Lexus ES, or BMW E36 with the new flavor du Jour. Seeing gray A4s actually causes me physical discomfort to this day. The only point of solace in the situation was that I knew, at some point, these A4s would go “all Audi” on Tiffy and her cohort of hair-flipping, bleached and over-makeup’d friends in heels that fit them ten years ago, and they’d be left with a dash full of warning lights and a laughing AAA driver transporting them to the local dealership. There, their knock-off Louis Vuitton purses would be emptied, as their local authority on all-things-Audi-repair would literally take the Armani Exchange shirt off their backs.

Then there’s the group of 2nd/3rd/4th-owner bros with flat-rimmed hats and a long line of credit with APR that have modded these A4s to the hilt. They’re a whole other level of discomfort for me.

I recognize it’s a problem, and at some point I’ll probably seek therapy over it. Needless to say, I won’t be owning an A4 at any point soon. Or ever, likely.

With some disdain, then, I consider an A4 2.0T quattro sedan. To me, there’s but one reason to consider an A4, and that was that (until recently) you could get an Avant.…

1998 Audi Cabriolet

1998 Audi Cabriolet

Looking for a performance car? This isn’t it. It’s also about as far from a classic Audi as you could get in the U.S. market; there was no turbo, no inline-5, no manual and no quattro drivetrain. But the B4 Audi Cabriolet was ironically the last 1980s holdover for the company, and it survived until somewhat amazingly 1998 here, with the basic chassis construction from 1985. To the end, it remained a competent and handsome convertible, a conservative alternative to the more expensive Mercedes-Benz drop-tops and the flashier BMWs. The Cabriolet really only came in one configuration here, with the 2.8 liter V6 linked to the 4-speed automatic driving the front wheels. On the fly, this was a fine setup and certainly potent enough to rustle your hair, though it was far from lighting it on fire. Pricing at the end of the run was surprisingly high at $34,600 base price. Added to that were the packages many came with for the 1998 model year; Premium Package added a power roof, burled walnut wood trim; Kodiac leather seat upholstery, remote locking and alarm. Ironically for the convertible, the “All Weather Package” added heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, and heated door locks. Also optional for the end of the run were the Votex Competition 16″ 6-spoke alloy wheels and even high backed sport seats; both (especially the latter) are very rare. Today the market ignores these last B4s, and often they can be had for a song:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1998 Audi Cabriolet on eBay

2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Ultrasport

2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Ultrasport

A couple of years ago I toyed with the idea of buying a B6 A4 for use as a daily driver. That’s pretty remarkable since I’m not a huge Audi fan (though I do love the D2 S8). I admire these cars for their restrained, modernist styling, which has stood the test of time pretty well. The problem was, I only wanted one particular trim level, the Ultrasport, and I couldn’t find one in my price range that I was happy with. The Ultrasport (“USP”) package was available as an $2,950 option on A4s produced between 2004 and 2005. It added Audi’s 1BE sport suspension, 18″ “Celebration” RS4-style rims and a bodykit that included revised front and rear lower valences, door blades aluminum trim, a special perforated leather steering wheel and a subtle decklid spoiler. The USP package made the plain A4 look a bit more like an S4, and for me that was the major attraction. But ultimately, I decided to go in a different direction. I bought my E34 BMW instead, and in nearly 30k miles of driving I have had nothing go wrong with it. I’m not sure I could say the same, had I bought the A4. Still, these cars continue to grab my attention. I think a well-chosen example could make a stylish commuter for those prepared to put up with the servicing costs associated with Audis of this era.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2005 Audi A4 1.8T Ultrasport on LA Craigslist

2002 Audi S6 Avant

2002 Audi S6 Avant

Perspective is an interesting thing. Just a few days ago, I looked at an S6 4.2 Avant – a car that never came to the U.S.. It was certainly potent, with 285 stomping V8 horsepower. Even more potent was the Plus version linked in the article, with enough power to match rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. But here in America, we bemoaned the lack of importation of these models; worse still, Audi’s U.S. lineup went decidedly soft following the discontinuation of the 20V turbocharged inline-5 S6 in 1995. Indeed, another S model wouldn’t appear here until 2000.

But only a half decade after the most potent S-car had launched out of quattro GmbH, Audi gave us a reason to celebrate. The S6 Avant returned to U.S. shores, and it was even more powerful than the Plus model had been. Now with 5V technology, the BBD 4.2 V8 cranked out 340 horsepower. Like the 4.2 sedan we just looked at, the flares were widened and door blades made the stance more aggressive. Special interior details abounded; sport seats and steering wheel (comfort seats were a no-cost option), Alcantara headliner, and carbon fiber trim let the driver know they were at the wheel of a special model. Audi’s signature Avus wheel design appeared in 17″, but uniquely 8″ wide and in lower offset than either the S8 or S4 models’ wheels. The 1BE sport suspension was 20mm lower and 30% stiffer than the standard models. And though it looked like the rest of the subdued, understated early 2000s lineup, the Avant scooted; 0-60 was gone in 6.5 seconds, the standing quarter mile in 14.5, and the S6 could pretty effortlessly brush against its electronically limited 155 mph top speed. Reviews and owners alike chime in with the same song: like the E39 M5, this is a car that does everything, and does everything well.…

Brilliant Yellow 1997 Audi S6 4.2 Avant

Brilliant Yellow 1997 Audi S6 4.2 Avant

Ah, the used car market in Europe. It’s the stuff of dreams for U.S. fans. First off, you get cars that were never available to our market. Often, those cars come with colors or options that weren’t offered here. They are usually closer to original specification. Europeans seem to drive less and value their expensive cars more, too – so they turn up with lower than normal mileage and in better than average condition. And, as if to top it off, they’re dangled in front of us at cut-rate pricing. Because of the cost of keeping these cars down stream in Europe with taxes, insurance, and – most importantly for most – the space to keep multiple cars, older cars are often offered at prices that would immediately have several fans on U.S. shores throwing money at the sellers.

Today’s S6 4.2 Avant combines all of those things into one package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Audi S6 4.2 Avant on Mobile.de