Update 7/15/17: Due to lack of payment, this Coupe Quattro has been relisted, again with a no reserve auction format.
Time to consider another Audi icon – the Coupe Quattro. Of course, it was quite hard to follow the original act, but in Europe alongside the RR Quattro 20V was the all-new B3 generation S2. Performance was about par between them, but they had intensely different character. The new car was safer, more quiet, more round, and a lot more practical. For while the original Quattro had always looked like it had a hatchback, it was the successor that actually had one.
Of course, in the U.S. we didn’t receive the S2. The Coupe Quattro made due with a thoroughly upgraded 2.3 liter DOHC 20V motor – the 7A. Deep in the middle of the recession and not fully recovered from Audi’s 60 Minutes debacle, the very expensive Coupe Quattro sold slowly. A total of approximately 1,700 of them were imported at over $30,000 each. Considering the cost, the performance was rather soft; the heavy Coupe sported only 164 horsepower and though it was smooth and reasonably quick on the highway, off the line performance was lackluster at best. Still, though the internet fora would have you believe otherwise, performance between the U.S. spec Coupe and original Quattro was pretty similar.
Options on the Coupe were limited to the Cold Weather package, 8-way power seats and Pearlescent White Metallic paint – all seen here on this ’91. ’91s also had the upgraded glass moonroof rather than the early steel panel, though they lost the infamous “Bag of Snakes” tubular header early models carried. ’91s also gained rear sway bars and are the rarest of the bunch, with only 364 sold in the model year and a further 58 traded as leftovers. Like the original, finding a good one is key – and difficult:
Update 5/18/18 – After failing to sell last year at nearly $8,000, this sweet and rare 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V with some fantastic period-correct BBS RS wheels is back on eBay with an opening bid at only $4,000!
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:
As I cover the more typically unloved range of German automobiles, finding comps can be at best difficult. At any given time, there are many favorite models of each of the marques available from pretty much any given date range – except Audi. For example, right now there are well over 100 pre-1990 BMWs on eBay. Audi? There’s one right now. One. And, I’ve already looked at it.
The result is that when you have a pristine example of a 26 year old Audi, finding something exactly like it to compare values is very difficult. But we have something unique today to follow up on yesterday’s highly-spec’d ’91 90 quattro 20V, as another very clean Type 89 20V just so happened top come up for sale at the same time. How does it match up?
As I covered in my last 90 quattro 20V post, while the sedan version of the small chassis mated with the 7A dual-cam EFI inline-5 may not have looked quite as sexy and evocative as the Coupe version, it was a bit quicker and more rare. That’s carried over to today; with such a small pool to begin with at only around an estimate of 1,000 imported here over the short 2-year production cycle, it bears to reason 25 plus years later there won’t be many in good shape. Factor in the typical Audi depreciation and lack of careful ownership downstream, and coming across a 90 quattro 20V like today’s 23,000 mile example is just to the left of impossible:
In 1986, to commemorate the 100th year of the automobile, Audi released a series of designs to celebrate the occasion. The consisted of a series of interior and exterior color combinations which were unique to the Coupe GT, 4000CS, 4000CS quattro and 5000CS sedan. Each car had a different interior (with the exception of the GT/4000CS quattro, which both received ‘Mouton’ red leather) and were available in limited quantities and limited exterior color choices.
Their name, appropriately, was Commemorative Design.
Despite that, the Audi enthusiast world at large insists on calling these cars the ‘CE’ – Commemorative Edition – models, rather than ‘CD’ for the appropriate Commemorative Design. Perhaps this stems from some confusion with the Canadian market, where the 5000CS model was marketed as the 5000CD. Does it matter? Not at all.
The two most desirable of this run were the Coupe GT and 4000CS quattro examples with red leather interiors, especially in Alpine White. Though mechanically no different than the standard models, they always make the collective pants of the B2 community a bit tighter when they pop up for sale. However, this particular one might be close to ‘Not Safe For Work’ level, as in addition to the color scheme it’s got a turned up 2.2 liter 20V turbo under the hood. Is this B2 perfection?
Nomenclature has been something Audi fans have struggled with, but to be fair the naming scheme from Ingolstadt hasn’t always been particularly straightforward. For example, though ubiquitous as the Coupe GT, there was actually a trim and performance difference between B2 front drive Coupes and Coupe GTs. Similarly, though U.S. fans often fair to recognize it, the B3 Coupe quattro was actually the second Coupe quattro; Europeans enjoyed the option of having a non-turbocharged, non-flared version of the B2 platform which few but the most dedicated U.S. Audi Coupe fans are aware of. Then there’s the name – properly, a capitalized Quattro refers to the aforementioned legend – the model that launched the branding of Audi’s all-wheel drive system. Every subsequent model that followed properly has a lowercase “q” if it sported the optional all-wheel drive. That even goes for models that were only offered in all-wheel drive, such as the V8 quattro. So confusing is the naming scheme that fans have taken to using “Ur” to refer to the Quattro (though proper capitalization would take care of the problem) for not only the original model, but the C4 S4/S6 and I’ve even been seeing it used for TTs, A4s and a few others. But the B3 and B4 Coupe wasn’t just offered in all-wheel drive; there were a long line of optional engines in the Coupe in both two and four wheel drive. However it only came to the U.S. in one configuration – the under appreciated 7A inline-5 20V motor pushing all four wheels. The B3 ran the second generation of quattro, with the center differential controlled by a Torsen unit and the rear open with an optional, speed limited locking unit. It upped the safety and electronic options to respond to market demands. They were heavy with electronic features including power seats, and passengers enjoyed the confusing safety net known as PROCON-10 – essentially, a series of cables which pre-tensioned seatbelts in the event of a crash. Though the production run of U.S. Coupes was brief at only 2 years and roughly 1700 units, there were many changes over that time. The motor changed ISV valves and computers as well as swapping from a tubular header to a cast iron unit. Shortly into production, airbags became standard on both the Coupe and sedan models. A rear swaybar was added, along with changes to the hydraulic system. All of these went relatively unseen to consumers, making the only notable change the addition of a glass sunroof to 1991 models. For the most part, these cars came fully loaded with the only options being Pearlescent White Metallic paint and power heated seats, unlike the sedan which despite being fewer in number has much more variety in options. This 1990 example was basically as expensive as a B3 got here:
Sometimes, where a car is sold or turns up for sale is baffling to me. Sometime in 1991, a person walked into an Audi dealer in Florida. Now, considering that Audi only sold 12,283 cars in 1991 that in and of itself was something of a minor miracle. 1991 was the worst year in Audi’s sales history outside of 1970 when the brand was reintroduced. To put it in an even bigger prospective, Audi sold more 100 models in 1971 than it sold total cars in 1991 – by nearly 50%. So, this person had walked by the Mercedes-Benz and BMW dealers – in Florida, mind you – and popped into an Audi dealer. Then, they selected a 90 quattro 20V. Now, starting in 1990 Audi had upped the game with the 7A 20V motor in the 90 quattro, and in terms of horsepower it was at least on par with Mercedes-Benz and BMW. But it was heavy and slower than the competition thanks to the all-wheel drive quattro drivetrain, so these 90s – and the rest of the quattros sold – were mostly relegated to Northern and Mid-Western states. And the buyer paid a steep price in 1991; around $27,000 before options. What was even crazier was that they then opted for the sport package and heated sport seats, as well as Pearlescant White Metallic paint. In short, this was the absolute most expensive Audi 90 you could buy in 1991. Yet, here it is, with low miles and in essentially perfect condition thanks to being stuck in Florida its entire life:
For some time, the B3 Audi Coupe quattro enjoyed a coveted place in the lineup, and many enthusiasts still consider them the high point of Audi design. However, in the market place their star has fallen slightly as newer and faster cars have become more affordable. While for some time a solid example would have cost you well north of $6,000, these low production all-wheel drive hatchbacks seem to have fallen on harder times recently. They have a reputation for being slow compared to the competition – the result of being relatively heavy rather than lacking in the motor department. The 7A inline-5 20V motor is a true gem of a motor, and on the fly these Coupes are quite entertaining to drive. Of course, as with most of the Audi quattros, turbo conversions are popular and the possibilities are near limitless. The B3 chassis also upped the electronic quotient for the driver compared to the relatively simple B2s. Electronic fuel injection, electronically locking (and automatically disengaging) rear differential, a Torsen center differential, electric seats and automatic climate control moved the B3 upscale from the B2, along with added safety features. However, this past year the first of these Coupes turned 25 years old – an age that qualifies them as being antique in some states. Audi only sold a reported 1,730 of these Coupes between 1990 and 1991 model years, and the best (and probably optimistic) estimates put only about 75% of those still on the road today. So, today instead of looking at two modded examples, here are two clean drivers that could be an affordable and unique classic:
If the M6 I just wrote up was full of non-original details, it’s hard to find anything that came from the factory on this Audi Coupe GT. Much of that I can appreciate, as I myself have fully modified a Coupe GT from stock form. It’s a chassis often overlooked because of the layout; on paper, just like a 911 the Coupe GT shouldn’t work. It’s front drive with an open differential and a very forward weight bias; unlike nearly all the Volkswagens, the engine in the GT in longitudinally laid out. That’s because it effectively was a front drive Quattro platform; many of the details of the front drive GTs are shared with their Quattro cousins. The configuration leaves a giant inline-5 cylinder motor hanging fully in front of the axle line, and the motor which promised the power of a 6 with the economy of a 4 was really the opposite. Yet, as with the 911, something magical was born from this recipe; not only did enthusiasts love the GT, but indeed even automotive experts said the 2-door Audi was more than the sum of its parts. GTs dance through corners with a poise that isn’t shared with the Volkswagen GTis, for example. They’re stunningly composed over long trips too, both spacious and at home cruising on the highway. And, importantly, they looked different than just any 2-door sedan; the angular delight of the Giugiaro design translated well into the narrow body. But just like the GTi and the E30, the platform had room for improvement; stiffen up the suspension and add power and it punches well above its weight class:
In my recent “Gimmie Five” 10K Friday, I charted some of the developments of the venerable Audi powerplant. Though the Eurovan would continue using I-5s in some applications, ostensibly 1997 would see the end of the line for the original configuration with the discontinuation of the S6 even if it’s returned in spirit in the new 07k turbocharged 5 seen in the TTRS and RS3. Those cars are the successors of the original small turbocharged Audis; the Quattro and the S2 coupe and Avant, and while we briefly got the 10V Quattro, none of the later small turbocharged variants came to the U.S.. For enthusiasts that were unwilling to wait for either the new models to launch or the European models to become legally eligible for importation, a popular pursuit has been to recreate the turbocharged package in the small chassis. Adding the turbocharged motor in 20V form instantly transformed the B3 and B4 into performance machines, and with plenty of tunability in the package it was possible to create a really serious package. That tuning has been taken to another level by an entire generation of new electronic fuel injection management which exploits the longevity and stout construction of the inline-5 and makes absolute monsters. Sure, it was impressive that Audi produced versions that managed the best part of 1,000 horsepower in certain tune in the 1980s – but that, of course, was a major manufacturer with near unlimited budget. What’s more impressive is that small tuning firms subsequently have been able not only to match but to exceed those power levels, with companies like 034 Motorsport and Dahlback Racing making 1,100 – 1,200 plus horsepower variants on their own. Even though the B3 chassis is fairly heavy, if you can turn up that boost to high levels you’ve got yourself a rocketship – and this S2 replica certainly has the right ingredients for that recipe: