Okay, I’ll admit that we don’t spend a lot of time on pre-War German cars. The why is quite simple; outside of an occasional Mercedes-Benz model, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars exported to the United States. Heck, there just weren’t a lot of pre-War German cars, period.
Contrary to popular belief, German wasn’t a nation of drivers until well after World War II. It was something that Mercedes-Benz and upstart conglomerate Auto Union lamented to a certain then-new German Chancellor by the name of Adolf Hitler. Hitler agreed; he wanted and needed the automobile industry in Germany to prosper to help resurrect the economy. But he also needed German car firms to take to new markets. The results you likely know; Hitler spurred the industry through lowering of automobile taxes, and more notable, the encouragement and funding of international-level automobile racing. It’s one of the few times in history that a government has undertaken full sponsorship of a race effort, and without a doubt it was the most successful and evocative. Should you care to on this blustery and very cold late December evening (at least here in New England, where temperatures are struggling to reach double digits), you can read all about it in my dissertation:
Motorsports Monday Special: Racing to Sell – The ‘Silberpfeil’: Part 6
The result of all of that racing and support of the automobile industry was that both Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union prospered – for a while. The unfortunate side-effect of the buildup for the Spanish Civil War and World War II, along with re-arming several areas of taken from Germany through the Versailles Treaty was that by the late 1930s, automobile production had ceased to accelerate because of artificial shortages of items like metal and rubber. Couple that with the fact that most Germans, though much better off in aggregate following the NSDAP takeover in 1933 than they had been during the Great Depression from 1929-1932, still weren’t very rich.…
The D2 Audi S8 is no stranger to these pages, as it’s one of my favorite designs from Ingolstadt – and considering my devotion to the brand, that’s actually saying something. So it’s no surprise that here I come with another. But this one tests my love of the model in several ways. First, it’s one of my least favorite color combinations on the S8. Light Silver Metallic over black, while classically understated and perhaps in keeping with the model’s character, is just plain boring considering some of the beautiful tones offered on the short production run. The mileage isn’t super low, either – while not the highest I’ve seen, with 138,000 miles on the odometer this is no spring chicken. It shows in several condition issues; worn seats, slightly scruffy bumper covers, and a few tack-ons like the rear spoiler and Brembo caliper stickers that are a little too boy-racer for the model. Though OEM wheels, the TT RS stock also seem out of place here to me.
So I really shouldn’t like this car, right?
Want to feel very special, drive a great sports car and stand apart from the crowd but don’t have a million dollars for a Porsche 911?
No problem. I have the solution.
Sure, you could do what I suggested a few weeks ago and buy the ‘affordable’ and ‘useable’ supercar – Audi’s R8. With 600 plus horsepower from a screaming V10 and “arrest me now, I broke the speed limit the moment I turned the key” looks, you’re sure to draw attention and smiles. But even though relative to the used 911 market these cars are bargains, you’re saying ‘Come on, Carter – they’re still $170,000’. And you’re right – for most, they’re only affordable if you would consider them a primary residence rather than a weekend warrior.
So if you need to actually commute, what about Audi’s TTS? Okay, it’s not the 400 horsepower TT RS – I get it. But it retains the walk-on-water MQB platform and pairs it with the Golf R drivetrain – good for 292 horsepower and 280 lb.ft of torque driving all four wheels. Paired with the S-Tronic DSG dual-clutch, you’re capable of blitzing 60 mph in 4.6 seconds yet still this car returns 27 mpg on the highway. Unlike the R8, it’s also got rear seats (albeit quite small) and a hatchback that doesn’t contain a V10. While that’s disappointing when showing off to your friends, the reality is that occasionally you need to carry something larger than your ego.
But though it lacks the headline-grabbing figures and cross-marque instantly recognizable alpha-numeric nomenclature of its more famous siblings, the TTS fails to disappoint with performance and incorporates all the cutting-edge technology, including the mega-cool virtual dashboard. You can also spec it out in a bunch of really cool colors, such as the Vegas Yellow I looked at on the R8s.…
We’re pretty used to the formula here: take a limited edition or special production 911, slap a neat color on it, and watch the price rise. Even brand new cars – ones that you can roll down to the dealership and order up yourself – are demanding a strong premium in the used marketplace. Insanity? A ‘bubble’? Bad economics? It doesn’t matter what the cause is, it’s the way life is for the foreseeable future.
But it’s not a trend which follows across the board. Take today’s twin Audi R8 V10 Pluses. The ‘Plus’ adds a serious amount of sport to the standard V10 R8, itself no slouch. Kicked up 70 horsepower to 610 and driven through a 7-speed S-Tronic it’s capable of sub-3 second sprints to 60, can obliterate a standing quarter mile in less than 11 seconds from a 5.2 liter normally aspirated V10 capable of spinning north of 8,500 RPMs. Both can hit 205 mph flat out. Both are presented in the searing shade of Vegas Yellow that will generate enough stares to make a GT3 jealous no matter how red its wheels are. . Both feature the upgraded 20″ wheel option and a host of other special carbon fiber touches that come along with the ‘Plus’ package. Despite being able to rip your face off and producing supercar performance from just a few years ago, both are also able to be used in a daily commute – even in winter. They’ll even return above 20 mpg on the highway. They’re astonishing automobiles.
And yet, both are ‘affordable’.
Look, they’re not really cheap. In fact, they’re massively expensive for any car, but many would argue especially so for an Audi. The sticker price on the V10 Plus is $192,000 before options, taxes and destination, after all. Yet with less than 3,000 miles on each of their odometers, this duo hasn’t appreciated like the 911 market – it’s fallen quite substantially.…
From time to time, we look at European-market cars. Considering the number that were brought here through ‘Grey Market’ channels, we actually get to sample the more original versions of these cars on a semi-regular basis. But that pool of Euro candidates dries up once you crest the 1986 model year. And for that, you can thank the ‘Fed’ and their kill-joy laws, right? Well, sort of. But left to their own devices, they likely would have never done anything. So why did the government get all antsy in the mid-80s to put an end to importation of what amounted to a pittance of cars? For that, you can thank Mercedes-Benz.
It turns out that Mercedes-Benz was more than anyone annoyed by the second-hand importation of its more powerful and prettier European-specification cars. To a lesser extent, BMW was also losing market share, and the two importers – who, it should be noted, paid a fair amount of money to the government in importation duties and taxes on the sale of their cars – claimed they had lost in the vicinity of 50% of their sales to the alternate European crowd. Now, in a true ‘Free Enterprise’ market, one would have looked upon these complaints and said “Well, Mercedes and BMW, produce better cars at a lower cost for your consumers and you’ll solve the problem!” But, of course, the United States is not a free enterprise market, and there are lots of regulations and rules which have been in put in place in part by high-paid lobbyists for certain industries. Mercedes-Benz and BMW had these lobbyists on their side, and the importers did not. As a result, in 1988, the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Act was passed. Also called the Imported Vehicle Safety Act of 1988, it’s what you know better as the ’25 Year Rule’, which basically excludes you from individually importing any car on your own unless it’s really old.…
The gulf between North American and European market performance was wide in all manufactures in the 1980s, but no where did it feel more vast than with the Audi products. That was especially true with the turbocharged variants of the large chassis. In European guise, the Type 200 5T developed 170 horsepower even without an intercooler, while the U.S. 5000 Turbo managed only 130 from the 2.1 liter inline-5. That was a 24% drop in performance, and it didn’t get much better with the Type 44 replacement. Though displacement later grew to 2.2 liters in the MC1 and 2 codes, power output never exceeded 162 horsepower. That meant that the 1987 Audi 5000CS Turbo (and the turbocharged quattro model) produced only about 81% of its European equivalent’s power output.
Despite that, the 5000 was a great sedan. It was quite, comfortable, and more modern-feeling than its contemporaries. It was also good enough for notorious BMW-friendly Car and Driver to add it to their 10-Best list – even without the trademark all-wheel drive. With weight fairly far in excess of 3,000 lbs, the luxury sedan wasn’t a rocket off the line, but on the roll it was a competent and quiet cruiser. Audi claimed the automatic-equipped Turbo model would hit 60 mph in 8.7 seconds and flat out would do 130 mph – numbers that were barely better than its normally aspirated smaller brother Coupe and 4000S front-drive models (themselves not particularly notable for being quick!). But thanks to some notoriety in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and great press (ahem – well, for a bit anyways!), these Audis sold fairly well. For example, compared to the 4000 quattro and Coupe GT models, the 5000 Turbo was traded in much greater numbers despite its high price. In 1987, Audi sold just shy of 2,000 Coupe GT models and nearly 3,000 4000CS quattros.…
For a few reasons, I found yesterday’s S4 Avant a bit lacking. The B7 S4 Avant isn’t my favorite of the S Avants to begin with, and truth told I think I’d take a S-Line 2.0T Titanium before I jumped into a S4. The high price these have retained also is a bit of a turnoff; you can get the same car, for nearly all intents and purposes, in the B6 for a lot less. But the killer, at least for me, was the color. I just find newer silver and gray Audis predictable, cliche, and boring in general. They lack imagination. And when Audi had such brilliant colors available in the color pallet, I don’t look upon the more conservative and prevalent with envy.
But what about something wild, like LZ5F Sprint Blue Pearl Effect? Yeah, that gets the blood boiling and draws the eyes in pretty much every situation. But today I didn’t have a SBPE Avant; instead, to make up for that, I’ve got two examples of the color on S sedans from the same dealer. Strange? Even more strange is that this is the same dealer that I previously looked at a special order Sprint Blue A4. Does this dealer have some special source of smurf blue Audis?
I’ve previously made fun to the term “Unicorn” as it relates to selling…well, pretty much any of the cars we feature on these pages. Truth told, as special as you think your car is, it’s really just one of probably a fairly large number of cars just like it out in the wild. Yet that doesn’t stop the P.T. Barnum’s of the used-car market from touting how unusual it is to see their particular circus attraction. In fact, many times it seems to be considered the main selling point:
Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass-produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!
So here we are again. In the sales pitch for this 2006 Audi S4 Avant, “Unicorns are real” appears. The question is – is this really something you never see, and is it the horned mythological beast you’ve been looking for?
While usually our ‘Double Take’ features look at one model, today I’m going to look at two cars that share a brand, and idea, and a price point. Both of these Audis represent a huge leap forward from their predecessors; versus the front-drive Type 81, the Type 85 B2 was much more modern-feeling, refined and introduced all-wheel drive to the mass market (excusing its bigger brother, and twice as expensive and exotically flared Quattro brethren, of which only 664 sold here) and the C4 S4 introduced the U.S. market to S-cars and merged the 200 20V’s setup with a modern body and more sporty interior along with even a bit more power. Both are legendary in the 4-ringed circles for their longevity. Both have cadres of fans who seek each model out. And both are hard to find in good condition.
So here we go, Alice – red or green pill? For your $6,000 investment, which of these inline-5 all-wheel drive legends would be your choice?
Edit: After selling last year on Bring A Trailer for $5,050 after we featured it in April, the current owner of the 1985 Audi 4000S quattro with some nice modifications has decided it’s too nice for a winter beater. It’s back up on eBay with a $5,000 opening bid and reserve auction format with few changes since we saw it last year, but it’s still one of the better ones out there for sale.
If you like yesterday’s Audi 4000S quattro, finding a later example is likely to be more fruitful for you. About of the roughly 16,500 4000 quattros imported into the United States, roughly three quarters of them – about 12,000 – were the updated 1985-1987 model years. Changes to the package were mostly visual. Outside refreshed bumper covers with integrated turn signals and reflectors smoothed out the look far before BMW caught on to the idea in the 3-series. Aerodynamic headlights replaced the sealed-beam quad-headlight arrangement and a sloped grill eased the transition. In the rear the trunklid dove down to the trim line and held an entirely revised set of lights. Rocker panel covers made the 4000 appear a bit lower than the ’84 model had, though the ride height was unchanged. And a rolling change to flush fitting covers on the Ronal R8 wheels subtly changed the look to more aerodynamic. Inside, electric rear windows replaced the manual roll-up variety, and new door cards with pulls now matched the revamped dashboard. The gauges also changed, as did the locking differential panel. But mechanically under it all, few changes were seen to the workhorse. While numerically speaking you’re more likely to find a later car than the ’84 only style, if one car we cover better epitomizes the axiom “ridden hard and put away wet”, I’m not sure what it could be.…