Forbidden Fruit: 1992 Volkswagen Passat G60 Syncro

There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the B3 Passat G60 Syncro. The prior Quantum (née Passat) had borrowed Audi’s full quattro setup in the Syncro model. The G60 supercharged engine had debuted in the Golf in Europe as early as 1988, but it wouldn’t be until late 1989 and the new Corrado model’s introduction that the G-Lader would become better known on these shores. But the G60 Syncro Passat was the first time that all three were combined, and it took the more exotic drivetrain setup from the Rallye and brought it to a mainstream market.

The PG G-Lader devoted to the Rallye, G60 and Passat Syncro wasn’t the most powerful unit VW of the time period at 158 horsepower and 166 lb.ft of torque (the 3G 16V version in the Golf Limited had 50 horsepower more), but the combination of these items seemed awesome at the time to U.S. fans because, of course, in the midst of VAG’s early 90s sales slump they opted not to bring the package here. Like the Corrado, based on Mk.2 underpinnings the Passat’s engine configuration had moved from longitudinal in the B2 to transverse in the third gen, meaning that Audi’s quattro system remained unique to that brand. The Golf’s transverse engine placement precluded use of the Audi longitudinal design, which used output shafts and mechanical differentials. Instead, Volkswagen turned to Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch for development.

Noted for development of four-wheel-drive systems and probably most recognizable for the Pinzgauer military vehicle, Steyr’s solution to the transverse problem was to utilize a viscous coupling similar to the AMC Eagle. However, while the Eagle’s system was all-wheel drive, all the time, Volkswagen’s system would only engage when the front wheels slipped.

Like the Audi 90 quattro it competed against, the Syncro Passat wasn’t particularly quick but was pretty expensive in period, and neither sold very well in the grand scheme.…

1990 Audi 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?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V on eBay

1991 Audi 90 quattro 20V with 23,000 Miles

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi 90 quattro 20V on eBay

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

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

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.…

1992 Audi 80 quattro

Just a few weeks ago, I spent a fair amount of time documenting the substantial changes to Audi’s small chassis lineup which accompanied the launch of new nomenclature in the B3 80/90 twins. But while early models like the 1988 90 quattro I wrote up for that article were mechanically identical to the “entry level” 80, changes were on the horizon. In 1990, the 7A-motored, dual-overhead cam 90 quattro 20V and Coupe Quattro replaced the 10V NG powered 90s, which were no longer available in the U.S. market. To accompany their upgraded 165 horsepower mill, the 90s featured an optional sport package which included 15″ Speedline wheels and upgraded brakes (standard, albeit in slightly different offset, on the Coupe).

Soldiering on with the 130 horsepower NG and slightly less flair was the 80. In fact, the 80 outlived the 20V motor in the U.S. into 1992, and was ultimately the last small chassis offering the 5-cylinder until the recent reintroduction in transverse layout in the MQB platform. While power and running gear was unchanged, the 80 received some of the 90’s signature bits from earlier on, including the BBS alloys and painted bumper covers. Like all B3 quattros, they’re exceedingly rare to come across; in the case of the 1992 80 quattro like the one here, a scant 640 made their way to our market.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Audi 80 quattro on eBay

1988 Audi 90 quattro

The B3 was a much needed update to the very old small Audi chassis in the late 1980s. Although the addition of the 4000 quattro was only a few model years old and the Type 85 B2 had undergone a pretty comprehensive update in 1985, the reality was that it was a chassis which had been designed in the mid 1970s and was antiquated compared to the BMW E30 and Mercedes-Benz W201 chassis, both of which it was out of sync with in terms of launch. While both of those cars were in mid-life in 1986, Audi launched its new B3 platform with a heavily revised, updated and aerodynamic replacement for the popular 80 and 90. This was interesting, as the B2 would continue alongside in production for several years – notably in Coupe form – until the new 2-door was prepared.

The U.S. market’s offerings also didn’t mesh with Europe either in nomenclature or trim scale. The 4000 quattro had only come in one form – 4000S in 1984 and 1985, and 4000CS in 1986 and 1987. They were relatively loaded and all powered by the venerable JT inline-5. However, Europeans had enjoyed several different configurations; the basic 80 and more upscale 90, with many different options. Audi would continue the 4000CS in 1987, but in 1988 the new models rolled out, with two options like the Europeans had. As in the Fatherland, a prospective buyer could get the basic 80 quattro or opt for the more luxurious, upscale 90 quattro. Many of the design elements of the U.S. spec 4000s carried over into the 80 – such as the rear urethane flush spoiler and even the standard Ronal R8 alloys. But the 90 came with nicer bits, such body color bumper covers with integrated fog lights, wood trim inside, a more pronounced rear spoiler and BBS alloy wheels.…

1988 Audi 80 quattro

While the move from the B2 to B3 chassis brought many changes to the small Audi lineup, it was also very much a case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’. Some of the features of the 4000 were gone; you could no longer opt to lock the center differential, for example, since the manual locker had been replaced by a more sophisticated Torsen unit. You could still opt to engage a rear differential lock, but electronics overrode that at 15 m.p.h.. That change was indicative of movement in the marketplace and where the B3 was aimed – slightly more upscale from the B2. Interior quality was greater, and production was broken into two categories as it had been in Europe. Selecting the top-range 90 quattro got you nicer BBS wheels, color matched bumpers and mirrors, a sportier raised spoiler, a better leather interior and wood trim. The downscale 80 would channel more of the outgoing 4000, with savory Serret Velour and a more plastic-heavy interior. They even opted to keep the same Ronal R8 wheels as the old model early on, and the subtle rear spoiler was a near copy of the B2. The more basic 80 was closer in performance to the 4000, too – the luxury and safety items of the B3 meant more weight, and the 90 tipped the scales at nearly 3,000 lbs. Mechanically identical, the 80 quattro was about a hundred pounds lighter and anyone who has driven 80s normally aspirated Audis knows that 100 lbs. makes a difference in performance. Motivation for both was the same NG-code inline-5 that was seen in the last Coupe GT Special Build models, meaning 130 horsepower and 140 lb.ft of torque – smoothly adequate, but certainly never overwhelming. As with the 1988 5000S I looked at the other day, these models came to market at a time of crisis for Audi, and consequently few were sold.…

1988 Audi 90 quattro

Looking at the outrageous B5 and B6 S4s from yesterday is a stark reminder of how far the company has come from the rather humble roots of Audi’s small chassis. Sure, the B2 was the basis that launched the new direction for the company in the Quattro, but most B2 cars were modest, relatively underpowered near luxury cars. Park one next to a new A4 and you’ll be amazed at just how large they’ve become; from a 100 inch wheel base, 66 inch width and 176″ overall length, the B2 tipped the scales at a little under 2,400 lbs in 1980. The new A4s have a foot more in between the wheels (and the ends of the bumper, no surprise there), are half a foot wider and are half again as heavy at nearly 3,800 lbs for the sedan. Brakes are now the size wheels once were on even the standard A4s, and horsepower? Well, the lowly 2.0T carries more punch than the original Quattro did in all but 20 valve and Sport form, even in European trim. While cars have gotten better at being cars than they once were, they’ve also become smart phones, offices, relaxation oases and sports arenas. Cars start, drive, and park themselves, tell you how to get places and when you’ll get there, and even will tell Big Brother what you did wrong when you get into a accident. It’s somehow a loss of innocence which makes contemplation of simpler times so appealing, and looking at this 1988 Audi 90 quattro is just that. So let’s pop your copy of “Die Hard” in to your VCR, adjust the tracking and take a glimpse into Audi’s past:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Audi 90 quattro on eBay