I’ve owned Audis of all sorts, but the B3/4 chassis has so far eluded me. It’s not that I haven’t come close, though. My first experience with a B3 was at one of my first jobs. One of the delivery men had bought a brand-new 1990 Coupe Quattro. It was a mess, though it was only 6 years old at that point. I offered to clean it for him, and thus was born my first drive with the 7A. It started up and sounded just like my 4000CS quattro, and if I’m brutally honest, below 3,000 rpms you couldn’t tell any difference between the two in performance. But keep your foot buried in the loud pedal and the DOHC 2.3 inline-5 began to sing, eagerly heading for the redline at every prodding. The fit, finish and luxury of the Coupe made me envious of the time; though my Audi was only four years older, it might as well have been five times that. Such was the jump from the B2 to the B3. Soon after I met another Audi fanatic who had a string of Lago Coupes I would often drool over.
My later encounter came much closer to actual ownership. I met a friend in England during grad school and we quickly bonded over Audis. It turned out that back in his hometown in Canada, he, too, had an Audi waiting. It was a graphite 1990 90 quattro 20V. And, after some time, he asked me if I wanted to buy it. When I got home I pursued this prospect since I had sold the 4000 to leave for England. Long story short, when the photos arrived of the car, it was quite a bit more crusty underneath than I was hoping. His price was reasonable, but then for about the same ask a 1993 4.2 V8 quattro came up for sale locally, and the rest was history for me.
The B3 20V has never left my thoughts, though I haven’t gotten any closer to owning one. The Coupe and its 90 quattro 20V brother each have their devoted fanbase, yet they’re remarkably different cars both in how they look and who wants to own each. Both are fairly rare, with around 1,500 Coupes and roughly 1,000 90s imported with the 7A originally – and, in all honesty, probably only a fraction of that number remain today. But surprisingly I found two examples of Pearlescent White Metallic to compare:
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:
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. The G60 Syncro was offered in the Great White North, though, and now that enough time has passed these forbidden fruits can finally be brought in to the U.S. – if you can find one….
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:
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:
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. 2,929). And, that was their best year here, to boot; each successive year, sales fell – 1,947 in 1989, 1,680 in 1990, 655 in 1991 and only 640 in the last year of the B3, 1992. It’s made finding clean B3s very difficult. Despite that, they often don’t hold much value in the marketplace:
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.
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. You could also opt, for the first time in the small chassis, for the signature Audi color of Pearlescent White Metallic paint at an addition charge and power seats on the 90 quattro.
Mechanically, the 80 and 90 quattros were twins until 1990, and many of the options – ski sack, sport seats, heated seats, onboard computer – were shared between the two, but the 90 always felt a bit more upscale than the 80. Power came from the NG 2.3 inline-5, generating 130 horsepower and 140 lb.ft of torque; modest, given the near 3,000 lb. curb weight of the B3 – a result of the many luxuries and new protective technologies Audi introduced in the 90. The 80 and 90 beat the 200 to the market in 1988, meaning they were the first to debut the new second generation of all-wheel drive quattro to the U.S. market. It featured a driver-actuated lockable rear differential that automatically deactived at 15 m.p.h., but the center differential was now an automatic Torsen unit. The B3 also brought anti-lock brakes to the small chassis, as well as body galvanization. It was really a huge step up from the antiquated (if much loved) B2, overall: