1989 Audi 200 quattro

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been well over a decade since I bid farewell to my Audi 200. It was never meant to be; I had always admired the turbocharged Avants and so when one came up for sale for an incredibly low asking price, I jumped.

Turned out it was more than just me that needed a jump. And it turned out that the 200 needed a lot more than just a jump; the clutch was thoroughly fried, as were the brakes, and the fuel system, and a few other odds and ends. I patched it together and we enjoyed a memorable run of events. Of all my automotive calamity stories, about 50% revolve around both of my big body Audis. The V8 created more hair-raising events (such as the time the throttle stuck wide open and in an effort to stop it I managed to set the brakes on fire), but the 200 wasn’t to be outdone.

There was the time I left the tollbooth on the Mass Pike. The car was running particularly well that day, so I gave it WOT leaving the gate. First to second and the nose was pointed at the sky! Surely, everyone must be saying “WOOOOOOOW!!!“, and it turns out they were because I had blown an oil cooler line and was crop dusting Sturbridge with a thick coat of atomized 10W-40. Another time the voltage regulator died, leaving me to switch various electrical items on and off to balance the charge between 11.5 and 14 volts all the ride home from Cape Cod. It blew several tires while on the road, which admittedly probably wasn’t it’s fault but was exciting nonetheless. I found out that the ABS worked – well – in an ice storm on 95 one time as I passed a braking BMW on the hard shoulder. The coolant lines froze one day – a major feat, since there was theoretically coolant in them. It twice threw alternator belts, leaving me to drive home the length of Rt. 24 at 5am with no lights on. The air conditioner didn’t work. Actually, basically everything electronic didn’t work particularly well if I’m honest. The radio’s blown speakers weren’t enough to overcome the wind noise created by the necessity to have the windows down at all times if the outside temp was over 60. But the kicker? The kicker was that the brake lines collapsed, leaving the calipers to randomly seize partially closed. As a result, you had to go full throttle to maintain 50 mph which, as you read at the beginning of this passage, occasionally presented an explosive problem. I gave up eventually, unable to stomach this car consuming more of my money.

Sound charming? It was. But most of my issues probably would have been remedied if I simply had bought a better example:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Audi 200 quattro on eBay

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Feature Listing: 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant

1991 was a great year for Audi and Volkswagen enthusiasts in America, robust with performance options all around. Fans of normally aspirated motors had multiple double-cam choices; the 16V twins from Volkswagen with the GTI/GLIs, each with heavily bolstered Recaros and awesome BBS wheels. Going slightly less boy racer and more upscale yielded the equally impressive 20V inline-5 duo from Audi, with the Coupe Quattro and 90 20V quattro. They weren’t as quick off the line, but they were certainly well built, solid performing luxury vehicles. Of course, the big daddy of normal aspiration in the lineup was the V8 quattro. Still at 3.6 liters and 240 horsepower for 1991, it was also available with a manual transmission and was in the midst of a winning streak in the DTM series, usurping power from the E30 M3 and 190E 2.5-16 in monumental style.

If forced induction was more your choice for speed, there were plenty of options there, as well. 1991 featured a slightly revised Corrado, now also with BBS wheels and the 1.8 liter G-lader supercharged motor. Audi offered you a luxury cruiser still in the 200 Turbo, as well. But the big news was finally the release of the 20V Turbo motor into the lineup. Long featured in the Sport Quattro, then RR Quattro in Europe and later S2, in America Audi brought the 3B turbocharged inline-5 package in the 200. As an added bonus, it was available in both sedan form and the innovative Avant wagon. Producing 217 horsepower and a bit more torque, the Audi was capable of 0-60 runs in the mid-6 second range if you were quick with your shifts. But this wasn’t a bracket racer – the 200 was a luxury car through and through, with a well-appointed cabin full of the things you’d expect – Zebrano wood trim, electric powered and heated leather seats front and rear, and a high-quality Bose stereo. Unusual for a luxury car of the time, but underscoring the German’s feelings towards driving, were the number of driver-oriented items. The dash was full of gauges, and unlike the V8 and 200 Turbo, the 20V was manual-only. Next to the shift lever was the manual rear differential lock, though as with all the second generation quattro drivetrains, the electronic lock disengaged at 15 m.p.h. automatically. The center differential was a Torsen unit capable of varying power as well. And the brakes were unconventional floating-rotor designs, intended to help haul the heavy 200 down from triple-digit Autobahn speed with ease. Unlike the normal 200, the fenders on the 20V were flared slightly to accommodate BBS forged wheels, 15×7.5″ all around and shared with the V8 quattro. It sounded like a recipe for success, and was a well regarded car when new even if the unconventional manual/turbo-5 setup lacked some grunt compared to the V8s of the day.

Yet this was still the fallout period of both the recession of the 1990s and Audi’s fall from grace in the U.S. market, so the 200 was a slow seller. On top of that, the C3 was at the very end of its life cycle, replaced mid-1991 with the C4 chassis. As a result, very few of the 200 20V quattros were built; Audi claims 4,767 sedans and a scant 1,616 Avants were produced with the 3B motor. Of those, only about 900 sedans made it to America. But the number you care about? Well, this 1991 200 20V quattro Avant is one of the 149 originally imported here.

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1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed

In 1989, Audi was in a state of crisis in the U.S.. The 60 Minutes farce had caused them serious market share from the European import scene. Audi had always been a bit fringe with its expensive and seemingly underpowered turbocharged all-wheel drive executive sedans. Aside from that, the major competition had stepped up their game; BMW launched the quite attractive and popular E32 the year before, and upstarts Infinity from Nissan with their Q45 and Lexus from Toyota with what would become the standard – the LS400 – were entering the marketplace. While the BMW remained with its standard inline-6 rear-drive configuration in most E32s sold, the Japanese duo upped the game with powerful quad-cam aluminum V8s under the hood. In the case of the Lexus, Toyota steered towards refinement with adequate power – Nissan, on the other hand, pushed the performance level with a reported 280 horsepower cap on the 4.5 liter VH54DE engine which today many report as underrated by at least 30 horsepower. Audi had its work cutout to claw back market share against these new cars, and to answer it released an updated version of the venerable Type 44/C3 chassis. Now, truth told the Audi 100 (5000 U.S.) really was the basis for the design of most of the large executive sedans that followed – but five years after its introduction, being the first was no longer enough. Audi upped the game by introducing what effectively was two Volkswagen 16Vs mated to each other in the same way that the 944 engine was effectively half of a 928 V8. The new V8 was all-aluminum and featured double-overhead cams. It was small – twice the displacement of the Volkswagen 16V engine at the time at 3.6 liters, but produced about the same power as the 4.0 liter Lexus motor. New too was the transmission in the now named “V8 quattro”, with a 4-speed automatic gearbox coupled to all four wheels through a rear Torsen differential and a multi-plate clutch center differential. The automatic was necessary to compete with the crowd that was buying these large executive sedans, as was the upgraded interior with a new dashboard, more sound deadening and more electronics. Of course, if you still wanted to shift gears yourself, Audi offered what many consider to be one of the best on-the-fly all-wheel drive setups ever to make it to the road; the 5-speed V8 quattro featured a center and rear Torsen differential. Less than 100 made it to U.S. shores in 3.6 form only, making these complicated executive sedans sought out by Audi enthusiasts across the country:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Audi V8 quattro 5-speed on motorgeek

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10K Friday 20V Turbo Edition: S6 v. 200 20V v. S2 v. S2 Avant v. S4 v. 200 20V Avant

Most of my 10K posts have been a balance between finding examples of cars that just squeak under the 10K limit (sometimes, a little liberally) but aren’t complete wrecks. Typically, they’re examples of cars that you just don’t often think of as being cheap or don’t typically see fitting into a budget. But, it’s always a bit of a compromise – seldom are they exactly the cars that I’d buy. More often than not, when it comes to these comparisons I’d spend a little bit extra to get a better example of the car I wrote up than the budget one. Any number of enthusiasts will tell you why; a higher priced but better maintained car is almost always a more sound investment than a lower priced, questionable history example. There are, however, some cars that fall in general well below our self-imposed 10K cap. Most notably, when comparing packages and what one gets for a moderate investment, it’s hard to argue with the early 1990s Audis. Though Audis reputation was, in many ways, in the toilet at this point of history, arguably this is when they reached their zenith of design, performance and build quality. Certainly, newer Audis are more quiet, faster and have gorgeous interiors – however, they also have a reputation for being overly complicated, expensive to fix and often on the IR list with dashboards lit up as if we were a few months closer to Christmas.

But in the mid to late 1980s, Audi spent millions of dollars developing their turbo technology and the inline-5 motor into a world-beating engine. They raced several different race series with this flexible platform, dominating with their quattro technology. Simultaneously, Audi developed two new chassis to hold the 20V power plant – the B3/4 90 chassis and the C4 100 both would receive versions of the 20V Turbo, along with the last run of Quattros in the form of the RR. Both of these chassis were painstakingly designed to not only take on the competition from Munich and Stuttgart, but indeed to best them. This was a time when Audi was alone at offering all-wheel drive turbocharged performance sedans, coupes and wagons in the luxury market – something we’ve since come to associate with most major manufacturers. Despite the innovation, good looks, notorious long-lived reliability and performance potential of these cars, though, most of them remain the most affordable of their contemporaries. I’ve lined up a group of most of the 20V applications here – which would be your choice? Let’s start with the S6:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 on audifans

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1989 Audi 100 Avant

In yesterday’s post on a 1978 Porsche 930, Rob asked “What happened to Guards Red“? Well, I have a similar question – what happened to all of the front wheel drive Audi 5000s and 100s? Occasionally we see some turbocharged front-wheel drive 200 models come up for sale, but even they’re a rarity; yet, in the 1980s it was those front-wheel drive models that provided the revenue stream for Audi, who struggled to sell vehicles increasingly towards 1990. The 5000 and 100 were actually pretty popular, too – competent, quiet highway cars that looked much more updated than the rivals from Munich when they launched. Sure, they weren’t the best performing cars in their day, but they were a reasonable alternative to the Mercedes wagon, which was the only other big German wagon at the time. Despite that, there just aren’t many left – especially not in this condition:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1989 Audi 100 Avant on eBay

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