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:
All posts tagged Quattro
VAG’s decisions on who would be able to shift their own gears have always been a bit confusing, but the period of the 3.2 VR6 is really where this came to a head for U.S. customers. In 2004, Volkswagen brought their hottest Golf (finally!) to our market, featuring the singing VR6 in 6-speed manual only form with the R32. Great, but Audi offered the same platform in slinkier TT 3.2 Quattro form. However, fans of manual shifting were overlooked as Audi opted to bring the top TT here only with DSG. This carried over to the A3 model range, where you could get a 3.2 quattro but only with the DSG box. When it came to the next generation, VAG opted to change this formula. As it had been a fan favorite, you’d assume that the R32 would retain the same layout. But no, Volkswagen removed the manual option and the Mk.5 based R32 became DSG-only. So that would hold true in the bigger budget, typically more tech-heavy TT too, right? Wrong, as in the 2nd generation, Audi finally opted to allow buyers to select a manual in either Coupe or Roadster form:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Audi TT Roadster 3.2 quattro on New London Craigslist
For U.S. customers, 1992 rather quietly signaled the end of an era for fans of the small chassis. Starting in the early 1980s, Audi had offered their offbeat 5-cylinder motor in models like the 4000 5+5 and Coupe models, but it was really the rally success of the Quattro that put the 5-pot on the map. But the turbocharged variant was quiet expensive, so fans of Audi’s WRC campaign rejoiced in 1984 when the all-wheel drive platform became much more affordable in 4000 quattro form. In Europe, there were several variants and power plants available in 80 and 90 form, but U.S. customers only got the relatively high-spec 4000S/CS quattro. Audi revised the model lineup with the B3 model run, introducing the lower-spec 80 and the more luxurious (and later, more powerful) 90. When the 90 went to the DOHC 7A 20V inline-5, the 80 remained with the 10V 2.3 liter NG which had first appeared in the Special Build Coupe GT model. Though not hugely powerful and feeling slightly overwhelmed by the 80 quattro’s mass, it was a very smooth and fun to drive package capable of huge odometer readings. The package remained available until 1992, when life of the 80 ended in the U.S. as it was not upgraded to B4 specification. As with all Audis from the period, it sold in small numbers: Audi reported only 640 sold in 1992, with not many more sold in the years before it. As the book closed on the inline-5 with a whimper rather than a bang, it’s relatively infrequent to spot one of these late 80s:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Audi 80 quattro on eBay
Audi’s priorities in the mid 1990s in regards to the U.S. market shifted, as they concentrated their efforts on reestablishing any semblance of market share with what would prove to be the very successful A4. The A4 itself was evolutionary rather than revolutionary, as it incorporated most of its technology from the existing platforms. Similarly, Audi backed away from its venerable turbocharged inline-5 platform; a new V6 had become the go-to option choice in both B4 and C4 platforms in 1992. It was far from sporty, but the combination of moderate V6 power, updated looks with the 1995 refresh of the chassis and legendary build quality resulted in what I consider the most Mercedes-Benz like car Audi built. THe A6 2.8 quattro was luxurious in a Spartan way; just enough power options, but not tech-heavy. It was quiet, comfortable, handsome and capable in a time when it still held the monopoly on all-wheel drive wagons – remember, this was the time when the widespread popularity of SUVs was still a generation away. You could even squeeze seven passengers in to a A6 thanks to the optional rear bench seat. They became vogue with the ski-set, and as a result few appear in the condition of today’s example:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Audi A6 quattro Avant on eBay
In 2008, if you had a lot of money to spend and wanted a powerful convertible with seats for four, chances are you bought an M3. But if you wanted to stand out a bit, the RS4 Cabriolet offered an interesting alternative, with ownership of one of these cars putting you in a very exclusive club. Available only for the 2008 model year, Audi imported a mere 300 examples to the US and they were priced accordingly: an astounding $85,000 when new. For your money you got loud and aggressive, wide-boy styling, grippy all wheel drive, a six speed manual gearbox and a power soft-top to fold away so that you could hear the burble produced by the wonderful 420 hp 4.2 liter V-8. True, they were not as composed as the extraordinary RS4 sedan, but if you were in the market for a convertible you probably didn’t mind, since all convertibles are by nature compromised versions of their solid-roof counterparts.
These days, there are usually one or two RS4 cabriolets on the market at any given time and, owing to the god of depreciation, they can be had for around half their original asking price.