2.Slow Double Take: 1996 Volkswagen Jetta and 1998 Volkswagen GTI

I was thinking about how to relate my feelings about the first few generations of water-cooled small VWs, and I came up with the analogy of the BBC Doctor Who! reboot in the 2000s. The first generation was Christopher Eccleston; edgy, completely different from the prior generations with a fresh face, impossible not to view with a smile but also something you didn’t completely trust. The second generation? David Tennant took ‘The Doctor’ to new levels of popularity; more refined, more fun and with an infectious smile, he was quirky but somehow much easier to live with than Eccleston had been. He also developed a rabid fan base that consider him the best (this author included) even if he had some faults.

Then came Matt Smith. There’s certainly a fanbase who appreciates Smith’s rounder, softer and…well, weird portrayal of the Doctor. I’m not a fan personally, and often find myself pleading with other Who watchers to go back farther because the earlier variations were much, much better. Yet floppy and oddly proportioned, Smith was nonetheless very popular and took the show to a wider audience. See the Mk.3 VW.

Not really the best at anything aside from being pretty expensive relative to its contemporaries, the 2.0 inline-4 ABA-equipped VW’s nonetheless outsold the prior versions. The were poorly built and even more poorly owned; this was clearly a move towards disposable automobiles for the company, and it worked. I never really got the appeal of the third generation until I somewhat reluctantly owned one. And you know what? It wasn’t as good-looking as my ’86 Golf was to me, but in every aspect it was better. It was more reliable (amazingly), got better mileage, had a nicer interior, was faster and had both heated seats AND air con. And both worked! Plus it had fog lights and more stuff fit inside.…

Winter Warrior – 1994 Audi 90CS quattro

Audi’s nomenclature took an interesting turn once again in the early 1990s. From the B2’s “4000CS quattro” – the only way the car was available at the end of the run, Audi had introduced the tiered 80/90 quattro for the B2 model range. That culminated in the 90 quattro 20V, but even though the run of the B3 was short in the U.S., by 1991 the model was already 6 years old for the European market. Audi then skipped the 1992 model year for the 90, offering only the holdover 80/80 quattro while it readied the 90’s replacement. That replacement was…the 90. But strangely back again was the S/CS model designation in this “new” chassis, the B4, which was a heavily revised B3 chassis with some new sheetmetal and trim. But the big news was new engines; gone was the NG and 7A, last of a long line of inline-5s that had populated the noses of small Audis since the late 1970s. In its place was the AAH 2.8 liter 12 valve V6. Rated at 172 horsepower and 184 lb.ft of torque, on paper it was the superior motor to the double-overhead cam inline-5 it theoretically replaced. But the power delivery and experience were entirely different. While the peaky 7A encouraged you to explore the upper realm of the rev counter, the AAH wasn’t particularly rewarding at the redline. Where it was superior was in low-end torque and it’s smooth power delivery, and though the cast-iron V6 was no lighter than the inline-5, it’s shorter overall length meant that some (okay, only a bit) of the nose-heaviness that had plagued the B2 and B3 series was forgotten.

But the ‘CS’ quattro moniker only lived a short two years in the U.S. before it, too, was replaced by the last-year oddly-named Audi Sport 90 quattro.…

1985 Audi Coupe GT

The 1985 Audi Coupe GT debuted the aerodynamic B2 refinements in the 2-door version of the Type 85. Just like the 4000CS quattro I looked at the other day, smooth bumper covers front and rear were met with wide molding and new rocker covers. DOT-required 9004 halogen lights replaced the upright quad-rectangle arrangement on 1984 models, and the new grill sloped to meet stainless trim which surrounded the car. Inside was met with a revised dashboard with new softer-touch plastics, a leather covered steering wheel and few other changes. Mechanically, just as with the 84-85 4000 quattro, there were very few alterations between pre-facelift GT and the ’85. The same KX 110 horsepower inline-5 and 5-speed manual (3-speed automatic available) drove the car, but the ’85 up wore the same 4×108 hubs and brakes (in front, at least) as the quattro.

As with the 4000 line, most of the manual bits available in early B2s disappeared, and in you bought a late model it probably came standard with power locks, mirrors and windows. Most GTs also came equipped with a sunroof (manual and pop-out) and the rear wiper. Today’s example follows that convention minus the rear wiper. The package proved to generally be considered more than the sum of its parts, and in 1985 Car and Driver tested eight GT cars and proclaimed the Audi Coupe GT the best package available, beating ‘sports cars’ like the Supra, Mustang, and Camaro. One of the 3,586 sold in 1985, this Alpine White example reminds of a more simple time when you could drive a car at 10/10ths and still remain (mostly) at legal speeds:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi Coupe GT on eBay

1986 4000CS quattro

An interesting counter-point to the very low mileage Canadian ’86 4000S quattro is today’s same year, but U.S. market, 4000CS quattro. Mechanically, there was nothing separating these cars, and indeed even from a trim perspective little was different. Branded the “CS” after 1986 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the automobile, the only real change was the full-time addition of flush centers to the Ronal R8 wheels (it was done haphazardly on some of the ’85 models) and the addition of the mandatory third brake light. However, unlike the Canadian edition car we looked at the other day, U.S. model 4000 quattros all came with the signature polyurethane spoiler painted in the body color.

Options were few on the 4000CS quattro; most came fully loaded with all power accessories and power venting and sliding sunroof. You could opt for a trip computer and heated seats, as well opting for a leather interior. This car, at least from the appearance, has none of those options. However, what you do get is a shining example of the breed in a very unique and not often seen color of Oceanic Blue Metallic:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi 4000CS quattro on oldcarsonline.com

1986 Audi Coupe GT with 3,390 Miles

If yesterday’s 76,000 mile Audi Coupe GT was impressive, today’s example is close to unbelievable. Yet here it is – a 1986 model with a scant 3,390 miles showing on the odometer. You’re probably used to seeing very low mile Porsche 911 models, and occasionally we see similar time capsule Mercedes-Benz or BMWs – but nearly never an Audi. Once again, it would be simple to default to the ‘broken odometer’ argument, but the evidence does seem to mount that this might be a fully original example. Welcome, then, to what is as close to a museum-quality example of a Coupe GT as might exist in the U.S.:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi Coupe GT on Charleston Craigslist

1986 Audi Coupe GT

Within the world of older Audis, it’s often a case of pick your poison. Do you want low miles? Do you want good exterior condition? Do you want good mechanical condition? Do you want a manual? Do you want a desirable model?

Running down the checklist when considering the pool of available candidates, infrequently are you allowed to shout out “BINGO”!

But today (and, as it turns out, tomorrow!) we look at something special for fans of the two-door variety:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi Coupe GT on eBay

1987 Audi 4000CS quattro

If you really want to stand apart from the E30 crowd and don’t have a ton of money, one of the best ways is the B2 Audi. Like the E30, it was available in many forms and brought interesting and innovative technology and designs to the small luxury market. There was the stylish and sport Coupe GT, the economical 4000S, or the fan-favorite, do anything 4000 quattro.

Okay, you’re not likely to win a drag race against their Bavarian countrymen unless the weather is quite inclement. But build quality was great, they’re all fun to drive in their own unique ways, and each one of them really makes you feel special – especially the growling inline-5. These Audis are universally loved by their owners and misunderstood by nearly everyone else.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 4000CS quattro on eBay

1987 Audi Coupe GT

Edit 7/2/2017: This car has dropped to a $3,000 Buy It Now

The 1987 Audi Coupe GT is an interesting bird. Well, to be more precise, 1986 and 1987 Audi Coupes were a mixed bag and there are always little details that are interesting to see. In 1986, Audi offered the Commemorative Design model Coupe GT, which offered no performance upgrades but was a neat looker with unique red leather interiors. One of the other items the GT had which the 4000CS quattro Commemorative Design didn’t was a digital dashboard. The lower center panel, which normally had three VDO gauges, instead held a VDO electronic display with only oil temperature and a voltmeter. There was no oil pressure gauge. Where the normal dash held analog gauges, instead the Commemorative Design had a three pane electronic display. On the left was a increasing scale tachometer with a lower section readout for the (standard on electronic dash) trip computer. The center display held the speedometer and the odometer only. Below were the standard array of warning lights. On the right, the display had a fuel reading up top, temperature gauge up amidship and a clock below. The trip computer’s toggle functions allowed you to swap the dash readout between U.S. and Metric settings – always fun to surprise passengers when you announced you were cruising at “130” and comment on how quiet the car was. Using the dimmer switch, you could also engage “Night Mode”, which would drop all but the speedometer display off the dash. Should a warning light appear or the fuel level get too low, the car would automatically revert to the full dash.

Was it a gimmick? Sure, but it was the 80s, and it was pretty damn cool at the time. Of course, it wasn’t as cool as the full talking dash available on European Quattros, but we take what we can get, right?…

1999 Audi A4 2.8 quattro

Emerging from the sales slump brought on by the recession and actual fake news, Audi solidified its position in the small executive luxury market with its brand new A4 model in 1996. While in truth the car heavily borrowed from the evolution of the B3/4 series and started life with the same flaccid 12 valve V6 that had replaced the sonorous 7A inline-5 for 1993, the A4 was exactly the model Audi needed to redefine its image.

And redefine it did, going from near zero to hero in just a year’s time.

Car and Driver immediately named the A4 one of its “10 Best” cars, a position it would repeat in 1997 and 1998. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the perennial favorite as the BMW 3-series was for the magazine, but still, that it was mentioned in the same breath was impressive. New sheetmetal was smooth and tight, full of great angles and well-placed curves. The bumper covers were finally integrated well again – something the U.S. specification B4 had inexplicably failed miserably at. Inside was evolution rather than revolution, but the cabin looked and felt upscale and modern. And the market responded to this instant hit; consider, in 1994 Audi sold 12,575 cars in total. In 1996, some 15,288 of just the A4 models were sold. That was before the many variations and improvements Audi rolled out in the B5, too.

Seemingly every year new changes offered refreshment and redesign to the A4. In late 1995 and 1996, you could only get one specification – the 2.8 either with or without quattro. But ’97 saw the introduction of the 1.8T, while ’98 gave us the Avant and more potent 30V V6. Okay, it didn’t pack a knockout punch, but new wheels and a sport package, along with a subtle refresh to the tail lights, gave the model a more sporty look:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Audi A4 2.8 quattro on eBay

1987 Audi 4000CS quattro

You either get old Audis, or you absolutely don’t.

It’s something I’ve never quite understood. Put a 1985 Audi 4000CS quattro next to a 1985 BMW 3-series, and the Audi looked more slick. The interior details were certainly on par with the BMW, too. Tech? Sure, the Type 85 had basically all the same gadgets that came on the E30, too – which is to say, not many. Electric windows, sunroof, power antenna, power locks were pretty much standard fare in the marketplace by that point in the near-luxury class. The Audi was reasonably quiet going down the road, fit five in a pinch, had a reasonably sized trunk and got reasonable mileage – though admittedly the “power of six, economy of four” idea of the inline-5 worked out generally in the ‘economy of a 6’, power of a 4 direction. The quattro also featured fully independent suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes and sway bars front and rear. None of this was particularly revolutionary at the time.

What was somewhat revolutionary, though, was what Audi had done in 1983. No, it wasn’t the introduction of all-wheel drive; the Quattro had already been on the market for a few years, and in all honesty the Jensen FF well and truly beat it to the technology by a full decade and a half. Unorthodox, though, was taking that basic supercar (for the day) platform at plunking it in the more reasonably priced 4000 model. Removing the turbo and boxflares reduced the asking price by over 50%, yet you got 90% plus of the Quattro’s performance and driving experience. For an entire generation of rally enthusiasts and VW fans, the 4000 quattro was legendary even while it was still on sale. BMW owners would quip that it was slow and underpowered (apparently, in that case, never having driven an early 318i); Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts would counter that the W201 was better built.…