Like more than a few Audi fans, my love affair with the S8 now spans 20 years since it first ‘shoved’ its way into my imagination via the thriller Ronin. It still seems to have set the bar for the most epic and reasonably realistic car chase movies out there, though Bullitt gets more attention and notoriety. That the S8 then came to the U.S. three years later made the dream more of a potential reality. Unfortunately, the S8 stickered for $78,000; approximately $76,000 more than my typical budget for Audis. It might have been geographically closer, but ownership was still a long way off.
Thanks to depreciation in the luxury market, though, over the past two decades these mega-S models have come tantalizingly closer to a price point that I can afford. But I’ve owned cheap executive Audis before a few times, and…well, it’s seldom a great idea. As the addage goes, ‘there’s nothing more expensive than a cheap (insert brand name here)’, and that certainly can apply to the S8. So while it’s very tempting to
briefly consider repeatedly look at that $2,000 example on my local Craigslist, the logical side of me says the one to get is one that’s been gone through. One, perhaps, just like this Cashmere Gray Metallic example:
Update 2/12/18: A year after we originally featured it, this ultra-rare S6 Plus is back with 1,000 more miles for $500 less. It’s still a steep price for one of these super-S models, but it’s pretty hard to find them at all, never mind like this.
Audi’s sleeper sedan squared up against some seriously stiff competition in the early 1990s, and to be frank, though it was innovative it came up a bit short in the power department. In turbocharged 20 valve form, the 2.2 liter inline-5 cranked out 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque. That was impressive by 1980s standards, but in the early 90s you needed to carry a bigger stick. BMW’s E34 M5 brought nearly 100 horsepower more to the party at 311 with the revised 3.6 (and yes, it had more torque than the AAN, too), but Mercedes-Benz really crashed the party with the E500, whose M119 held a full 100 horsepower and 100 lb.ft of torque advantage over the Audi. You could be as clever as you wanted, but a 50% power disadvantage was a bridge too far to cross for the legendary 5 pot no matter how many wheels were driven.
The writing was on the wall, and Audi decided to offer an upgraded V8 model alongside the S4 in the rest of the world. Starting in October 1992, you could select the same ABH 276 horsepower 32V 4.2 liter all-aluminum V8 in the S4. The switch to S6 saw the introduction of the revised AEC, which gained 10 horsepower for the 1995 model year and would continue to be the standard V8 in the S6 until production ended. But the big new was the 1996 introduction from Audi’s skunkworks quattro GmbH of the Plus model.
The Plus upped the ante quite a bit with the reworked AHK V8. Though it displaced the same 4.2 liters and had the same 32 valves, the breathed on motor had 322 horsepower and 302 lb.ft of torque. Power was matched with upgraded suspension, brakes, wheels and some small “Plus” badge details – this was still the decade of stealthy performance, after all. Few who look at this model would see anything other than a C4 sitting on slightly larger wheels. But for those in the know, this was one of the most potent super sedans (and wagons!) of the 1990s:
At the beginning of the 1990s, pretty much everyone was stepping away from twin-cam inline-4s. While they had been the rage in the 80s and “DOHC” was nearly as popular as Miami Vice, buyers demanded more power and refinement. Sure, you could make 200 horsepower from a high-strung four-pot; but making it tractable for daily driving, passing emissions, and reliable? That was another ball-game. As a result, most major manufacturers went to larger displacement 6- or 8-cylinder motors in their small performance cars.
Everyone, that is, except for Porsche.
Porsche dialed in the 944S2 a bit more with updated 928-inspired looks and a new ‘VarioCam’ adjustable valve timing on the 3-liter inline-4. Now with 237 horsepower and an impressive 225 lb.ft of torque, it roamed the sports car elite field like a small dinosaur. Porsche added another speed to the mix, but since this was a relatively expensive 4-banger coupe based on a twenty year old design, they didn’t sell particularly well. A total of 2,234 Coupes were imported between 1992 and 1995; the last year was the worst seller, with a scant 259 making the journey. This particular last-year example may just be the best one left in the country:
My first thought when I saw this car was literally “Holy Crap. A reasonably priced Corrado!”
And then I saw the salvage title.
But let’s not dwell on that yet. Let’s consider what we have here first. The photos paint the picture of a pretty nice, mostly original Flash Red Corrado SLC. It retains the original Speedline wheels and Baja-1000 ride height. It’s got leather inside, the big complaint of comments on the the last Corrado SLC I looked at. But the big draw must be the price, which at $6,500 is just very reasonably priced in my mind. The last Corrado SLC I considered? Same color, cloth interior, near same miles – $18,995. It’s like the ‘Cult of Corrado’ have decided “Hey, this is basically the same recipe as the E36 M3, and they’re increasing in value, so my car must be worth a lot.” Logical? Well, no one ever said passionate car enthusiasts were logical. In fact the whole idea of sitting around, pontificating about theoretical car values seems inherently illogical. When someone buys it, obviously that’s the price it’s worth, right?
But I digress.
Perhaps the asking prices for Corrados are more in line with their premium stature. Since new, they have demanded a premium; the SLC hit the market in 1992 at $22,000, and tick a few option boxes and you were quickly in Audi money. But you could look at this car as an expensive Volkswagen, or (as magazines did at the time) as a budget Porsche. Instead of the E36, the natural comparison to this car probably should be the Porsche 968. And you can’t get a decent one of those for $6,500…
With the news that in a short twenty-three years Britain plans on no longer having internal combustion engines for sale, I was struck with the idea of a theme week. We haven’t done one in a while, but what about looking at some of the cars that are available in England that won’t be welcome there soon, but would be right at home in my driveway? Sure, they’ll mostly be right hand drive, but I’ve done it before and for the price of some of these cars I’d be happy to offer them sanctuary when they’re no longer register-able in Great Britain.
With that in mind, I’ll start with what is likely top of my list – the Audi S2 Avant. I know, I know – most enthusiasts pine over the much more legendary, quicker and more rare RS2. But there are a few reasons for me to like the S2 even more. When I lived in England, there was a Cyclamen example that parked near my flat. I ran by it often, and even had a few daydreams as training miles passed under foot that I’d be rowing through the gears. So, it is with a bit of nostalgia that I view them every time. Next, I like the look more. The gaping guppy look of the RS2 became signature for the RS models moving forward, but the S2 is very handsome in a classic Audi way without being as shouty. But most of all, it’s the price. While RS2s are still treading in the $40-$100,000 range for decent examples, a very nice S2 Avant can be had for only a fraction of that amount:
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:
Edit 11/23/2017 – the asking price on this Corrado has dropped to $16,995.
I think this Corrado SLC is an interesting comparison to yesterday’s Misano Red ALMS Edition Audi TT 225 Coupe. Like the Audi, in 1993 The Corrado SLC with its throaty 2.8 liter VR6 engine was the top of the heap in the 2-door product offerings. It too was a 2+2 hatchback best suited for only the first part of that equation. While the heavyweight Audi packed more punch from the turbocharged 1.8T, the all-wheel drive meant it was quite a bit heavier – so acceleration between the two wasn’t as much of a gulf as you’d expect, with both ticking 60 mph in under 7 seconds. Both have a unique style and both are fan favorites, with the nod probably going to the Corrado on greater market appeal to “enthusiasts”, while more people who drive appliances to work view the TT as a “cute” weekend car.
Yet here we are, in a market where you could buy a very nice example of either for the difference of a latte.
A fair majority of our “roll the dice” features have been cars with high mileage, dubious modifications, or poor maintenance. The question marks are exchanged for, generally speaking, a budget price relative to the rest of the market.
This Porsche has none of that.
What we have here is a 1985 Porsche 930. Even if the air is cooling slightly in the 911 Turbo market, and while there’s probably only a premium on really original early and late examples, one from the middle of production like this isn’t to be shooed away immediately. Second, this car has really quite low mileage reported at under 15,000. Condition looks to be very good, and the car is marketed to be an originally Ruf-modified example. The price is certainly not budget-friendly for most outside of Wall Street. So where’s the rolling of dice to be seen?
The A6 4.2 quattro falls into an unappreciated middle ground of typically unappreciated Audis. Unappreciated, that is, for everyone outside of the Vier Ringe, because the C5 has gone down as one of the most devoted fanbase Audi models I can remember, perhaps rivaled only by the B5. But while the cheap speed of the B5 attracted the Volkswagen and BMW crowd, the C5 fans seem to be more traditional Audi folk; offbeat, eclectic and fiercely loyal to their particular model.
Perhaps one of the reasons that the 4.2 gets so thoroughly overlooked by the market in general is due to the depth of the C5 lineup. On the performance end, you had the cool S6 Avant and the outrageous twin-turbocharged RS6. On the practicality end, the standard A6 2.8 and 3.0 models provided Mercedes-Benz like quality and adequate stateliness in both sedan and Avant bodylines. Outdoor adventures and tech-geeks loved the Allroad, which could be had with either a twin-turbocharged 6-speed or the subdued and upscale silky smooth 4.2 V8. And finally, for secret performance lovers, the twin-turbo’d V6 could be mated in narrow-body sedan with a 6-speed manual in the A6 2.7T quattro.
Frankly, it was hard for the 4.2 sedan to stand out in this crowd, yet it managed to appear quite special at the same time. This was the defacto S6 sedan, with aluminum front end and engine, along with wide flares and shark-fin door blades. It was longer, too, to accommodate the V8 tucked in the nose, giving a more menacing appearance overall. Special wider track was met with unique Speedline wheels (later replaced by the forged “Fat Fives”) and meaty 255-40 section tires as an option. And with 300 horsepower, out of the box the 4.2 was the top trump for the 2000 model year in the C5 lineup and would remain so until the 2002 introduction of the S6.
The S4 Avant is no stranger to these pages, offering enthusiasts a “have-your-cake-and-throw-it-squarely-at-that-M3-owner’s-face-too” package which combined functionality and sport in a very discrete wrapper. Well, for the most part they were discrete; most were ordered in shades of gray because a fair amount of people ponying up new were conservative with everything but the money they were paying for this small executive wagon. Lightly optioned, an S4 Avant was north of $50,000 in 2004, a price today that would having you knocking on the A7 and S6’s base price. That sticker shock masks that the B6 and B7 represented a huge price increase over the B5 generation; out the door, the cost on average about 20% – 30% more only 3 years later – but then, they offered a full 90 horsepower advantage over the twin-turbocharged V6 with that awesome 4.2 V8, which of course could still be combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Subtle though the exterior colors may be, the performance on tap was anything but.
But some enterprising individuals chose the vivid colors which had become the signature of the model in B5 form. Nogaro Blue Pearl Effect was, of course, the go-to for all things fast Audi since it was originally called RS Blue on the original super Avant RS2. But a nearly equal amount were requested in Imola Yellow, a staggering, retina-burning banana-toned shade that seems initially out of character with a family wagon, yet raises the cool-bus level to 11. Though Nogaro was replaced in the B7 chassis refresh with Sprint Blue Pearl Effect, Imola carried over for the end of the V8s.
Today, I have one of each – so which is your style?