1991 Volkswagen Jetta Carat

When going through the not particularly extensive product range of Volkswagen in the early 1990s, I really find it hard to get excited about the Jetta. Okay, there were fast Jettas, like the GLI. And they were pretty cool in their own right. But as the GLI was available with less weight and better looks in more famous hatchback form, I’ve never been as excited about them.

I also found the trim levels very confusing. There was the standard Jetta, which pretty much got you nothing other than seats and a motor. Then there was the GL, which got you slightly more of something, but I’m not really sure what. Pretty much everything remained optional on these two models. Everyone knows about the Wolfsburg models, of course. They were more loaded, with special colors, interiors, radios and wheels – generally. Each model year was a bit different, and the A2 resource guide is helpful to sort it out..

In the middle was a strange one – the Carat. Technically, this model was placed above the GL and below the Wolfsburg model. But sometimes it wasn’t as well equipped as the GL, and other times it seemed better equipped than the Wolfsburg. It came with rear headrests (shared with the GL), power locks (shared with the GL), delay dome light (shared with the…are you seeing a trend?). So what did you get for the substantial premium in price? Unseen was the motor upgrade, which gave the Carat the 105 horsepower engine. Carats also differed from other non-GLI Jettas because they were equipped with 4-wheel disc brakes – but only for some years. In 1991, drums returned as standard. They also had an upgraded sports suspension, sport steering wheel, cruise control, sport seats and a power package which included mirrors and windows.…

1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin

The Golf Harlequin is the model that answers the question no one asked. It’s the model that proves Germans have a sense of humor. It’s also a model which defies logic. If you told your automotive-inclined friend you bought a 22 year old 2.0 automatic 4-door Golf with mis-matched body panel colors, he’d probably offer you the couch in his living room to sleep on for the next month. Things must be that hard for you, after all.

Now, tell him you paid a premium for that car. “How much?”, he’d most certain quip.

“$10,500”

The stunned silence which would undoubtedly be followed by the most boisterous of laughter would be punctuated only by the whipping out of a phone and a call to the local insane asylum for an admit, or at the very least a consult. But who’s the joke on here?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1996 Volkswagen Golf Harlequin on eBay

1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

If you’re into the small, sporty coupe, the other alternative to the 924s I’ve written up if don’t have the big bucks to buy a super clean 944 is Volkswagen’s answer – the Corrado. While that may generate a chuckle from some, if you breakdown the numbers, the Corrado was pretty close to the recipe of the outgoing 924S. Adding the G-Lader supercharger to the 1.8 liter inline-4 gave the Volkswagen similar punch; 158 horsepower and 165 lb.ft of torque with about 2,700 lbs to motivate. It was a 2+2 hatch as well, with more practical seating in the rear and plenty of storage space. The 195-50-15 tires gave plenty of bite, making the Corrado the equal of the 924S through corners, too. And early on it was even a bit cheaper than the 924S had been because, you know, it wasn’t a Porsche. It’d cost about $20,000 out the door; expensive compared to the GTI, but then this car was really intended to compete in a more upscale market.

Like the 924S, there are foibles. There’s a more potent version that’s quite a bit more popular in the later VR6, though it should be noted that just like the 944, by the time the SLC VR6 models bowed out of the marketplace they were 50% more expensive than the 1990 launch version. It can also eat up a lot of money in repairs, especially if the supercharger that made the package get up and go has got up and went. Also like the 924S, asking prices are usually out of line with market value, and there are quite a bit more abused ones out there than clean examples. I last looked at a clean, but at least partially (and poorly) resprayed example in November:

1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

The asking price was originally $5,200, but it eventually sold for just under $5,000.…

1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V

Much like the S4 I posted over the weekend, the Jetta GLI 16V is a car which on paper I should like very much. After all, I’m a huge fan of the same-generation GTI 16V, and the Jetta was little more than a trunk added to that formula. Underneath, there were almost no changes between the two. You got the same high-strung 9A 2.0 16V with Motronic fuel injection pushing 134 horses through that open-diff front end. Your only choice was a 5-speed manual, of course, and it was a close-ratio one – enjoy those highway speeds! Brakes were updated to 10.1″ and dual tailpipes emerged from the new ‘big bumper’ A2 refresh. Central locking and a cassette player were standard, while you could opt for many power options including windows, mirror, anti-lock brakes, trip computer, cruise control and of course a sunroof. The GLI also carried over BBS wheels from the pre’90 1.8 models, in this case the 15″x 6.5″ ‘RA’.

These items should have conspired to produce a deeply desirable product for me. And yet, somehow I never really took to the Jetta though many did. I suppose it’s the same as the 4000 quattro/Coupe GT fan bases. Rarely do they seem to cross over, yet there’s a mutual respect between them. I like the Jetta, and in the absence of the GTI it would probably be a great favorite of mine. It was aimed at being a more refined alternative to the racier hot hatch. But ultimately it falls second fiddle to the GTI, which always seems (and, arguably is) just that little bit more neat.

For enthusiasts, though, that means potential value. As GTI 16V prices climb steeply with no real relent in sight and few good examples hitting the market, you can get a bit of a value if you don’t mind the junk in the trunk:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 16V on eBay

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.…

1990 Volkswagen Corrado G60

Update 1/6/2018 – The asking price on this Corrado G60 has dropped from $5,200 to $4,800.

While the second-generation Scirocco was a re-body of the first-generation chassis with some upgrades, when it came to the end of the 80s and the launch of a new sporty Volkswagen, they turned to…another antiquated chassis. Prepared for the 1990 model year, the A2 chassis was already the best part of 7 years old and not the most refined unit out there. Despite this, plans moved ahead at cash-strapped VW to produce two “new” models that were adaptations of the A2 chassis.

The result was the third generation Passat and the sporty Karmann-built Corrado. The design was more VAG evolution than revolution; in many ways, the Corrado’s profile and several aspects mimicked the upscale Audi products. Volkswagen again went to the tried-and-true ‘Operation Copy Giugiaro’ plan that worked with the Scirocco. It looks like a shorter, chunkier Audi Coupe GT to me – especially in its original G60 supercharged guise. While the GTI went to the 2.0 16V and slick BBS wheels making an instant classic, Volkswagen relied on the G-Ladder supercharger that was seen in the European Golf Rallye and G60 GTI for the motivation for the Corrado. But the Corrado wasn’t made to challenge its siblings; it was aimed at the 944 crowd, replacing the 924S as a ‘Poor Man’s Porsche’ rather than just an expensive GTI alternative.

Ostensibly, this made it the top-trump at Volkswagen, what with 160 horsepower and good torque. But the heavy weight and complicated nature of the model meant that the GTI retained greater appeal. It seemed as though Volkswagen hit a home run when they finally slotted the even more potent and better sounding VR6 into the Corrado for 1992, relegating the supercharged model to obsolescence and obscurity.…

Quattro Conundrum: 1987 Audi 4000CS quattro or 1993 Audi S4

While usually our ‘Double Take’ features look at one model, today I’m going to look at two cars that share a brand, and idea, and a price point. Both of these Audis represent a huge leap forward from their predecessors; versus the front-drive Type 81, the Type 85 B2 was much more modern-feeling, refined and introduced all-wheel drive to the mass market (excusing its bigger brother, and twice as expensive and exotically flared Quattro brethren, of which only 664 sold here) and the C4 S4 introduced the U.S. market to S-cars and merged the 200 20V’s setup with a modern body and more sporty interior along with even a bit more power. Both are legendary in the 4-ringed circles for their longevity. Both have cadres of fans who seek each model out. And both are hard to find in good condition.

So here we go, Alice – red or green pill? For your $6,000 investment, which of these inline-5 all-wheel drive legends would be your choice?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 4000CS quattro on eBay

1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V

I can say with utter confidence that I’ll never own a Scirocco II. Here’s the weird part – I’m not exactly sure why.

It’s not as though I don’t appreciate the design, though how it came about is somewhat suspect. Volkswagen canned Giugiaro as the replacement designer for the exceptionally beautiful and unique first generation car, moving in-house to Karmann for the second go at the Golf-based sport coupe. The result looked suspiciously like Giugiaro’s Italdesign Asso di Fiori from 1979, though – the car that became the Isuzu Impulse. Two years later, and Viola! the Scirocco II debuts from Karmann with a near identical shape. On top of that, the mechanicals continued to be based upon the first generation Golf, while the A2 series went upwards in refinement. To me, because of the short wheel base and long overhangs – especially highlighted with U.S. spec bumpers – the second-generation Scirocco has just never looked quite right. The visually similar Audi Coupe was better balanced both in design and driving characteristics, and ultimately there wasn’t a huge price gap between them. A 1986 Scirocco 16V, with a few options, was yours for about $13,500 – only about $2,500 shy of the basic Coupe GT. But the performance nod went to the later 16V version of the Scirocco.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16V on eBay

1991 Volkswagen GTI 16V

The 1991-1992 GTI followed the same basic recipe as the 1987 model we saw this past week, but everything was turned up a few notches. Starting in the mid 1990 model year, all US bound A2s received the “big bumper” treatment; new smooth aerodynamic covers front and rear. To help to differentiate it a bit, the GTI’s blackened arches were widened. Filling those arches were new 15″ wheels from BBS. The multi-piece RMs were lightweight and the perfect fit for the design, echoing other contemporary class-leading sports cars such as the M3. Volkswagen color-coded the mirrors and rear spoiler to match the car, as well. VW also gave the GTI a fresh face with more illumination; quad round lights filled the grill, and foglights illuminated the lower bumper. Prominent GTI 16V badges still encircled the car.

Power was up to match the heightened looks. Now with 2.0 liters of twin-cam fun, the GTI produced 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 RPMs. Coupled to the close-ratio 5-speed manual, that was good enough to drop 0-60 times below 8 seconds. That may not sound like much today, but at the time it was another league of performance compared to the typical economy car. Holding you in place were the same heavily-bolstered Recaros that special editions like the ‘Helios’ 1989 Jetta GLI Wolfsburg had enjoyed.

It was a recipe for success, but these cars were also relatively expensive in period, and fell into the global recession time frame which affected sales of nearly all European marques drastically. The general consensus is that around 5,000 of the last of these GTIs were imported, putting their rarity on the level of the M3. But because they weren’t M3s, there are far less around today to enjoy and few turn up in stock configuration for a myriad of reasons.…

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