Rotary-powered 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E

I’m never one to turn my nose up at an interesting engine swap. Usually, they are pretty predictable with throwing a giant V8 into where ever one will fit then calling it a day. Nothing really wrong with that formula, but it is always cool to see different things. Today’s car, a 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E from all the way in New Zealand, is one of the most interesting engine swaps into a Mercedes, or any car really, that I’ve seen in a long time. This W201 now sports a turbocharged 13B Mazda rotary engine with a handful of modifications putting down over 300 horsepower. That seems different enough for me.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Rotary-powered 1985 Mercedes-Benz 190E on New Zealand Trade Me

2016 Audi TTS

Want to feel very special, drive a great sports car and stand apart from the crowd but don’t have a million dollars for a Porsche 911?

No problem. I have the solution.

Sure, you could do what I suggested a few weeks ago and buy the ‘affordable’ and ‘useable’ supercar – Audi’s R8. With 600 plus horsepower from a screaming V10 and “arrest me now, I broke the speed limit the moment I turned the key” looks, you’re sure to draw attention and smiles. But even though relative to the used 911 market these cars are bargains, you’re saying ‘Come on, Carter – they’re still $170,000’. And you’re right – for most, they’re only affordable if you would consider them a primary residence rather than a weekend warrior.

So if you need to actually commute, what about Audi’s TTS? Okay, it’s not the 400 horsepower TT RS – I get it. But it retains the walk-on-water MQB platform and pairs it with the Golf R drivetrain – good for 292 horsepower and 280 lb.ft of torque driving all four wheels. Paired with the S-Tronic DSG dual-clutch, you’re capable of blitzing 60 mph in 4.6 seconds yet still this car returns 27 mpg on the highway. Unlike the R8, it’s also got rear seats (albeit quite small) and a hatchback that doesn’t contain a V10. While that’s disappointing when showing off to your friends, the reality is that occasionally you need to carry something larger than your ego.

But though it lacks the headline-grabbing figures and cross-marque instantly recognizable alpha-numeric nomenclature of its more famous siblings, the TTS fails to disappoint with performance and incorporates all the cutting-edge technology, including the mega-cool virtual dashboard. You can also spec it out in a bunch of really cool colors, such as the Vegas Yellow I looked at on the R8s.…

Corvette Connection: 2001 Audi S4

The B5 S4. On paper, it’s a car that I should like a lot. Coming from the modest 4000 quattro, Audi produced what should have been a monster on paper; a 2.7 liter twin-turbocharged V6 rated at over twice the power of the old inline-5s mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. 6-spoke “Avus” wheels carried on the late 90s design in 17″ form, with deeper but still subdued body additions and more grills hinting at the better performance of this A4-based creation. Twin polished exhaust tips, Xenon headlights, deeply bolstered sport seats and plenty of technology also came along from the ride, too.

But for me the B5 S4 sedan was never super exciting. Perhaps that was because it was instantly popular. What I remember annoying me more, though, was that it really seemed like Audi could have produced stronger performance. After all, it generated only a few more horsepower than the last favorite – at launch, the already out-of-production E36 M3 was the match for the performance of the S4 due to its lighter weight. And that was in turned-down U.S. spec! More sharply notable was the launch at the same time of the S8, and the S4 was some 90 horsepower down on that model. Yet get behind the wheel of one, and suddenly it wasn’t a lack of grunt you were noticing. It was how well the package pulled together. It rode well, it had a glut of usable torque thanks to the small twin turbos’ ability to spin up so quickly, and the fit and finish inside was leagues better than the E36 was. And while you could stick snow snows on an E36 and make it through winter just fine, as a year-round commuter car the S4 made a lot more sense while simultaneously being a much better sleeper.…

2004 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T Wagon

While I spend most of my early 2000s Volkswagen attention on Passats and GTIs, there was another pretty compelling package in that period. The Jetta Wagon launched in 2002 and brought with it a myriad of engines and transmission options. Finally, the United States had access to the ‘Golf Variant’ that the rest of the world had enjoyed through the 1990s. And, you could have a TDi, a VR6 or even the 1.8T hooked up to a manual. Aside from it being called a Jetta and therefore you had the same car as all of the ‘Jenna’s from ‘Jersey (‘Cause, like, it’s like almost the same like spelling as like my name is like OMG!!!), there weren’t many drawbacks to the small wagon.

Judging from the number of Mk.4 Jetta Wagons that I still see on the road, the TDi was the most successful model sold in this area. Neat – in theory – is the VR6 model with a 5-speed manual, though finding one can be a bit of a trick. And they were pricey; you’d assume the Jetta would be cheaper than the more upscale Passat, right? Not always. While my 1.8T GLS Passat went out the door around $26,000 in 2002, if you opted for a modestly equipped VR6 Jetta you’d pay over $27,000. And while the VR6 may have seemed to be the best bet, I’d argue that the 1.8T was better value.

That’s because for the 2002 model year, Volkswagen reprogrammed the 1.8T to make a bit more twist. The resulting AWW was seen in the GTI and GLI cars, but also carried over unchanged in the Jetta. Rated at 180 horsepower, it produced 10 horsepower more than the Passat and 6 more than the 2.8 liter SOHC 12V VR6. While the GLI package didn’t carry to the wagons, you could still get 17″ wheels, leather interior, a 5-speed manual and some pretty colors, too:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 1.8T Wagon on eBay

1987 Audi 5000CS Turbo

The gulf between North American and European market performance was wide in all manufactures in the 1980s, but no where did it feel more vast than with the Audi products. That was especially true with the turbocharged variants of the large chassis. In European guise, the Type 200 5T developed 170 horsepower even without an intercooler, while the U.S. 5000 Turbo managed only 130 from the 2.1 liter inline-5. That was a 24% drop in performance, and it didn’t get much better with the Type 44 replacement. Though displacement later grew to 2.2 liters in the MC1 and 2 codes, power output never exceeded 162 horsepower. That meant that the 1987 Audi 5000CS Turbo (and the turbocharged quattro model) produced only about 81% of its European equivalent’s power output.

Despite that, the 5000 was a great sedan. It was quite, comfortable, and more modern-feeling than its contemporaries. It was also good enough for notorious BMW-friendly Car and Driver to add it to their 10-Best list – even without the trademark all-wheel drive. With weight fairly far in excess of 3,000 lbs, the luxury sedan wasn’t a rocket off the line, but on the roll it was a competent and quiet cruiser. Audi claimed the automatic-equipped Turbo model would hit 60 mph in 8.7 seconds and flat out would do 130 mph – numbers that were barely better than its normally aspirated smaller brother Coupe and 4000S front-drive models (themselves not particularly notable for being quick!). But thanks to some notoriety in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and great press (ahem – well, for a bit anyways!), these Audis sold fairly well. For example, compared to the 4000 quattro and Coupe GT models, the 5000 Turbo was traded in much greater numbers despite its high price. In 1987, Audi sold just shy of 2,000 Coupe GT models and nearly 3,000 4000CS quattros.…

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

Tuner Tuesday: 1982 Alpina B7S Turbo Coupe with 20,000 Miles

Continuing on today’s green theme and moving up the pecking order a few notches from the E12 duo from the other day, here we have something of a monster. Alpina offered E24 fans a special treat with a turned up turbocharged variant of the 635CSi that was good enough not only to rival BMW’s own M6/M635CSi, but indeed to better it.

The M88 was already a bit of legend before BMW offered derivatives in the /3 and catalyst-equipped S38. With 256-286 horsepower depending on tune, it was about as good as non-exotic normally aspirated motors got in the 1980s. But Alpina had always had a knack for outdoing the cars their creations were based upon, so in went the turbocharger. The result was impressive in any form; the Turbo Coupe/1 was good for 300 horsepower and could match the acceleration of the M cars. But matching wasn’t enough, so Alpina upped the power with the B7S. Now up to 3.4 liters and good for 320 plus horsepower and nearly 400 lb.ft of torque, it was a car which could rip your face off anytime, anywhere. Like all Alpinas, they were lovingly crafted and full of exquisite detail work and limited to only 30 examples:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1982 Alpina B7S Turbo Coupe on Enthusiast Auto

Regan-Man: 1979 BMW “645 CSi Turbo”

I really love how these cars sometimes send you down the rabbit hole. What attracted me initially to this E24 was that it was a European-spec car and it had a pretty high asking price at nearly $23,000. Alone that wouldn’t be enough to warrant a post, especially given that from the first photo I glanced at, it doesn’t look spectacular.

But there’s a lot more than meets the eye when considering this car, and it has a lot more to do with the personality behind it than the current condition.

The name Albert Mardikian probably doesn’t mean much to you. Mr. Mardikian is a partner and the Chief Technology Officer behind ReGreen Organics, a company which deals with a lot of shit, for lack of a better term. I’m not being flippant. They’re an organic solid waste management company.

And it is in this capacity that Mr. Mardikian’s philosophy is particularly interesting when considering this car. He proclaims that he has a “passion for bettering our world”, yet his past would seem to have little to do with environmental improvement. That’s because in a past life Mr. Mardikian was also the proprietor of Trend Imports. Ring a bell? If not, perhaps a perusing of the Tom Cruise movie Rain Man would help you out. Mr. Cruise’s character’s subplot – an importer of exotic cars held up by the EPA – is based upon Mr. Mardikian. Because if you were in L.A. in the early 1980s and you wanted a gray market car, Trend Imports was where you went. And just like the main character in the movie, Mardikian got in quite a bit of trouble for the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royce and other models he imported by skirting EPA emissions laws.

Though his troubles with emissions laws dated back to 1981, Mardikian continued to be the turn-to source for ultra-exotics in the early days of importation.…

2004 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8T Variant

The Volkswagen Passat isn’t a particularly exciting car to drive. It’s also not particularly exciting to look at. While most people would categorize those as negative attributes for vehicle ownership, there’s a third thing that the Passat isn’t particularly exciting at which I’d wager most would consider a very good thing.

It’s not an exciting car to own.

“But isn’t that a bad thing?!?! you’re thinking to yourself? Sure, when I go out into the garage and see the M3 sitting there, my pulse rate quickens. Scratch that, I don’t even have to go into the garage – endorphins flow at the mere thought of it. And turning the key? All sorts of goodness happens. I’ll spare you the details, but sufficed to say it’s an exciting car to own, look at and drive. The Passat is not a M3.

But it is a vehicle thoroughly devoid of drama, and to me, that’s what makes the Passat a not exciting car to own. Take the contemporary Audi Allroad from the same period for example. The Passat mimics the look and the function of the A6 in nearly every way. It’s not even much slower on a continuum. But Less exciting to own? For sure, and when you’re talking breaking and repairs, that’s a very good thing.

Because let’s be honest for a second; these cars that we love, that we fawn over, that we pontificate about – they’re pieces of metal with a lot of plastic and complicated electrical and pneumatic systems. And they’re not getting any younger. Take my 2002 Passat as a case study; it’s on the verge of being 17 years old and has now covered over 140,000 miles. Yet it’s caused no sleepless nights, no emptying of wallets, not even left me stranded once. It’s just been completely reliable transportation in all weather, with my family, all our goods and a ridiculous amount of various cargo.…

2003 Volkswagen GTI 20th Anniversary Edition with 9,800 Miles

News broke this morning that the brand new RS4 Avant is unsurprisingly not coming to the United States. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought it and the 1.8 million who claim on the internet they would if given the option, it follows a long tradition in German motoring of leaving the best of the breed in the homeland. When it came to the GTI, not only did we have to wait several years before we got the hot Golf, but indeed it was a bit watered down and heavier when it did arrive. The same continued in the next two generations; more weight, less power. Both in the second and third generations we also lost out on supercharging, all-wheel drive and special body kits available in the European market.

Once again in 2001, a neat Golf was launched that – of course – wasn’t coming to the United States. But of all of the special editions that weren’t sold here, perhaps this one made the most sense to be excluded. It was called the 25th Anniversary Edition and you didn’t need to be good at math to realize that there was no GTI sold here 25 years before 2001. Since the “18 year Anniversary Edition” didn’t make much sense from a marketing perspective even in spite of Volkswagen’s continual spotty judgement in that regard, it was no surprise that it wasn’t offered. That was too bad, as it had a lowered suspension, better brakes, a bit more power, fantastic Recaro seats and the best looking BBS wheels fit to any Volkswagen, ever. Volkswagen enthusiasts in America drool inwardly and shouted openly, so in 2002 Volkswagen finally did bring the special edition here. Again, since “19th Anniversary” didn’t make any sense, we instead got the “337” Edition.…