1988 Audi 5000CS quattro Avant

Recently, I saw a picture of the new Volvo V90. It’s a handsome and striking design, wide, low and some rakish angles – especially in the rear. Where Volvos have traditionally been pretty square, this one reminded me in many ways of another large wagon, but one from 30 years ago – the Audi Type 44 Avant. Pardon the pun, but it was pretty avant garde for the time; much more aerodynamic and futuristic looking than its contemporaries, arguably it still doesn’t look particularly old today. Okay, you can point out some of the 80s styling elements – large black rubber moldings surround the car, the wheels look tiny in comparison to the modern 19″ or 20″ wheels that seemingly everything wears, and there are no fancy LED strips and clear taillights. But this uncluttered design still looks great and stands apart from most other 1980s products. While the Type 44 range was topped by the 1991 200 20V model that most lust after, a clean earlier 5000 example like this is neat to see:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1988 Audi 5000CS quattro Avant on Providence Craigslist

Continue reading

1993 Audi V8 quattro

Much as the Quattro set the trend for performance turbocharged all-wheel drive coupes in the 1980s, Audi launched another trend-setter in 1988. The V8 quattro was not an all-new design; it borrowed heavily from the Type 44 200 chassis, but several revisions completely redefined the character of Audi’s flagship. First was the motor, an all-aluminum quad cam V8 coded PT displaced 3.6 liters initially. If you thought it was effectively two Volkswagen 16V motors sandwiched together, you thought correctly – Audi mimicked what Porsche had done with the 944/928 motor designs. With 240 horsepower, the new V8 offered about a 20% boost in power over the 10V turbo motors that were in the European 200s. But the real innovation wasn’t the motor – it was the automatic transmission. Combining a multi-plate clutch center differential and an all-new Torsen rear differential, the V8 quattro drove decidedly quite differently than the inline-5 variants. Weight, while not down thanks to a host of luxury items, was moved backwards and the V8 was more balanced and less prone to understeer than the turbos were. Additionally, the torque was near instant. But by 1991, the gap between the now 20V variant of the 200 and the V8 was so narrow that Audi upped the displacement. The new ABH V8 upped the power to 276 horsepower and 296 lb.ft of torque. Outside, subtle changes helped to distinguish the luxury variant after Audi’s brief foray into absolutely no badging from 1990-1991. Now with small “V8” monikers front and rear, along with a small “quattro” script, the performance was quite a bit improved over the earlier car. Additionally, there were small changes to the 4.2 model – such as some new colors, a transmission cooler and a mildly revised cockpit featuring the updated climate control. But outside remained effectively unchanged, as the 4.2 wore the same forged BBS RG wheels that the 1991 3.6 V8s had. What was always a bit special was the presentation of the V8 quattro – low, hunkered down and widened over the normal slab-sided 200, the headlights and hood treatment hinted at the revised Audi design language that would carry through to the mid-2000s. Plus, the V8 quattro sported some awesome flares to pull it all together. If you like cars such as the 500E and 540i, you can thank the V8 quattro for establishing the benchmark for them. Yet considered over-complicated and prone to mechanical failure, few of these pioneering luxury Autobahn cruisers survive in the U.S. today:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Audi V8 quattro on New Hampshire Craigslist

Continue reading

Audi’s Other Front Drivers: 1985 5000S Avant and 4000S

You’d be forgiven for thinking, based solely on my 1980s Audi coverage, that there was only one front drive model available during those times – the Coupe GT. True enough, the 2-door is my favorite of the front drive Audis from that time, but in fact Audi produced many two wheel drive cars right up to the 2000s. Few remember, for example, that there was a front drive A8 available briefly with a smaller 3.7 motor. A few generations earlier, though, and it was a different large Audi that was initially available in front drive only – the 5000, before it was a quattro, was powered only by the leading wheels. Indeed, even its famous appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was, while a Turbo model, still front drive only. And while it’s been the quattro versions of both the Coupe and 4000 that were more popularly remembered, both the 5000S and 4000S enjoyed a popular base and were good cars in their own right. Today we have two of these forgotten and forlorn Audis to take a look at:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay

Continue reading

It’s Hip To Be Square: 1986 Audi Coupe GT and 1987 Audi 5000CS Quattro

There are probably a few out there reading this who will remember Huey Lewis and the News, or perhaps you’re a fan of Christian Bale and his performance in American Psycho which prominently featured a notoriously catchy song by the band, “It’s Hip to be Square”. While the song itself was a relative hit, for me it’s Bale’s character’s critique of the band that is particularly poignant when considering Audis from the 1980s:

“You like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip to Be Square,” a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself!”

Audi reinvented itself in the 1980s; with crisp, clean new designs that stood apart from their countrymen. They were boxy but aerodynamic, clean and economical – yet at the same time, they were really noticeable, looked expensive and have stood the test of time. Yet few people partook in these 1980s Audis compared to some more period marques. If Mercedes-Benz was the sign that you had made it to opulent wealth and still made good decisions, BMW was the sign that – well, you’d just made it to wealth. But Audis, though quite dear in price, were always a bit different; outsiders in their own land. Whilst everyone else took tried and true paths, Audi forged ahead through unusual means – small displacement, turbocharged motors feeding locking differentials and all-wheel drive, for example. Every model seemed to be a statement within itself that the company was different, and few embody that ethos quite as well as the 5000CS quattro and Coupe GT:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 5000CS Quattro on Craigslist

Continue reading