Update 5/18/18 – After failing to sell last year at nearly $8,000, this sweet and rare 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20V with some fantastic period-correct BBS RS wheels is back on eBay with an opening bid at only $4,000!
Just as they had with the development of the 10V Turbo for their top tier products, Audi’s work on the Group B, Sport and later RR 20V Quattro (along with the creation of the original S-series cars soon after) trickled down into the rest of the range, but only in a very limited fashion. The 7A 2.3 liter 20V motor was the beneficiary of that racing work, and it was at the time a pretty impressive unit. Out of 2.3 liters, Audi squeezed a very reliable 164 horsepower with a screaming 7,200 RPM redline. While it’s true this was down on peak power to racing motors like the M3’s S14, the adding of the second cam and a modern EFI engine management also yielded nearly 160 ft.lb of torque.
So why does everyone claim that this car was under-powered?
Weight. The luxury-oriented B3 was most popular in Coupe form, where at 3,300 lbs in 1991 it was in need of a diet. It was 30 horsepower down on the BMW, and weighed 500 lbs more, with a more frontward weight bias. A performance car this did not make, and the result was that the expensive Audis leisurely gained speed. Despite the near 50% power increase over the outgoing Coupe GT, a stock B3 Coupe Quattro shared near identical 0-60 times and cost $10,000 more.
But if you were a clever buyer, you could get slightly better performance out of the 4-door variant of the naturally aspirated double overhead cam inline-5. That’s because concurrent with Coupe production, the motor and drivetrain was offered in the slightly lighter 90 quattro 20V:
As I cover the more typically unloved range of German automobiles, finding comps can be at best difficult. At any given time, there are many favorite models of each of the marques available from pretty much any given date range – except Audi. For example, right now there are well over 100 pre-1990 BMWs on eBay. Audi? There’s one right now. One. And, I’ve already looked at it.
The result is that when you have a pristine example of a 26 year old Audi, finding something exactly like it to compare values is very difficult. But we have something unique today to follow up on yesterday’s highly-spec’d ’91 90 quattro 20V, as another very clean Type 89 20V just so happened top come up for sale at the same time. How does it match up?
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:
The Audi 80 quattro was a great replacement for the 4000 quattro in many ways. And, in many ways, it was a complete let down. It was more quiet with better interior materials and better technology. It also had more power with the 2.3 liter inline-5, but additional sound deadening and more technology all meant more weight, so the new 80 quattro felt slower than the 4000 had. That technology meant it wasn’t quite as “cool” as the 4000 had been, either – you could only lock one differential thanks to a new center Torsen unit, and then at 15 m.p.h. the rear diff would unlock electronically. BOOOO, Audi, BOOOO! How am I supposed to channel Hannu Mikkola if your electronic nannies are undoing my sick slide?
Did it matter that the second generation of quattro was probably better in most conditions for the majority of drivers? Not really. It didn’t matter that fundamentally the 80 was a better car, either. The 80 had three strikes against it before it even went on sale here. First was the price; at around $24,000 out the door with a few options, it was considerably more expensive than even the expensive 4000 quattro had been. Second was that it was no longer top fiddle; the 90 quattro was the upscale model, meaning that if you wanted body-color bumpers, for example, you needed to pony up even more for the “nicer” model. Heck the 4000 had body-color bumpers in 1985 for less money. What was Audi thinking? And to top it off, there was the whole 60 minutes fiasco.
Those factors combined to doom the B3 here, no matter how good it was. In 1988, with the release of a fresh model, Audi barely managed to outsell the antiquated 4000 quattro. The 80 and 90 quattro combined to sell just 94 more examples than the 1987 4000CS quattro had (3,023 v. 2,929). And, that was their best year here, to boot; each successive year, sales fell – 1,947 in 1989, 1,680 in 1990, 655 in 1991 and only 640 in the last year of the B3, 1992. It’s made finding clean B3s very difficult. Despite that, they often don’t hold much value in the marketplace:
In a very small subset of enthusiasts, early Audi chassis are nearly as legendary as the BMW E30. Robust, well built and refined, Audi over-engineered most of its small chassis starting with the B2 because it was the platform that launched the legendary turbocharged Quattro. While the normally aspirated versions lacked the punch of their bigger brothers and the acceleration curves could be somewhat laughable, they still offered plenty of entertainment when driven hard. I have a video of my Coupe GT at Watkins Glen – heading up the long uphill straight, we’re shouting out numbers as they barely increase from 95-100 before flinging the car with nary a touch of the brakes into the bus stop, maniacal laughs abounding as we leap the turtles.
Clearly, though rare the small Audis are always prime for more power, and converting those earlier cars to turbocharged Quattro specs – or later RS2 replicas – has been popular since they were sold new. Today’s example, though, has different and more modern motivation than the familiar inline-5 under the hood – but they don’t get much better than this presentation and build:
Just a few weeks ago, I spent a fair amount of time documenting the substantial changes to Audi’s small chassis lineup which accompanied the launch of new nomenclature in the B3 80/90 twins. But while early models like the 1988 90 quattro I wrote up for that article were mechanically identical to the “entry level” 80, changes were on the horizon. In 1990, the 7A-motored, dual-overhead cam 90 quattro 20V and Coupe Quattro replaced the 10V NG powered 90s, which were no longer available in the U.S. market. To accompany their upgraded 165 horsepower mill, the 90s featured an optional sport package which included 15″ Speedline wheels and upgraded brakes (standard, albeit in slightly different offset, on the Coupe).
Soldiering on with the 130 horsepower NG and slightly less flair was the 80. In fact, the 80 outlived the 20V motor in the U.S. into 1992, and was ultimately the last small chassis offering the 5-cylinder until the recent reintroduction in transverse layout in the MQB platform. While power and running gear was unchanged, the 80 received some of the 90’s signature bits from earlier on, including the BBS alloys and painted bumper covers. Like all B3 quattros, they’re exceedingly rare to come across; in the case of the 1992 80 quattro like the one here, a scant 640 made their way to our market.
The B3 was a much needed update to the very old small Audi chassis in the late 1980s. Although the addition of the 4000 quattro was only a few model years old and the Type 85 B2 had undergone a pretty comprehensive update in 1985, the reality was that it was a chassis which had been designed in the mid 1970s and was antiquated compared to the BMW E30 and Mercedes-Benz W201 chassis, both of which it was out of sync with in terms of launch. While both of those cars were in mid-life in 1986, Audi launched its new B3 platform with a heavily revised, updated and aerodynamic replacement for the popular 80 and 90. This was interesting, as the B2 would continue alongside in production for several years – notably in Coupe form – until the new 2-door was prepared.
The U.S. market’s offerings also didn’t mesh with Europe either in nomenclature or trim scale. The 4000 quattro had only come in one form – 4000S in 1984 and 1985, and 4000CS in 1986 and 1987. They were relatively loaded and all powered by the venerable JT inline-5. However, Europeans had enjoyed several different configurations; the basic 80 and more upscale 90, with many different options. Audi would continue the 4000CS in 1987, but in 1988 the new models rolled out, with two options like the Europeans had. As in the Fatherland, a prospective buyer could get the basic 80 quattro or opt for the more luxurious, upscale 90 quattro. Many of the design elements of the U.S. spec 4000s carried over into the 80 – such as the rear urethane flush spoiler and even the standard Ronal R8 alloys. But the 90 came with nicer bits, such body color bumper covers with integrated fog lights, wood trim inside, a more pronounced rear spoiler and BBS alloy wheels. You could also opt, for the first time in the small chassis, for the signature Audi color of Pearlescent White Metallic paint at an addition charge and power seats on the 90 quattro.
Mechanically, the 80 and 90 quattros were twins until 1990, and many of the options – ski sack, sport seats, heated seats, onboard computer – were shared between the two, but the 90 always felt a bit more upscale than the 80. Power came from the NG 2.3 inline-5, generating 130 horsepower and 140 lb.ft of torque; modest, given the near 3,000 lb. curb weight of the B3 – a result of the many luxuries and new protective technologies Audi introduced in the 90. The 80 and 90 beat the 200 to the market in 1988, meaning they were the first to debut the new second generation of all-wheel drive quattro to the U.S. market. It featured a driver-actuated lockable rear differential that automatically deactived at 15 m.p.h., but the center differential was now an automatic Torsen unit. The B3 also brought anti-lock brakes to the small chassis, as well as body galvanization. It was really a huge step up from the antiquated (if much loved) B2, overall:
While the move from the B2 to B3 chassis brought many changes to the small Audi lineup, it was also very much a case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’. Some of the features of the 4000 were gone; you could no longer opt to lock the center differential, for example, since the manual locker had been replaced by a more sophisticated Torsen unit. You could still opt to engage a rear differential lock, but electronics overrode that at 15 m.p.h.. That change was indicative of movement in the marketplace and where the B3 was aimed – slightly more upscale from the B2. Interior quality was greater, and production was broken into two categories as it had been in Europe. Selecting the top-range 90 quattro got you nicer BBS wheels, color matched bumpers and mirrors, a sportier raised spoiler, a better leather interior and wood trim. The downscale 80 would channel more of the outgoing 4000, with savory Serret Velour and a more plastic-heavy interior. They even opted to keep the same Ronal R8 wheels as the old model early on, and the subtle rear spoiler was a near copy of the B2. The more basic 80 was closer in performance to the 4000, too – the luxury and safety items of the B3 meant more weight, and the 90 tipped the scales at nearly 3,000 lbs. Mechanically identical, the 80 quattro was about a hundred pounds lighter and anyone who has driven 80s normally aspirated Audis knows that 100 lbs. makes a difference in performance. Motivation for both was the same NG-code inline-5 that was seen in the last Coupe GT Special Build models, meaning 130 horsepower and 140 lb.ft of torque – smoothly adequate, but certainly never overwhelming. As with the 1988 5000S I looked at the other day, these models came to market at a time of crisis for Audi, and consequently few were sold. Audi’s best year of sales for the B3 quattro twins was 1988 when just over 3,000 were sold – only a handful more than the outgoing 1987 4000CS quattro, and rare for a new model. This Stone Gray Metallic example is one of the few that come to market and looks like one of the better ones we’ve seen:
Though it lived a short life in the United States over only two production years in 1990 and 1991, the Audi Coupe both started before that run and continued after in Europe. Along with the rest of the B lineup, the Coupe was refreshed for the “new” B4 lineup after 1992. Most notable in this production cycle of 2-doors was the introduction of the convertible model, the new V6 engine and of course, the fan-favorite S2. However, for those with a more modest budget and interested in better fuel economy, you could still get a EA827-based motor in a 2-wheel drive configuration. Displacing the same 2 liters an with 16 valves clattering away, the 138 horsepower front driver wasn’t much of a match for the girth of the B4, but it was cheaper than the 5-cylinder quattro models:
It was really neat to see the interestingly optioned pre-production Audi 90S V6 last week, but more from a curiosity standpoint. As many noted, what’s the market on a front drive pre-production Audi 90 with 200 miles? It would take a very special and specific fan to be interested in that chassis. The same can’t be said of today’s example. When it came to tuning up the Type 89 quattros, Audi offered a few options; the DOHC 7A motor with 164 horsepower came to the U.S., but European markets also got the stellar S2 in 20V Turbo form. Though both were most common in Coupe quattro form, sedans and even for European customers Avants later were available with the legendary turbocharged mill. However, let’s not forget that technically the 20V Turbo wasn’t the top of the heap in 1989, since Audi had just launched the revolutionary quad-cam all-aluminum 3.6 V8. That motor was the signature mill of the eponymous V8 quattro. Out of the box, the V8 was the most powerful Audi on offer, but the engine package would only be available initially in the D11 chassis, but in 4.2 form it would later be offered in the C4 S4/S6 as well. The first small chassis Audi with a V8 wouldn’t be until the B6 S4, right? Well, wrong, because a few generations prior Audi apparently toyed with the idea in some development 80s: