As with Andrew’s R107, purists will want to look away from today’s car.
This 2002 is a mix of eras, to say the least. Representing the 70s is, of course, the base car – here augmented by Turbo-esque bodywork. Representing the 80s, the fantastic but oddly placed Centra Type 7 wheels and a 5-speed manual transmission from an E21, along with some Recaro front seats and E24-sourced rear seats. for good measure, there’s what appears to be a Volvo Turbo badge thrown on the rear. The 90s? This thing is rockin’ an Alpine stereo, of course. And from the Naughts comes one of BMW’s best shades, Laguna Seca Blue. The combination of all these things would perhaps lead you to believe that it should be this car that has the 1JZ under the hood, but no – a recently rebuilt M10 is still lingering. So does this car pull it all off?
The M635CSi somehow gets lost among the other greats of the period from BMW. Perhaps, for U.S. fans, it’s the nomenclature that’s confusing. After all, there was a M1, an M3, and a M5, but when it came to the M version of the E24, BMW stuck with the moniker M635CSi in all markets but the United States and Japan. Confounding that decision was the launch of the E28 M535i. Like the M635CSi, it had additional body pieces, special interior trim and wheels from M-Technic. But while the M535i had a fairly normal M30 under the hood, the E24 received the full-fat M88/3 that was shared with the M5. Like the European M5 production started in 1984, well before they were available to U.S. customers. But while the M5 only sold in very sparse numbers over its short production cycle (about 775 sold in Europe between 1984 and 1987), the M635i was a relative hit, with just over 3,900 selling overall – far more than made it the U.S. market. Additionally, the European models were a slightly more pure form of the design; smaller bumpers, less weight, and about 30 more horsepower on tap without catalyst.
These European spec models were offered with some color combinations and interiors that never came to the U.S. market. This one is quite rare to find in Bahama Beige Metallic with Buffalo leather:
Back in 2021, I took a look at a string of Aerokit-equipped 996 Carreras, culminating in this neat Mirage Metallic example:
2000 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe
Even priced in the high 30k range, these are still some of the most affordable 911s you can get into. Today’s example is a ’99 with more mileage, but it’s got the correct-for-early-GT3 Sport Design wheels and it’s a bunch cheaper. Is it a good deal?
A few years ago I did a deep dive into the evolution of BMW’s early sedans:
1968 BMW 1800
The result of that evolution we looked at was the famous 2002, but before that model emerged there were several baby steps along the way. Today’s car is one of them; the 1800 sedan, and we also just looked at the 2000C recently. While this particular 1800 looks similar to the car I looked at back in 2020, it’s a year older and has quite a few mods. The market has also moved on substantially from 2020, so let’s see what the resulting asking price equates to:
I sold my 2002 Passat – the first of the B5.5s imported into this country – almost a year ago with the best part of 175,000 miles, and it had to undergo some resulting maintenance. Some was general maintenance; OEM coil packs, spark plugs, and filters throughout, but the person who bought the car also sunk some money into doing the clutch and timing belt before purchase.
In retrospect, he could have bought a whole other Passat for the amount just sunk into this one.
But in part it’s a testament to how great the B5.5 is. It’s comfortable, capable, fun to drive, and it was completely reliable the entire time I owned it. Part of that comes down to my particular example’s history – I had every receipt going back to day one and I bought it from an enthusiast who only had the dealership maintain it. But part of it also must be attributed to the stoutly built Passat itself.
It’s not unusual to see them kicking around with the best part of 300,000 miles these days. While nostalgic brand ambassadors insist it was the cars of yore that would run forever, the B5 seems on par with the best longevity of earlier Audi-chassis products like the B2. The other reality is that my Passat – built in 2001, so now 21 years old – still looks reasonably new. Though it’s not without idiosyncrasies it’s a pretty amazing car as “cheap” cars go.
Despite that, there was no denying that mileage is mileage, and today’s B5.5 has shockingly little.
Back in 2021 I took a look at a bit of a rare package – it bordered on “didn’t know you could still get those” level. Strange, but true – manual gearboxes were being phased out of Audi’s lineup much more quickly than BMW. So it was a treat to find an A4 with a 6-speed manual:
2011 Audi A4 2.0T quattro 6-Speed
As I explained in that post, by 2011 you could get the A4 in either Avant or sedan, front-drive or quattro, with only the 2.0T rated at 211 horsepower. Like the 2021 car, today’s example is also a manual and also has the 18″ Sport Package, which gave you eponymous 18″ wheels, sport suspension, and front sport seats. This one also has some go-fast goodies, and it still looks pretty modern for an 11-year-old car:
Following on the heels of the R32 from yesterday, one other issue I personally have with paying big money for a Mk.4 Golf is that you can get a newer, faster, and more practical model for around the same money – or much less. Take, for example, this 2013 Golf R.
In 2012 Volkswagen brought the U.S. the spiritual successor to the Golf Limited – the Mk. 6 Golf R. Gone was the VR6, replaced by the more potent and tunable 2.0T that could now be specified with a manual and all-wheel drive, and importantly in 4-door guise. Did I buy one? Nope, because this German wonder rang in at a shocking $36,000 with options. For a Golf, mind you. But once they started hitting the used market, to me they became more appealing. Unlike the R32, they dropped in price. And they still came in great colors, like today’s Rising Blue Metallic.
The Mk.4 GTI lineup got progressively better from its introduction through the early 2000s and culminated with the U.S. finally getting the Super Golf. All-wheel drive was nothing new to the hatchbacks, as they’d had it in the normal run starting in 1986 and it was offered pretty much straight until today. But for U.S. customers, models like the Golf Rallye, Golf Limited, and VR6 Syncro models were forbidden fruit until the fourth generation of Golfs.
In late 2003, the model with so much promise was finally added to the U.S. lineup. The underpinnings were shared with the Audi TT, which meant a transverse engine utilizing a Haldex hydraulic controller to drive the rear wheels. Power came from a double-overhead cam 24 valve narrow-angle VR6. Displacing 3189 cubic centimeters, it generated 237 horsepower and 236 lb.ft of torque and for the first generation it was mated solely to a 6-speed manual transaxle. Outwardly there were a few clues that it was more potent than the contemporary 20th Anniversary GTI; revised front and rear bumper covers with dual exhaust and gaping intakes. The wheels were the same 18″ OZ-made Aristo wheels from the 20th, but the calipers were painted blue and matched with rotors a full 1.3 inches larger than the GTI. As with the signature model for performance in the hot hatch category, the R32 received larger anti-roll bars and 1BE sport suspension, good for a 1″ drop. Tires were meaty 225-40-18 ZR-rated rubber. All of these things helped to keep the weight of the R32 in check, and there was plenty of that to manage. The addition of heavier-duty running gear, two more cylinders and all-wheel drive meant that the R weighed in a full 3,350 lbs – about two full-sized adults north of a GTI. It was more powerful, but it wasn’t really much quicker in a straight line. Of course, it had great torque and even greater noise, along with the mystique of being the head honcho around the VW scene. Consequently, the R32 has maintained near-cult status since new and examples still demand a serious premium over the rest of their contemporaries from Volkswagen:
This B3 sold for $4,150 on May 13, 2022.
Time to consider another Audi icon – the Coupe Quattro. Of course, it was quite hard to follow the original act, but in Europe alongside the RR Quattro 20V was the all-new B3 generation S2. Performance was about par between them, but they had intensely different characters. The new car was safer, quieter, more round, and a lot more practical – while the original Quattro had always looked like it had a hatchback, it was the successor that actually had one.
Of course, in the U.S. we didn’t receive the S2. The Coupe Quattro made due with a thoroughly upgraded 2.3 liter DOHC 20V motor – the 7A. Deep in the middle of the recession and not fully recovered from Audi’s 60 Minutes debacle, the very expensive Coupe Quattro sold slowly. A total of approximately 1,700 of them were imported at over $30,000 each. Considering the cost, the performance was rather soft; the heavy Coupe sported only 164 horsepower and though it was smooth and reasonably quick on the highway, off-the-line performance was lackluster at best. Still, though the internet fora would have you believe otherwise, performance between the U.S.-spec Coupe and original Quattro was pretty similar.
Options on the Coupe were limited to the Cold Weather package, 8-way power seats, and Pearlescent White Metallic paint – two of which are seen here on this Tornado Red ’91. ’91s also had the upgraded glass moonroof rather than the early steel panel, though they lost the infamous “Bag of Snakes” tubular header early models carried. ’91s also gained rear sway bars and are the rarest of the bunch, with only 364 sold in the model year and a further 58 traded as leftovers. This one is probably more of a project than most would want to take on, but let’s take a look:
Recently I had a chance to catch up with a friend, who since I had last seen him had purchased a classic Mercedes-Benz. After months of getting it polished up and running right, his 250 was proudly on display at an event that he drove hours to get to. I got to go for a ride in it, and immediately the smells, sounds, and experience of a classic Mercedes-Benz all flooded back; there really is something special about these cars.
The 250 was one of the six-cylinder models on offer as part of the 1.9 million produced in the W114/W115 series. Designed by the legendary Paul Bracq, the W114/W115 is a handsome design that channels all the right classic Mercedes-Benz qualities. It really does look like a scaled-down 600. Though the overall production number is really high, numbers in the six-cylinder configuration are much lower; today’s car should be a W114.611, which was produced between 1973–1976 and was powered by a 2.8-liter M130. About 11,500 were made in this run, and this model year was the end of the run for the W114 – as ’77 saw the W123 introduced. Let’s take a look: