It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been well over a decade since I bid farewell to my Audi 200. It was never meant to be; I had always admired the turbocharged Avants and so when one came up for sale for an incredibly low asking price, I jumped.
Turned out it was more than just me that needed a jump. And it turned out that the 200 needed a lot more than just a jump; the clutch was thoroughly fried, as were the brakes, and the fuel system, and a few other odds and ends. I patched it together and we enjoyed a memorable run of events. Of all my automotive calamity stories, about 50% revolve around both of my big body Audis. The V8 created more hair-raising events (such as the time the throttle stuck wide open and in an effort to stop it I managed to set the brakes on fire), but the 200 wasn’t to be outdone.
There was the time I left the tollbooth on the Mass Pike. The car was running particularly well that day, so I gave it the beans leaving the gate. First to second and the nose was pointed at the sky! Surely, everyone must be saying “WOOOOOOOW!!!“, and it turns out they were because I had blown an oil cooler line and was crop dusting Sturbridge with a thick coat of atomized 10W-40. Another time the voltage regulator died, leaving me to switch various electrical items on and off to balance the charge between 11.5 and 14 volts throughout the 2 hour ride home from Cape Cod. It blew several tires while on the road, which admittedly probably wasn’t its fault but was exciting nonetheless. I found out that the ABS worked – well – in an ice storm on 95 one time as I passed a braking BMW on the hard shoulder. The coolant lines froze one day – a major feat, since there was at least theoretically antifreeze in them. It twice threw alternator belts, leaving me to drive home the length of Rt. 24 at 5am with no lights on. The air conditioner didn’t work. Actually, basically everything electronic didn’t work particularly well if I’m honest. The radio’s blown speakers weren’t enough to overcome the wind noise created by the necessity to have the windows down at all times if the outside temp was over 60. But the kicker? The kicker was that the brake lines collapsed, leaving the calipers to randomly seize partially closed. As a result, you had to go full throttle to maintain 50 mph which, as you read at the beginning of this passage, occasionally presented an explosive problem. I gave up eventually, unable to stomach this car consuming more of my money.
Sound charming? It was. But most of my issues probably would have been remedied if I simply had bought a better example:
Acclaimed as the original of the “Hot Hatch” market, the original A1 GTI gained weight before it even hit U.S. shores and never stopped eating. Each generation gained weight, options and complexity – and to make up for that, VW kept upping the power. From the simple 1.6 8V the original sported, it was up to 1.8 liters by the time it hit U.S. shores – then a few years later, gained 8 more valves, than another .2 liters in 1990, and finally made the jump to the narrow angle VR6 with its mighty 2.8 liters pumping out nearly double the horsepower of the original. Despite the changes, each generation has been revered by its own group of enthusiasts, and it’s rare to find original condition GTIs over 10 years old.
On its way out of production, VW sweetened the VR6 even more with the “Driver’s Edition” model in 1997. Red stitching, red calipers and special Speedline wheels made an appearance, and while the package was ’97-only it was more-or-less completely carried over to the ’98s. This particular ’98, though, doesn’t carry much of that original spec because it’s been thoroughly upgraded, stretched and restored to an impressive level:
Hard to believe though it may be, 2020 rings in the reign of what will certainly be the new benchmark for small hatchbacks – the Golf Mk.8. The Mk.7 redefined the driving dynamics and performance of the category with what is generally hailed as the best VW chassis to date – the MQB platform. So it’s time to start looking at these models as potential values while we wait for the next GTI to bow.
The Mk.7 introduced a new strata of GTI trim levels. The base was a S, which gave you the Tartan interior, the turbocharged 2.0TFSI motor cranking out 210 horsepower, LED foglights, Bluetooth and a 5.8″ touchscreen, 18″ alloy wheels and a review camera. In other words, it wasn’t exactly a stripped model, and as such it’d cost you over $26,000 to get into one. Moving to the SE got you leather and a sunroof, along with automatic headlights, premium Fender radio and rain-sensing wipers. The top-tier Autobahn package further added navigation, power seats, and dual-climate control – by which point you were knocking on the R’s base price if you had fully optioned out your GTI.
So the one to get was the S if you could live without a sunroof, since it gave you the best look and the most bang for a buck. But there was a secret – the Performance Package, which gave you a further 10 horsepower and a limited-slip differential in front, along with upgraded brakes. Click one more option – the Lighting Package – and you got adaptive HIDs. This Pure White over Titan Black/Clark Plaid cloth 2016 had just that set of options, and just 5,500 miles since new:
You and a million plus of your internet friends love the E46 M3. With a high-revving naturally-aspirated inline-6, near perfect weight distribution and timeless looks, how could you not? So how to stand apart from the crowd? Well, this ’05 might be just the right ticket. First, you’d want to source one of the elusive BMW Individual examples. Like Porsche’s Paint to Sample, these were custom-ordered Ms with near limitless options, and the E46 was the first to really exploit this before it was the popular trend. 58 Coupes were optioned in E36-spec Estoril Blue Metallic for the U.S. market, and admittedly it looks great on the newer generation too. This one goes one step farther with M Texture Anthracite Alcantara that is very infrequently seen in the modern Ms. Not done yet, it was opted with a 6-speed manual to sooth the Internet’s fears. For good measure the ZCP Competition Package was ticked on the order sheet. And to scare everything else on the road, it was then sent to Dinan where just about every conceivable option was fit. The resultant supercharged S3-R package was good for 462 horsepower. The seller describes this combination as a unicorn, and it’s pretty hard to argue with that assessment.
Rounding out 2019, I’d like to take a look at one of my favorite cars. I came of driving age during the reign of the E31, and I still remember magazines taunting that the ‘M8’ would soon be with us. Of course, it never came – at least, not until today. But we still did get an E31 breathed upon by the Motorsports division in the spectacular 850CSi. The heart of the CSi was a special “S” motor. In this case, BMW Motorsport GmbH took the M70 and beefed it up seriously. Bored out to 5.6 liters and with compression bumped up and revised electronic programing, the resulting S70 took BMW’s V12 from 296 horsepower to 372 with 420 lb.ft of torque on tap. Macht schnell, indeed! But there were a host of other changes; offered only with a manual 6-speed gearbox, the CSi also got a quicker steering rack, Euro M5 brakes, shorter and stiffer springs, and M System II ‘Throwing Star’ 17? staggered wheels. A new body kit made the elegant E31 look much more menacing, too. Europeans even had the option of 18? M Parallels and, amazingly, 4-wheel steering.
In 1994, this car cost almost $110,000. Today that’s nothing, as you can spec a special-order M3 up to that amount. But back then? That was nearly the price of three M3s. These super coupes have never really come down in price, as like their contemporary the 928GTS, they have maintained an aura of unobtainium and sacredness to a generation of motoring enthusiasts. Just 225 made it to the U.S., and this is one of 14 Orient Blue Metallic (317) examples. I think I’m in love…
Is a classic wagon more your style, but you want to keep up with modern traffic? The BMW E6 Touring offers a unique look coupled with timeless style that will help to set you apart. They’re a favorite of mine for sure. But this one has ditched the original configuration and gone for a more modern stance with E30-sourced engine, wheels and a modern interior for a different type of resto-mod Touring. Does it stand the test of time?
Audi’s C5 allroad wasn’t the first tall all-wheel drive wagon to hit the market; AMC claimed that crown with the Eagle well before Audi’s Quattro even hit the market. But it somehow defined the luxury do-anything segment and was unique in the German marques; Audi brought massive amounts of computational power, height-adjustable air suspension, a wide-body flare kit, twin-turbocharged power and even a manual gearbox. It was awesome. It was popular. But, it broke so much that even MacGyver was left stranded..
So when it came to the original allroad’s replacement for the B8 chassis, Audi dropped pretty much all the cool stuff. Gone was the manual, gone was the V6, gone too were the twin turbos and height-adjustable suspension. Audi simplified the recipe and based the newer allroad on the A4 Avant. Power came from the same 2.0T TFSI inline-4 mated solely to an 8-speed automatic found in the regular A4, pumped up the ride height slightly and added matte black fender lips and Voila! Miffy had a new ride to get to Nordstrom. Worse for some enthusiasts, the advent of the allroad came at the expense of the regular (and attractive) A4 Avant. Disappointed? Me too. But hey, every once in a while a good-looking one comes around…
As much as all of us would love to be Jerry Seinfeld, causally trading the most historic air-cooled Porsches on a whim, the reality is that we’re not. But, as ever, I offer a potential solution. The Karmann Ghia gave you Porsche looks on a Beetle budget. Shortly after the Beetle’s arrival in America, VW’s new sport coupe arrived for the 1956 model year. Like the later Scirocco also built by Karmann in Osnabrück, Volkswagen based its model on the normal production line Beetle but the swoopy body came from the Italians – technically, borrowed from a Chrysler, actually. Those lines were notoriously complicated; outside of items that open, the body is one piece and constructed entirely by hand. The rear-engine, rear-drive 1.2 liter flat-4 air-cooled clatter wouldn’t get you anywhere as fast as the looks suggest, but then why are you in such a hurry?
About 400,000 were produced in total and they’re not impossible to find today. They’re also more affordable than really top-tier Beetles and early VW Vans, but more significantly you really do get exotic looks on a shoestring budget still. While getting into a fully sorted ’58 356A will set you back around $130,000 – $150,000, you can get into a beautiful early example of the Ghia fully restored for only a fraction of that price:
Throngs of U.S. Audi fans rejoiced when the news came that not only was the RS6 returning to this side of the Atlantic, it would be coming for the first time as an Avant. With nearly 600 hybrid horsepower on tap, it promises to be exactly the rocketship full of 5-door tech you’d expect from the company. But it will be interesting to see actual sales numbers after all the internet buzz dies down, because herein lies the problem with the RS6 Avant; if it is competing with the E63 S AMG Wagon (how could it not be?), it will sticker somewhere between $120,000 and $140,000 depending on options. Let’s just say that it’s safe to assume that’s out of the reach of most of the people chastising Audi all over the Internet for not bringing it here to this point.
So is there a solution? Absolutely. There was already a perfectly good RS6 offered here two generations ago. And if you’re willing to pony up roughly $40,000, you can have an Avant here. But today we’re looking at a sedan, because 1) they’re much more plentiful, 2) they’re much more affordable, and 3) this one is turned up and should offer close to the performance of the inbound model. The seller claims this car produces 620 horsepower and 750 lb.ft of torque. Oh, and I almost forgot quattro) it’s a 6-speed manual swap, too:
After just covering Ryan Snodgrass’s excellent Carrera 2.7 history, I thought it would be fun to look at a 1:1 scale example. As I mentioned in the book review, the impact bumper cars replaced the long hood design for 1973. Porsche carried over much of what had made the 911 Carrera RS great in the new G-Body Carrera 2.7. The suspension and 911/83 engine were largely unchanged and though the appearance was updated, it was still the same unmistakably Porsche silhouette. Out of roughly 198,500 G-Body 911s, a total of 1,633 of these ‘Euro Carreras’ were produced and like all things air-cooled, they’re not exactly cheap today. But given that the look and experience is most of what the classic RS was, they’re a whole lot more affordable: