The Audi TT is dead. Following the 2019 model year, Audi is pulling the plug sporty coupe because well, no one is buying it. After launching the third generation in 2016, sales were down almost 45% in 2018, and word is that 2019 isn’t looking much better. The world wants SUVs and automakers are listening. I don’t think it has anything to do with the actual car, because the MK3 TT is downright brilliant. The interior with the Audi virtual cockpit is changing the game for every auto marker by putting all the infotainment directly in the gauge cluster to free up the valuable dashboard space. This was even more important in the TT because of it’s size and small cockpit, so even going a step further by putting the climate control dials directly in the middle of the vents was genius. Add in the fact that you can buy a TT RS to run with super cars, and there isn’t much to complain about. As long as you don’t have much stuff, of course.
Today’s car, a 2016 TT S up for sale in Houston, Texas, was reportedly ordered by an Audi executive in Michigan. Naturally, when you have access to special treatment and know money isn’t really an obstacle, you do things like order it in Viper Green and add a bunch of options that suddenly pushes the sticker price north of $60,000. Thankfully for all of us, niche German cars depreciate faster than you can imagine, and you can buy it for a 35% discount.
Most German car enthusiasts are no longer familiar with the name “DKW”. It’s a shame considering the long history of DKW, whose name originates from the German Dampf-Kraft-Wagen or “steam powered vehicle” – just to give you a sense of the time period they started out. DKW reached its zenith in the 1930s, a time when Germany was experiencing massive growth in its economy and Hitler wanted to turn the Fatherland into a nation of drivers. Ironically, despite his notable efforts supporting Grand Prix racers and the development of the Beetle, pre-War automobile ownership in Germany was amongst the lowest in all of Europe. They were, rather, a nation of riders – motorcycles, to be precise, buying more of the two-wheeled transport than anyone else in Europe. It was what gave companies like BMW a start, for example, but the most successful of all of the pre-War motorcycle companies was DKW. Upon joining the Auto Union in 1932, they began experimenting more with small cars. But the aftermath of World War II meant that the area that DKW, Audi and Horch – 3/4 of the Auto Union company – were stuck in Soviet controlled areas, most of the factories being disassembled and sent back further behind the Iron Curtain as war reparations.
The result was that in the late 1940s and early 1950s, new efforts to resurrect these names were attempted. It’s not very surprising that the attempts were made; after all, imagine if Chevrolet went out of business due to a War; you can bet once things were cleaned up, someone would try to make a Corvette. And sure enough, based upon some pre-War designs the F89 was born. As with most post-War cars in Germany, it was small, affordable and versatile. DKW utilized the platform to create what was, in essence, the first Audi Avant. The F94 chassis you see here was an updated version of the F89, replete with the 2-stroke 3-cylinder engine that the company claimed gave the power of an inline-6 – hence the paradoxical naming strategy of 3=6 for the Sonderklasse. With a space-saving transverse motor driving the front wheels, there was ample room for flexible seating in the rear. Outside was a reasonably aerodynamic, compact design and the small motor ensured reasonable fuel economy – though no promise of speed. Today, nearly 70 years after the design was first sketched out, finding these Universal Kombis is extraordinarily hard – and when they surface in the U.S., they’re typically not in particularly good shape:
The Audi 4000 quattro was like a Sherpa to thousands of European car enthusiasts; a steadfast winter standby with slick styling and Rally-bred sure-footedness. On paper, looking back today the 4000 was probably a bit dull; nearly 2,900 lbs of brick-on-brick design with a measly 115 horsepower motivation from the slow-revving oddball inline-5 hanging entirely in front of the forward axleline. But numbers don’t tell the whole story of the B2 Audi, because in any configuration it’s a great handling car. The quattro, however, had some special features that would have been headline items for any sports sedan until very recently; four wheel independent suspension with a large front sway bar and four wheel disc brakes. Couple that with the first all-wheel drive system fitted to a small car, sprinkle some luxury items in and cut the price of the exotic Quattro in half, and it didn’t matter that it wasn’t particularly fast.
What the 4000 quattro was, though, was one solid all-around performer. The subtle changes from the front-drive sedan resulted in a car that felt more grown-up and refined, yet still pushed you to do silly Hoonigan things. 4000 quattro owners that I’ve talked to almost always have the same proud story; the time that they managed to get their 4000 quattro stuck. Normally, that would be a cause for embarrassment, but such was the grip of the plow-through-anything small sedan that it became a badge of honor when you outdid the car’s twin-locking differentials. The secret, of course, was just to make sure all four wheels were in the air! But because of this type of silliness-inducing competence coupled with dropping residual value and a second or third tier of ownership that didn’t always repair or maintain the cars, few are left in good condition. But once in a while one pops up that has you seeing red…LY3D Tornado Red, in this case:
If you follow these pages, it goes without saying that I’m a pretty strong Ingolstadt devotee. My first car was an Audi 4000CS quattro and since then I’ve owned an absurd 9 models along the way. But that doesn’t mean I buy everything from the company hook, line and sinker. Indeed, I’ve been less than impressed with many of the newer models. Sure, sometimes they look slick, go like stink or are really pretty inside. But would I want to own one? In most cases, no – outside of a few very select models, I don’t really desire to own much post ‘Y2K’.
One exception to that rule – and it’s literally and figuratively a huge exception – is the S8. Everything about this car was just spot on to me. In an age when increasingly the offerings from the competition were unattractive and overly complicated, the S8 was to me the last of the great original quattros. It was an analog offering in a digital age; simple, blunt force from a 360 horsepower V8 in front driving all the wheels with a luxurious driver-oriented cockpit. Sure, there were plenty of computers. Probably there are too many. But compared to the new luxo-suites? The D2 seems downright cart-like. And the proportions of the car were just perfect; lowered, menacing stance, huge yet delicate-appearing wheels, just the right amount of bling, yet an understated car which easily fades into the background. So even though I’m still probably a long way from ownership, I often find myself dreaming about being behind the wheel of one.
The pool of candidates that remain is beginning to dwindle; the newest of the D2 S8s are now 16 years old and parts are already getting hard to source. Getting into an enthusiast owned one is the way to go at this point, but that doesn’t automatically mean it’ll break the budget:
From the C3 chassis we looked at the other day to the launch of the C5 was just a scant 7 years. The styling was evolutionary and instantly recognizable, but the C5 really broadened Audi’s offerings in the U.S. market. Building on the success of the A4, Audi launched not only the normal sedan and wagon offerings, but the return of the S6 and introduction of new 2.7T performance models, along with the Volvo-challenging Allroad.
The pinnacle of the C5 was, of course, the twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive version you see here built by Audi’s skunkworks, quattro GmbH. With assistance from VAG-owned Cosworth Engineering, the resulting BCY motor cranked out a peak 444 horsepower at 5,700 rpms and an impressive 415 lb.ft of torque between 1,950 rpms and 5,600 revs. The body, brakes, wheels and suspension were all upgraded by quattro GmbH too, with plenty of technology incorporated to transfer the power to the ground and keep the RS6 planted. Though it was saddled with an automatic transmission only and tipped the scales at a massive 4,050 lbs, the tenacious all-wheel drive, computer programming and massive power resulted in a 4.4 second 0-60 sprint, besting both the contemporary M5 and E55 AMG. The RS6 had 14.4″ front brakes, dynamic ride control, and meaty 255-section Pirelli P-Zeros to control that speed. Lowered ride height, flared sills and fenders and giant gaping intakes and exhaust along with signature honeycomb grills set the stage for how these cars have looked since.
The first RS model imported to the U.S., Audi expected to sell 860 at nearly $80,000 a pop. But they didn’t. They sold more, such was the demand, with an estimated 1,200 making the journey to North America. But as with basically all complicated, fast older German cars, they’re not worth what they were new, making them very tempting in the used marketplace. And there are a lot of used RS6s out there to choose from at any given time – currently, there are 10 available just on eBay. The thing is, you should avoid most of them. But not this one:
Although the C3 Audi chassis enjoyed a reasonably long production run of 1984-1991, each year introduced changes that, while evolutionary, were notable and make each specific model year feel a little bit bespoke. The biggest change was the 1986 introduction of Audi’s all-wheel drive system of quattro to the large model range, making three distinct packages you could get the unique drivetrain in the luxury market. In the U.S. market, 1986 5000 quattros came only in “CS” spec and sedan – basically, fully loaded with only heated seats, Fuchs forged wheels and Pearlescent White Metallic paint as options. 1987 opened the options, but not with more gadgetry – the Avant, previously only available in front drive normally aspirated “S” form, joined the quattro lineup full time after being introduced about halfway through the 1986 model run. Alcantara also became a seldom-selected option. 1988 saw a very minor revision to the turbocharged “CS” models with new script badges in the rear and a few more options including heating for the rear seats and Velour interior options, but the big news was a new “5000S quattro” model, which came sans turbo and without the twin-bulb headlights, but shared the big brother turbo brakes and wheels. It was a smart move to drop the price on the quattro models, as the normal run 5000 reported outsold the 5000CS quattro by a measure of 4:1!
1989 was highlighted by a complete model refresh, moving to the European “100/200? model designations. Accompanying the change were some new colors and minor alterations, such as more upscale-looking 15?x6” BBS wheels (color matched on Pearlescent White Metallic examples, just as the aero and Fuchs wheels had been). But inside an entirely new sweeping dashboard setup would be the standard on big Audis for the next 7 years. Instead of the previously confusing “S/CS” monikers, turbocharged models now wore the 200 badge, while normally aspirated models were 100s. The Alcantara and Velour options disappeared on the 200 models, which came only fully-loaded, and Fuchs were no longer an option. The 100 quattro shared many components with the 80/90 quattros from the same time, including the NG normally aspirated motor instead of the turbocharged MC1. 100s also ran the familiar small-chassis 4×108 bolt pattern with accompanying smaller brakes, but oldly Audi commissioned BBS to make a run of 15?x6? wheels that matched the look of the 200’s wheels outwardly. Mechanically, otherwise there were few changes to either model, though as with the 80/90 quattros, the option to lock your own differential was now limited to the rear, and then speed limited to 15 m.p.h.. While 1990 saw few changes to the run overall, there was a change in motor in the 200. A rolling change saw the revised (and very short lived) MC2 replace the MC1. Twin knock sensors allowed engineers to run higher compression; coupled with a reground camshaft, lighter mass flywheel and smaller K24 turbo meant that the MC2 could run less boost and spool more quickly for a better driving experience, but ultimately the facts and figures say the power was unchanged. As always, top of the heap was the 200 quattro Avant, like this Zermatt Silver Metallic example:
The SUV movement is here and it probably isn’t going anywhere. More and more automakers are pouring the majority of these resources into SUVs and their variants because as wrong or as right people are, they want them and they buy them. Thankfully the Germans have blessed us with some really fun SUVs that won’t suck all the soul out of us as drivers and one of those is the Audi SQ5. Launched in the US market in 2014, the SQ5 borrows the supercharged 3.0-liter V6 from the S4, adds a touch more horsepower and torque, and somehow manages to get this baby buggy to 60 mph in around 5 seconds. You also got 20″ or 21″ wheels, some white-faced gauges, brushed aluminum trim everywhere, and some other little touches. All in all, not a bad package for around $60,000 new. Well, these early SQ5s are now five years old and have started to “temptingly affordable” statue. How much?
1983 was the last year of the Type 43 (C2) model, as its replacement the revolutionary Type 44 (C3) design had already been hinted at with the 1981 “2000 Concept” model. The Type 44 would usher in more power, more refinement, and the addition of all-wheel drive. That meant that the Type 43 was quickly forgotten as the newer car emerged. Even in the mid-80s when these cars were nearly new, they felt and looked old compared to the rest of Audi’s lineup.
Performance was dimmed quite a bit over European counterparts, too. The range-topping 5000S Turbo model did feature the same basic engine as the Quattro, but without intercooling and hooked only to an automatic transmission. As a result they were quite a bit more pokey than the U.S.-spec Quattro, which wasn’t exactly a cheetah itself. The Turbo did offer a 30% bump in power over the standard 5000S to 130, though, and had 280mm front brakes and 240mm rear discs unlike the standard 5000S. Those larger brakes necessitated 5-bolt hubs, so the 5000S Turbo shared the 15″ x 6″ Ronal R8s worn by the same model year Quattros. These cars are increasingly rare to find today in functional condition:
What is the price of obscurity?
Here we have a 2001 Audi S3. While the S3 has been a recent addition to the Audi lineup to bolster affordable performance options and compete against Merc’s CLA and BMW’s 2-series, the model has a long history which dates back to the nomenclature change for Audi. The first A3 was launched alongside the then-new A4, and while the visual similarities were strong, the two models shared little. That’s because the A3 was based heavily on the Mk.4 Golf platform with transverse mounted engines. Just like the original Audi 50, though, the A3’s arrival predated the Mk.4 Golf by a year.
As I’ve already covered in previous articles, while the U.S. had to wait until the 2004 launch of the Golf R32 to get all-wheel drive performance, Europe had enjoyed Golfs with four wheels driven since 1986. So it was a relative cinch to stick the Haldex-based all-wheel drive system into the A3 chassis where, like the TT, it would be called “quattro”. And just like the TT, a high performance variant of the 1.8T would be included and become the S3 in 1999.
Again, some of the styling cues were shared with the big-brother S4, including 17″ Avus wheels and deeper, smooth bumper covers. The S3 was the first model to utilize the ‘door blades’ that would become signature S bits soon after. Performance was about what you’d expect from a near twin of the TT – meaning, virtually identical. But what you did get was slightly more subtle styling and slightly more practicality, with a bit more storage space and a roomier cabin. Despite the relatively negligible gains, because the 8L S3 never came here, they’re a bit of a hot commodity when they do arrive. How hot?
Looking for a performance car? This isn’t it. It’s also about as far from a classic Audi as you could get in the U.S. market; there was no turbo, no inline-5, no manual and no quattro drivetrain. But the B4 Audi Cabriolet was ironically the last 1980s holdover for the company, and it survived until somewhat amazingly 1998 here, with the basic chassis construction from 1985. To the end, it remained a competent and handsome convertible, a conservative alternative to the more expensive Mercedes-Benz drop-tops and the flashier BMWs. The Cabriolet really only came in one configuration here, with the 2.8 liter V6 linked to the 4-speed automatic driving the front wheels. On the fly, this was a fine setup and certainly potent enough to rustle your hair, though it was far from lighting it on fire. Pricing at the end of the run was surprisingly high at $34,600 base price. Added to that were the packages many came with for the 1998 model year; Premium Package added a power roof, burled walnut wood trim; Kodiac leather seat upholstery, remote locking and alarm. To make it more palatable to most of the country, the “All Weather Package” added heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles, and heated door locks. Also optional for the end of the run were the Votex Speedline Competition 16″ 6-spoke alloy wheels and even high backed sport seats; both (especially the latter) are very rare. Of course, the Cabriolet is rare full stop, with only 5,439 sold here between 1994 and 1998, or roughly 1,000 per a model year. This ’95 is one of 1,087 and might be one of the best left: