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:
My fascination with really high mile cars knows no bounds and today’s car is no different. This 2007 Audi S8 is a one-owner car that shows a little over 308,000 miles and looks like it did a quarter of that. How or why this happened, I have no idea. What I do know is that I absolutely shiver at the thought of maintaining an Audi V10 for over 300,000 miles. Just doing the quick math on the gas bill alone, 308,000 miles driven averaging 17 mpg, means this thirsty monster has consumed roughly $65,000 worth of gas in 12 years. The crazy thing is, all of the registration is just outside of Chicago. Naturally this assumes some kind of traveling salesperson, but of all the cars to pick, a giant V10 Audi? What is even more crazy is the condition of this D3. Just wait until you see it.
Audi brought the S4 Avant to the United States for the first time in 2001. It joined the sedan lineup and offered a follow-up to the large chassis S6 Avant from 1995. This was actually the second S4 Avant, as Europeans had enjoyed the C4-based creation in the early 90s. Audi’s renaming convention therefore created a successor to the B4-based S2 Avant. Instead of the traditional inline-5 motivation, though, Audi had developed a new 2.7 liter version of its V6. With a K03 turbocharger strapped to each side, the APB produced 250 horsepower at 5800 rpms and 258 lb.ft of torque at only 1850 revs. Like all the B5s, Audi’s new generation of ‘quattro’ used a T2 Torsen center differential and relied upon an electronic rear differential utilizing the ABS sensors. The B5 chassis used the same technology on the front differential as well and was capable of independently braking each front wheel to try to sort the car out through its dynamic stability program.
But the real fun was that it was available as an Avant and with a 6-speed manual. Just over 1,500 were claimed imported between 2001 and 2002’s model years, with about 600 of those being Tiptronic equipped. LY9B Brilliant Black was the second most popular color ordered behind Light Silver Metallic, and this particular Avant is one of 183 Brilliant Black (out of 850 total) manuals brought in for the 2001 model year:
Update 4/28/19: Back in December 2018 I looked at this beautiful, low-mileage Coupe GT Special Build with a $12,000 asking price. It quickly disappeared, but has popped back up at another dealer, now with a $14,950 asking price. While it seems unlikely to sell, appreciation for this chassis has been rapidly growing and pricing creeping up. Finding an original one like this is very tough today!
How many times can you write-up the same car, or find something new to say? Somehow, for me these older Audis drive a passion of discovery which keeps them fresh. Today’s example of a B2 Audi is, like the 4000CS quattro from the other day, a last year model. Unlike the 4000CSq, though, the late Coupe GTs were upgraded with the Special Build package. A crossover to the B3 chassis, they featured rear disc brakes, color-matched trim, B3 interior fabric and a 20 horsepower bump thanks to the addition of the 2.3 liter NG inline-5. The Special Build also had a slightly different version of the ’86 digital dashboard. The best performing GT offered here, these are generally considered the most desirable of the lineup.
Today’s example is much like my ‘87.5 project, (unfortunately) right down to the automatic transmission. But with only 60,000 claimed miles and in pristine shape, is this the one to get?
Update 5/7/19: This time around, the Bamboo Bomber sold for $12,100.
I don’t think there are any young children sitting around pining for the loss of the wagon. It’s hard to imagine a young teen hanging a picture of a Audi Allroad on his wall next to the idealistic Ferraris and Porsches, after all. Say to a average car-obsessed 10-year old “someday you’ll really want a wagon”, and they’ll probably laugh. Then try to tell them it will be beige…
All of this raises an interesting point: at what point does this particular car become appealing? Is it because it’s rare? Certainly there aren’t many 200 20V quattro Avants out there, with most fans accepting that approximately 149 were imported. Is it because it’s old? Now on the verge of being 30, the scant number originally imported has dwindled to the point where I’m sure someone knows them all by name. After all, there were more people in my high school graduating class than 200 20V Avants imported. Is it because it’s powerful? Well, to be honest, the 217 horsepower the 3B turbocharged double-overhead cam 20V inline-5 chucked out originally seems pretty tame today. But at the time, you needed to spend a lot of money to go faster than this 5-door. Is it because it’s beige? Now it gets interesting, as I was frustrated by the drapes-match-the-carpet tones in a recent S8, which otherwise shares most of the characteristics I just mentioned:
2001 Audi S8
Yet here, this rare Bamboo Metallic over rare Travertine in the (you guessed it) rare 200 20V quattro Avant pulls the right strings and becomes quite desirable:
Update 4/26/19: This car sold for $41,500 – strong money!
Not convinced that the 8N will be a collectible in the future? Fair enough, they’re a lot of them out there and the performance (while good for what it was) didn’t really hold a candle to ‘true’ sports cars like the M Coupe. Well, its replacement – the 8J – sure offered up more performance in the TT RS. It was a whole lot more limited, too – with a scant 1,300 produced worldwide, collector status was almost ensured for this giant killer.
The 8J platform offered as standard a much improved chassis over the 8N that launched the TT, but it was the addition of the CEPA turbocharged inline-5 that really changed my opinion on the TT. In RS form, the soundtrack and driving experience was transformed into what had made Audi great. It was an outrageous street fighter with the chops to back up the “RS” insignia, with 360 horsepower and matching torque mated through a 6-speed manual. 0-60 was gone in 4 seconds and tenacious grip from giant tires coupled with the all-wheel drive and Audi’s dynamic magnetic ride suspension meant this TT was a corner killer, too. So what does it take to get into a nice one today?
That a clean first generation TT still looks new some 15 years later is rather miraculous. Perhaps it points to a change in car designs; less revolution, more evolution. Consider for a moment that the TT concept (which went into production largely unchanged) toured the car show circuit in 1995 – only 6 years after the move to the 964 model by Porsche. Of course, it’s easy to see why Audi would only evolve the design of the TT. It was a hit off the bat, as pretty much everyone liked the snappy performance, the unique looks, the economic practicality of a 2+2 hatchback, the available all-wheel drive. So park a 2004 TT next to a 2014 TT, and though the design moved into a new decade, it didn’t change direction.
Because the TT has been ubiquitous over the past nearly twenty years in the marketplace, it’s often taken for granted that you can get one pretty much any time you want. News flash: you can get an air-cooled 911 of any variant, an E30 M3, a Bugatti EB110 – whatever – anytime you want, too. The difference? You and I can afford the TT.
For U.S. Quattro fans, ’85 models are a bit special as they held numerous upgrades over the prior models. Like the rest of the Type 85/B2 lineup, those included revisions to the exterior, most notably the slanted grill and color matched spoiler, but also inside a new dashboard and revised seat fabric patterns. Like the ’84s, wheels were 8″ Ronals, but hidden was a new and more reliable fuse box location to run the whole car.
A few unique colors were offered on the ’85 up models, but since importation ended after one ’86 made it here, these colors are also a bit unique. Unique too was the headlight treatment, which had chrome aero bezels to match the grill. A total of only 73 of these upgraded 85s (plus the one 86) made it to the U.S., and they’ve pretty much always been the most sought of the scant 664 original Quattros sold here. This particular ’85 comes to market looking minty fresh in Amazon Blue Metallic over Quartz leather:
Just the other day on my ‘Distinctive Drivers’ page – a Facebook group that looks at unusual automotive finds – I stumbled across a ’92 Honda Accord 5-speed. Here was a rather sedate, base model Accord; yet, because of the rarity of seeing such a car, and its recent complete disappearance from the marketplace, there’s an odd desirability for what was otherwise just an average sedan.
The same holds true today. Here’s a Euro-market Audi 80 TDi. The B4 chassis was nearly a stranger to us and is fairly infrequently seen these days; not many were sold here, especially when compared to the B5 A4 which followed. There were only two configurations they came in; all were 90s, and all shared the 2.8 V6 either driving the front or all four wheels. The 80 had been discontinued after ’92 for the U.S. and it didn’t appear as a B4 here, as there was no 90 model in the ’92 season officially.
But in Europe, of course, the B4 included the 80 model, which was the cheapest Audi you could buy – so they sold quite a few. Engines varied quite wildly from the U.S. models; there were 1.6 and 1.8 models which ranged from 70 to 125 horsepower, then 2.0 models running right up to a high-output variant of the 16V we saw in the GTI and GLI. There was the tried and true 5-cylinder we saw in our 80, and then there were a few V6s – the 2.8 seen in the U.S., but also a lower output 2.6 model for better economy. But if you wanted real fuel savings, you opted for one of the two diesels – the 75 horse 1.9TD or the 89 horsepower 1.9TDi: