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. 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. 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.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a huge Audi fan.
Some Most consider this a huge flaw. But the company has emerged from fringe technology fighting to compete with the established giants in the 1980s to be the standard for interiors and, even in some cases, performance in a daily driver. And as a result, they’ve become incredibly popular. For some reason I can’t fully identify, as they’ve become more popular I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with the brand. They all look broadly similar, they all are way too complicated, and they all are way out of my price range.
But once in a while one pops up that grabs my attention. I live by a port that delivers new Audis and Volkswagens, and ride my bike by the long rows of oh-so-boring white, grey, silver, silver-grey, off-white, black, black-grey, grey-black, and charcoal SUVs that pile into this country. But last year I caught sight of a green RS5. I never stop to look at these cars, but I stopped to look at that one. It was damn impressive, and I internally applauded the buyer who sat down and refused to buy a black car. On top of that, they refused to put black wheels on it, too.
Lo and behold, I found its four-door twin this week:
In 1993, my father purchased a W113 Mercedes-Benz 280SL Roadster. It was green with black MB Tex and do you know what? It looked, and felt, old. At that point, it was a 22 year old car that had been mostly forgotten by the enthusiast world. After all, the dated W113’s replacement – the oh so 80s even though it was from the 70s R107 – had just gone out of production, itself replaced by the thoroughly modern R129. A teenager, I loved the fresh R129 at the time, and the W113 seemed like a dinosaur by comparison. But my father loved the look of the W113, and so for the then princely sum of mid-teens he purchased a relatively clean, reasonably low mileage and (almost) fully functional Mercedes-Benz SL. Not a bad deal in hindsight – or at the time, considering the new SL’s $80,000 sticker price – in 1992!
Fast forward 27 years, and the SL market has gone completely bonkers, awakening to the fact that the W113 was (and still is) a beautiful, classic and elegant design. I’m not even sure you could buy a non-functional, rusty wreck of a W113 for the same price my father paid in 1993 – and an expensive restoration would await you.
Why do I mention this?
Currently, almost no one has time to even consider the 8N chassis Audi TT. It’s old, with the last of the first generation produced 15 years ago and its replacement – the 8J – has also fully completed a production cycle. It doesn’t have the super wiz-bang computers, million horsepower engines, or cut-your-hand-on-the-front-end styling of the new models. A fair amount lay in a state of disrepair; crashed, thrashed and trashed to a point where they’re nearly given away – quite seriously, there’s one near me for $1,500. But find a good one, and I think now is the prime time to grab a clean TT that will be a future collectable. So here we are with a ’03 TT 225 Coupe in Goodwood Green Pearl Effect over a light tan interior. I think I’m in love!
I have a lot of respect for Bob Lutz and Chrysler in at least one way; in 1989, they came out with the Viper concept, and because of such an overwhelmingly positive response, said that it was going to go into production as is. Of course, that wasn’t true and when the production Viper arrived the next year, it was a lot less hard-edged than the original concept. That’s true of nearly every concept car that goes into production; they’re outrageous for the shows, then watered down for public consumption.
Apparently, no one told that to Giugiaro’s Italdesign when they decided to take their hybrid Audi/Lancia/Spaceship directly to the market. Giugiaro’s company had long been pioneers of advanced and cutting edge designs, but they really outdid themselves with the Aztec. As if taking inspiration from some of the best futuristic designs from the 60s and 70s, the Aztec looked part jet fighter, part rocket ship, and part Star Trek communicator. Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to have someone like Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford pull up in an Aztec at a movie premier; it was as otherworldly and futuristic as both Hollywood and the sets of Star Wars and Blade Runner. But even if there were more wild designs that you might have seen on the show circuit in 1988, Giugiaro – with the aid of some hefty backing from Japanese capital – was crazy enough to produce road going versions of these cars. What was not surprising, then, was that there was a market for them – though, admittedly, it was as limited as the daily drive-ability of the car. If the complete lack of practicality didn’t cool prospective buyer’s desire to own one, surely the $225,000 entry price did. A bit of an oddity to see anywhere but on posters, there is one for sale today on Bring a Trailer:
After looking at a very shiny, and very expensive, S6 last month, two more very nice examples have popped up for sale with a few less questions – and a lot less in terms of asking price. What attracted them both to me, besides the more approachable asks, was that they represent opposites in many ways. We have a Pearlescent White Metallic with Black leather 95.5 equipped with Speedline Avus wheels, and a Black over Ecru 95 wearing Fuchs. It’s interesting to see them both appear at the same time – so which represents the better deal? Let’s start with the 95.5 first:
While low mileage, pristine condition Porsches almost seem cliche, finding an Audi with not much distance covered just doesn’t happen very often. When it does, it seems to inevitably be a model that no one is particularly excited about. That’s unfortunate, because often those models are quite competent performers, indeed. Growing off of the Audi Space Frame Concept from 1993, the A8 was the replacement for the short lived V8 quattro. Although the V8 had only been in production for a few years when the ASF was built, the Type 44 chassis was already quite old so a replacement was fitting. And Audi really outdid itself, with a modern, clean design based around lightweight aluminum technology. Underneath, the initial A8 didn’t offer revolution but instead built on the technology incorporated into the advanced for the time V8 quattro. Over its life, though, the A8 became a world-class leading sedan with steadily increasing technology and power output. For the most part, though, what most people remember are the post 2001 changes; introduction for the U.S. market of the long-wheel base A8L and sporty S8. That’s unfair to the often unloved and seldom seen early models which were very similar and quite competent in their own right. Running across a 1999 A8 is rare enough, but one in good condition? It’s fair to say that this is something you don’t see often:
Even though for my the B5 chassis A4 was the beginning of the dilution of the Audi brand, I admit I have always had a soft spot for nice examples. And the first A4 had plenty of things to celebrate. First off, it effectively saved and resurrected the brand in the U.S. from near extinction; consider for a moment Audi sold a total of 18,124 cars in 1995, the same year that the A4 was introduced as a 1996. By 1997, Audi sold 16,333 of just the A4 quattro model alone. As a success, that subsequently meant that there were a plethora of options to be had in the new chassis as production opened up. Soon we had the 1.8T turbo model joining the V6, the V6 was soon revised to have 30 valves, there was a light refresh in ’98 as well and another in ’01, the Avant joined the lineup for ’98, and of course we got a new S4 in 2000.
Considering that for some time there had only been one way per a year to get the small chassis in quattro form, this relatively dizzying array of chassis configurations meant that there are still quite a few nice ones out there to be had. But unlike other cars that have skyrocketing asking prices, a very clean B5 quattro can still be had for a relative song:
In just a few years as the century turned over, Audi went from only one S model with very limited production imported in the C4 S6 to three models. Top of the range was the S8, but it shared its running gear and sonorous V8 in a slightly detuned state with the new C5 S6. For Audi enthusiasts, though, big news came with the launch of the new S4.
It was unrelated to the first S4 because of Audi’s renaming strategy in 1995. That meant that the new S4 was based on the small chassis B5, and U.S. enthusiasts finally got a taste of Audi’s M3 competitor. Performance came in the form of a new 2.7 twin-turbocharged V6 30V and was mated to either a 5-speed Tiptronic transmission like its bigger siblings or a 6-speed manual. Like other B5s, the S4 made use of the 4th generation of quattro technology driving all four wheels. This utilized a Torsen center differential with open front and rear differentials, both of which employed the ABS sensors to electronically ‘lock up’ the slipping wheels when a speed differentiation was detected. Like other S models, some light revisions to the bodywork and more pronounced exhaust were present, along with polished mirrors and 17″ Avus-design wheels. Most notable was the large front bumper cover with 6 gaping grill covers which hid the twin intercoolers for the motor. With 250 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque, you had an all-weather 155 mph warrior – and one that could easily be turned up many notches:
Andrew’s been on quite a romp of modern Porsche 911s. But there’s a really compelling alternative, I think – for about the same money as most of the modern Porsche range, you can jump into near supercar-level performance and exotic looks with the Audi R8.
The ‘regular’ V10 cranked out 540 horsepower, and hooked to the S-Tronic 7-speed gearbox is good for 3.5 second blasts to 60. And that speed is linked to all-four wheels with a gorgeous body and interior full of the most modern electronics. Sure, this isn’t a ‘Plus’ model, but there are a few reasons to like this one…mostly, for me, it’s the color combination. But it’s got a few hidden mods to help out with the perceived lack of go:
The Audi and Volkswagen crowds can be pretty finicky. Instead of cheering on high sales of models similar to their cars, they instead tend to resort to denigrating lofty asking prices. Truth told, I’ve been guilty of it myself – but, then, there are owner’s who “know what they’ve got” and it’s easy to point towards another example that is equivalent for a better deal.
Then there’s this S6.
Look, far be it from me to say that the S6 isn’t a very special car. It is. And I certainly feel that it should be held in equal esteem to its contemporaries, the M5 and ‘E500E’. I’ve said as much many times. But here we have a very clean-looking example of a 95.5 S6…and, well, the elephant in the room has to be not the condition, not that the C4 is overlooked, not that the mods can make crazy power; no, the headline here is the $32,900 asking price: