There’s no denying that I’m a huge fan of the equally huge Audi S8. However, if I’m completely honest I must admit that the last two generations of S8 haven’t done all that much to impress me. Are they faster than the original? Without doubt. Are they more luxurious, too? Certainly. But to me the D2 S8 was just the right combination of punch, style and presence which somehow has been lost on the newer generations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention to them.
Hard to believe though it may be, 2019 marks the year of the introduction of the 5th generation of S8. The new one will undoubtedly carry some time-warp inducing drivetrain just like the fourth generation did. The 4.0T may appear in a bunch of Audis, but when equipped in the S8 – especially the Plus model – it creates a large executive capable of altering physics. With 605 horsepower on tap driven through the predictable ZF 8-speed automatic to all four wheels via the most clever iteration of quattro, Audi claimed a 3.3 second 0-60 time and an electronically-limited 190 mph top speed. This is a 4,700 lb. sedan, mind you, full of all the most beautiful leather,
wood carbon fiber and piano black treatment one could stuff into an electronics suite. This thing, stock on street rubber, will do a standing quarter-mile in 11.6 seconds – .3 seconds faster than a Ferrari F40, for reference.
But for some people, even the Plus edition of the S8 wasn’t enough. Enter Motoren-Technik-Mayer, better known as MTM. Roland Mayer, the eponymous founder of the company, has been at it since the beginning of quattro, and they’re generally considered one of the best when it comes to turning up even already fast Audis. So what did they do to the S8? Well, they named it after a place that calls itself ‘The Palace of Speed’ – Talladega. Does that give you a clue?
A few weeks ago I dug into the first generation Mercedes-Benz ML and explained while it was a hit when it came to sales, the actual nuts and bolts of the vehicle were less than impressive. A lot of you chimed in the comments section and shared your experiences with them and I can’t say I was all that surprised at what I saw. Naturally, as the years went on and Mercedes gave a face lift to the old Alabama trash can, things got a little better. Mercedes pretty much had to as every other luxury automaker was going full swing into the SUV market including Lexus with its RX300 in 1999, BMW with its X5 in 2000 and Porsche coming in heavy with the Cayenne in 2004. Suddenly the fight for all those upper-middle class dollars got really intense to see who could out do each other and still have to fend off the old guard upscale SUVs from Land Rover and the Toyota/Lexus Land Cruiser/LX.
As the years went on, Mercedes somehow had the space to add not one, not two, but three V8s under the hood of the W163. The M113 4.2, 5.0 and 5.4 liters were all borrowed from other Mercedes cars in the lineup, with the 5.4 coming from AMG. Today’s ML up for sale in San Diego I wanted to look at features the 5.0 liter badged at the ML500. Naturally, there are a bunch of these ML500s out there for sale and I didn’t want to pick any average one because they aren’t all that interesting and you can probably guess the condition they are in. This one however has just 57,000 miles and features the rare Designo interior option that I always love checking out. But much like the very low mile and clean ML320 from weeks ago, are you willing to pay the above average price for it just because it is clean?
Did I say ‘trio’ of Audis? Well, when a clean older quattro pops up for sale, it’s always worth a look, so here’s numero quattro. As with the 80, the 5000S was an interesting addition to the marketplace for Audi. When the Type 44 quattro was introduced in the U.S. for the 1986 model year, it was solely available as a top-tier turbocharged 5000CS model. That continued for the ’87 model year, but in ’88 – the last year for the ‘5000’ moniker – Audi started to bring the C3 in line with its European counterparts. In Europe, Audi had offered the 100 quattro and 200 quattro, the latter being the turbocharged model. That would be the same in the U.S. starting in 1989. But in 1988, both models were termed “5000” and, as it did with front-drive models in the large-chassis range for 86-88, the “S” or “CS” would denote naturally aspirated and turbocharged models, respectively. This was somewhat confusing as the same naming convention did not carry to the B2 chassis.
To make it even more confusing, it was reasonably hard to tell the 5000S and 5000CS quattros apart – at least, from the side. There were no body differences and both wore aerodynamic 15″ wheels, also associated with the Turbo model. This was changed in 1989 as the naturally aspirated 100 moved to 4×108″ wheels and brakes, although the quattro model had BBS wheels that visually matched the 200 model. Both models moved to the new, smaller chromed badges. One easy way to tell the models apart was from the front, where instead of the dual-chamber European-look headlights the 5000CS and Turbo models wore, the 5000S quattro shared the normal single chamber 9004 U.S. DOT lights. Peek inside and you were much more likely to see velour instead of leather. And, of course, pop the hood and the motivation was completely different:
I love crazy interiors. Give me a crazy interior, even an ugly interior, over a sea of beige and tan any day. I’d rather look at some color than a vast display of nothingness and take the heat online as well as in real life. Today’s a car, a 1999 Porsche 911 up for bid in San Diego, has one of the craziest, and probably ugliest, interiors I’ve seen in some time. This first-year 996 has the standard Arctic Silver exterior but inside, Jade Green and faux Burl Wood as far as the eye can see. It’s garish, it’s gaudy, it doesn’t match anything and even worse, there is a strange-looking slot with a knob sticking straight up where the normally 6-speed manual transmission should be. Yes, that means this car is also an automatic. So this is a first-year automatic 996, with a 166,000 miles and an interior that even the Porsche factory was probably shaking their heads at. Is this possibly the least-desirable 911 … ever?
If you want to get into the Mercedes-Benz W124 world but don’t want to pay the big prices that the 500E/E500 commands, there are a few other options if you need that little extra bit over a standard offerings. Mercedes did just that with the Sportline option on the coupes, sedans and even the estate cars, and it gave you a more that just some cool little badges. While you didn’t get a horsepower bump, you did get a bunch of revised suspension components, wider wheels and tires, a quicker ratio steering box and a smaller steering wheel. Worth it? Probably so. Visually, you can’t really tell a Sportline car from a regular W124 outside of those little badges, so when hunting for these cars you do really need to have a keen eye when searching through the mass of W124s for sale at any time. Thankfully, people are starting to recognize these cars are more desirable to some and thus listing them as Sportline cars, like today’s car – a 1993 300CE with just 39,000 miles. Problem is, this dealer outside of Chicago is asking a ton of money for the honor of that badge. How much? Well, you’re well into 500E asks here:
Rounding out my trio of grunge-era Audis, let’s take a look at the entry level quattro-equipped model – the 80. While the move from the B2 to B3 chassis brought many changes to the small Audi lineup, it was also very much a case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’. Some of the features of the 4000 were gone; you could no longer opt to lock the center differential, for example, since the manual locker had been replaced by a more sophisticated Torsen unit. You could still opt to engage a rear differential lock, but electronics overrode that at 15 m.p.h.. That change was indicative of movement in the marketplace and where the B3 was aimed – slightly more upscale from the B2. Interior quality was greater, safety took priority, and production was broken into two categories as it had been in Europe for the B2. Selecting the top-range 90 quattro got you nicer BBS wheels, color matched bumpers and mirrors, a sportier raised spoiler, a better leather interior and wood trim. The downscale 80 would channel more of the outgoing 4000, with a velour and plastic-heavy interior. They even opted to keep the same Ronal R8 wheels as the old model early on, and the subtle rear spoiler was a near copy of the B2.
The more basic 80 was closer in performance to the 4000, too – the luxury and safety items of the B3 meant more weight, and the 90 tipped the scales at nearly 3,000 lbs. Mechanically identical, the 80 quattro was about a hundred pounds lighter and anyone who has driven 80s normally aspirated Audis knows that 100 lbs. makes a difference in performance. Motivation for both was the same NG-code inline-5 that was seen in the last Coupe GT Special Build models, meaning 130 horsepower and 140 lb.ft of torque – smoothly adequate, but certainly never overwhelming. The 80 quattro enjoyed only a short run in the U.S., being available in the 1988-1990 model years and then re-introduced with some 90 quattro upgrades for the ’92 model year as a hold-over until the V6 B4 was ready for production. The de-contented 80 was a fair bit cheaper than its quite expensive brethren; while a Coupe Quattro would set you back over $30,000 with some options, select a basic 80 quattro and you could sneak out of the dealership for $23,000 – barely more than the ’87 Coupe GT retailed for. Today I’ve come across what must be one of the best 80 quattros remaining out there:
Now that I’ve exhausted all of the nice Mercedes-Benz R129s currently on the market, I wanted to wander over to the R230 to see how things are going with the first SL with a folding hard top. The R230 was a giant leap forward in terms of styling and technology compared to the R129 as now the normally boxy and square roadster suddenly didn’t have a flat edge on the entire car. It was what needed to be done to keep the car relevant in the new millennium with the legacy buyers coming back as well as capture the hearts of all the new money buyers that wanted a sleek roadster that didn’t feel like an old man or woman’s car that was driven to the country club on a Sunday morning to play golf. It is tough to stay that Mercedes didn’t succeed in that as even now that the R230 is 17 years-old, it still doesn’t look or feel that age. Sure, some of the tech is dated, but getting in of these cars doesn’t scream ”this car can legally buy cigarettes next year” old.
Of course, with the introduction of the SL500 and V12 SL600 in the R230, Mercedes stepped up their game in the US market by giving customers the SL55 AMG that was a hit as soon as they landed on dealer lots. A 0-60 time in 4.4 seconds thanks to 493 horsepower and 520 lb⋅ft of torque, the SL55 wore the crowd of the fastest automatic transmission car in the world for a short time before the big brother SLR came on to the scene in 2003. The SL55 continued to be the model of choice over the more expensive V12 SL600 until it was replaced by the SL63 in 2008. The SL65 AMG joined the lineup in 2005 with its twin-turbocharged V12 making an insane 604 horsepower and 738 lb⋅ft of torque, but also carried a price tag starting at $185,000. Needless to say, the SL55 remained the best bang for the buck at a still very expensive $115,000, but was a bargain compared to competitors Ferrari 360 and Aston Martin’s DB7 Volante in terms of both purchase price and cost of running. Today, the SL55 sits in that no man’s land of not old enough to be considered a classic and not modern enough to be considered by people who want to be impressed by a bunch of tech. Add in the fact that the running costs can scare some people off, a Corvette seems like a much better buy for the convertible crowd who take Sunday cruises to the Daily Queen. What does that mean for prices on these beasts? Very good things if you are willing to commit to owning one. At least this example up for sale in North Carolina proves that.
As they had with the 964 Turbo, Porsche continued the ultra-exclusive Turbo S package on the actually new 993 Turbo. With 430 horsepower pumped through two turbos to all four wheels, these were not as outrageous as the GT2, but plenty fast and luxurious to make up for it. Big yellow Brembos, a revised aerokit and flank vents that were a nod to the prior generation all helped to distinguish these cars. And with only 345 produced originally, from the get-go these were big dollar collectables. Of course, Porsche made a splash recently when it made a special brand-new one-off 993 Turbo S, ultimately selling it for a touch over $3,100,000.
So I’ll introduce this post by saying that this car is not one of the original Turbo S models. However, if anything, it’s a bit more interesting and even more exclusive. This car started life as a normal 993 Turbo, but was sent through the Porsche Special Wishes/Exclusive department (production coincided with rebranding of the Special Wishes Department to Porsche Exclusive) and given the bulk of the Turbo S details with a few GT2 bits thrown in for good measure. Further, it was then draped in a Paint To Sample color, Ocean Blue Metallic. The main difference between this car and a S is the rear spoiler and badges, which remained standard 993 Turbo items. In many ways, this car is the spiritual successor to the 911 Turbo S 3.6 ‘Package’ I just looked at, and it’s equally exclusive at a claimed one of two produced:
One of the things that always intrigues me is how one set of cars, usually a specific model or family of models, hits an arbitrary point in its depreciation and just sort of stays around that number as long as there aren’t any extraordinary circumstances around a specific car like accident history or a super high amount of miles. That was a really long sentence, but stay with me here. What I always like to look is how cars end up being the price that they are on the used market. The overwhelming majority of cars I feature here don’t really follow the rules of normal depreciation because they are often super niche models or cars that are so old that they are actually on their back up in terms of value. Other times this happens if the car is really limited production and just doesn’t register on the radar of 99% of the general car buying public. Today’s car, a Mercedes-AMG GT, falls into that category.
The AMG GT, along with the GT S, GT R, GT C and up coming GT 4-Door Coupe, aren’t built on a normal pedestrian production model and then shipped to AMG for them to do their thing with. The C190 was built to be an AMG car since day one and might be on track to have their values stay relativity stable if history repeats itself from the other cars that were exclusively born as AMGs. The only real example we have of this is the SLS AMG that seems to have settled around $150,000 for the Gullwing version and $125,000 for the Roadster. The prices only go up from there once you talk about ultra-low mileage examples and the endless number of special editions they made of them. Mercedes doesn’t have a replacement planned for it and calling this car, the C190, a successor of it is a stretch at best. So what do we make of AMG GT prices as they sit right now? Time to buy or still more room for a drop?
It’s often difficult for a second act to follow a legend, and that’s just what the C4 S4 had to do when it launched for U.S. customers in 1992. The Type 44 was already a fan favorite before the 20V version appeared here briefly for the 1991 model year, with wider flared track, bigger brakes, and more power. To answer fans, Audi introduced an even more potent version with the S4; even bigger wheels, lower suspension, and a few more horses were encased in a thoroughly modern shape, yet one that was easily recognizable to fans of the brand. With a reputation for smooth power delivery and still the market cornered on all-wheel drive performance luxury vehicles, Audi’s new S4 sold out almost immediately in a period when the European makes had difficulty moving their expensive wares.
But the Type 44 still held one advantage over its replacement; as we saw recently, an optional fifth door. While the Avant version of the new 100 was available immediately, there was no range-topping S4 wagon brought here. That was finally remedied with the relaunch of the now renamed S6 Avant for 1995. With smoothed out bumpers, revised passenger mirror, rolling changes such as new Speedline Avus 6-spoke wheels replaced the Fuchs that the S4 wore, and headrests became closed. There were more changes with the ‘95.5’ model; the infrared remote locking became radio frequency and the B-pillar receiver disappeared; so, too, did the option to lock the rear differential yourself, as Audi opted to work in an electronic differential lock utilizing the ABS speed sensors rather than a physically locking rear end.
These were really only minor changes to the recipe, which at its roots remained a fan fantasy. The traditional inline-5 that had hung out of the nose of the high-end Audis was still there, with its dual-cam head augmented by electronic fuel injection and electronic boost control. The turbo spun up quickly and had an overboost function, giving drivers 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque to be mastered solely by a manual transmission with Torsen center differential. Form-fitting electric sport seats kept front passengers firmly planted in place through the prodigious grip generated by the meaty 225 section tires. Combined with the prodigious space the Avant offered families and the ability of these cars to eat up highway miles with aplomb regardless of weather, not to mention the incredible tuning potential of the AAN 20V turbo, they’ve become highly sought steeds with a very limited pool of around 300 originally imported: