Back in July 2021 I took a look at a rare bird; a stock Mk.4 GTI 1.8T with only 75,000 miles:
2003 Volkswagen GTI 1.8T
That may not sound like a rare car on the surface, but it’s far more difficult to find one of these than…say, pretty much any 911 ever. Today’s example is pretty similar in some ways; it’s also got only 75k miles, also appears to be stock, and also is a 1.8T manual. But this one turns up the rarity a few notches; not only is it equipped with the Luxury Package (which adds a power moonroof and Monsoon audio), Cold Weather Package (heated front seats), and Leather Package (you guessed it), but it’s also Rave Green. It’s not perfect, but that’s not holding back bids – let’s take a look:
This 8N sold for $9,350 on November 10, 2021.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the VAG 1.8 liter turbocharged motor was the go-to motor for the company in the late 90s and early 00s. It appeared nearly everywhere in the U.S.; the Golf, Jetta, GTI, GLI, Passat, Beetle, Audi A4, and Audi TT all received the forced-induction unit. And that was just in the U.S.; go to Europe, and you’d find many more models (the A6 and Sharan) and even other companies (VAG’s Skoda and SEAT) with the venerable motor. They were used in race series like Formula Palmer as well. You’d also be forgiven for thinking they were all the same – however, a pause for thought would tell you they couldn’t be. First off, there were the drive train configurations; the Golf-based variants have their engines mounted transversely, while the Audi A4-based cars have them longitudinally. Then there is the output that was available from the factory; the 1.8T started with 150 horsepower in the early 1990s and ended with 240 horsepower in the highest output TT Sport. The natural assumption would be to think they had just turned up the boost, but in fact there were a host of changes to the higher horsepower motors to help sustain the increased pressure.
There are, in fact, no less than 13 distinct versions of the 1.8T from that generation. All shared the same basic structure; cast iron block, 20 valve head with a single turbocharger; but details including injection, crank, computers and engine management and breather systems vary in between each of the models. The Audi TT was the only one to offer various engine outputs here; available in either 180 horsepower or 225 horsepower versions, the later of which was pared with a 6-speed manual and Haldex viscous-coupling all-wheel drive. Though heavy, they were nonetheless sprightly thanks to the turbocharged mill. I’ve said for some time now that I think these will eventually be more collectable as they were an important part of the development of the company, yet few remain in good shape. Were I going to get one, I’d opt for one of the 2002 special edition coupes; the ALMS edition, launched to celebrate the American Le Mans Series victory by Audi’s R8 race car. Available in two colors, Misano Red with extended Silver Nappa leather or Avus Silver Pearl with Brilliant Red Nappa leather, they were mostly an appearance package but also received special 18″ ‘Celebration’ alloys and were limited to 500 examples each:
This car sold for $7,000.
I have to admit that when I initially heard the details of the 337 Edition GTI, I was very excited. To me, it seemed like Volkswagen had finally gotten the message and brought us a modern interpretation of the car that I loved, the 1990-1992 GTI 2.0 16V. After a period of low performance 4-cylinder variants, the pokey 1.8T was now pumping out 180 horsepower and matching torque – finally, the car had the go to match the show. While the VR6 had continued into the fourth generation GTI, the accompanying weight, luxury items and electronic throttle meant that while horsepower numbers went up, the seat of the pants kick and thrill that was the hallmark of the original and 16V GTI – and even the Mk.3 VR6 – had been replaced by a stout highway cruiser. As if to answer critics and revisit the original formula, in 2001 Volkswagen introduced a stripped down, turned up version of the GTi called the 25th Anniversary edition, celebrating the original 1976 launch. For me, it was a return to form for the original hot hatch with some great updates. Unfortunately, it wasn’t heading to the U.S., because of course we didn’t receive the GTI until the 1983 model year. But U.S. fans were taken care of too when the nearly identical GTI 337 was launched. Outside, it got some awesome shot-peened BBS RC wheels that looked stunning compared to the rather bland wheel styles that had adorned the GTI since the BBS RMs on the 16V. Behind those wheels were beefed up brakes and red calipers, because red is of course faster (or, slower in that case?). It also sported a new body kit that highlighted the lower stance – hunkering the GTi down over those great wheels. After a period of hidden tailpipes, a polished exhaust tip emerged from the rear valance – a nice change for sure! Inside, special details like brushed trim, red-stitched shift boot and special “Golf Ball” knob for the 6-speed manual and some awesome Recaro seats greeted you. And to keep weight down, no sunroof was offered. This was a sporty car that went like it looked for a change! Limited to 1,500 examples, it was an instant hit and apparently a good bet for a future collectable:
Yes, the Mk.4 GTI ushered in a more bloated body, subdued styling, increased safety, and a lot more weight. But, it also brought with it a lot more choice. While the VR6 continued over into early models largely unchanged, though a more potent 24-valve version emerged later. But the big news was the entrance of the turbocharged 1.8T into the lineup for me. More in keeping with the character of the original model, the peaky and punchy 1.8Ts grew in power over the production run, and they also offered the basis for a few special models; the European-market 25th Anniversary model, the 2002 337 Edition, and the 2003 20th Anniversary Edition.
Today’s car is none of those special models, but it carries a large amount of the same DNA in a more discrete standard package. It’s also got only 75,000 miles and is claimed to have lived with just one owner, and it’s completely stock. This might be the rarest GTI of them all.
This car sold for $3,700 on June 29, 2021.
Back in January I took a look at a late B5 1.8T quattro Avant:
2000 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant
Audi continued the recipe for sales success in the B6 generation, largely carrying over the drivetrain more or less unchanged from late B5s to early B6s. However, soon into the run a nice change appeared; the sixth cog in the gearbox, which had previously been reserved for the 3.0 model. Under the hood still lay the AWM 170 horsepower version of the venerable motor, and like the B5 you had your choice of nice options like the Sport and Cold Weather packages. Today’s sedan has combined all of those things, and it’s a nice shade to boot! Today it’s a surprisingly hard package to find:
Even though for me 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. Today finding clean examples is getting hard, and they’re heading up in price:
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.
Rather unceremoniously, 2020 marks the death of an automotive icon. The very last Volkswagen Beetle rolled from the third generation production line in Puebla, Mexico in July and while you can log in to VW’s website and still see the model listed, existing stock is all that’s left. The two most recent Beetles never really achieved the notoriety of the original, but nonetheless they offered a welcome break from the standard three-box design and were decidedly anti-SUV. You don’t have to like them, but you can respect that they were different.
In the case of the third-generation Beetle, I think they were actually pretty good looking, too. Spacious, economical, and good-to-drive thanks to a shared Golf MQB platform, several special models graced dealerships in an attempt to sway buyers. Here’s one – the ‘Dune’. More a fashion statement than an actual Baja Bug, the Dune added .2″ of ground clearance and a half an inch of plastic moldings all around. Faux skid plates, special decals, a huge spoiler and polished door sills rounded out the exterior trim additions. Power came from the familiar 1.8T shared with the Passat, Golf and Jetta models (among others worldwide), and gave you 170 horsepower channeled only through a 6-speed automatic:
Although Volkswagen started its small 5-door wagon production in the Mk.3 era, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that they finally decided to bring their second generation Golf Variant in the form of the Jetta Wagon. It was part of an unprecedented wave of early 2000s wagon popularity which gave enthusiasts a lot of very nice options. Parked alongside the Passat Variant in dealerships, just like the B5 they were offered with a dizzying array of configurations. There were GLS and GLX trim specs, along with four different engine configurations. Base GLSs got the 2.0 inline-4 rated at 115 horsepower. Stepping up to turbocharged your experience with the familiar 1.8T, here rated at 170 horsepower just like the Passat – although they’re not the same motor code, as obviously the mounting is transverse. Optional was also the ALH 1.9 liter TDi which could return an honest 50 mpg and be mated to a manual (both not really options in the Passat diesel) and for a touch more sport you could kick up to the GLX model, which gave you the 12 valve 2.8 liter VR6 rated at 174 horsepower and 181 lb.ft of torque.
So there were a lot of options in the Mk.4 Variant’s trick bag, but they’re somewhat hard to find in clean, original condition. Today I came across a 1.8T model that just like Monday’s 300TE is a a rather boring color combination, but one that’s exciting to see in this condition today:
One of the reasons that I felt the B4 Passat I just looked at wasn’t a great deal was that there are just a lot of other great models you can get for less. Case in point, today’s 2004 B5.5 1.8T 4Motion Variant 5-speed. Sure, you loose the great growl of the VR6 – but what you gain far outstrips that auditory shortcoming.
Produced only for the 2004-2005 model year, Volkswagen linked the 4Motion all-wheel drive borrowed from Audi to the AWM 1.8T. Rated at 170 horsepower, it was down a few ponies on the 30V V6 GLX 4Motion that preceded it. But while the GLX focused on luxury and was only offered with the Tiptronic transmission (unless you stepped up to the W8), you could opt for the 5-speed manual with the 1.8T. It was something few people did; a scant 2,333 manuals were sold in North America, with just 657 of those being wagons. 516 made it to the United States, and this is one of 16 Stonehenge Gray over Anthracite leatherette 2004s originally sold: