As I’ve covered before, Audi made some strange moves in the early 1990s in terms of nomenclature and pricing strategy. The best example for this is undoubtedly the sticker price. In late 1994, the ‘new’ BMW M3 rolled into dealer showrooms in the United States. If you selected no options, you paid roughly $38,000 and got a bunch of pretty reasonable standard features and a 240 horsepower inline-6, some fantastic seats, and the best handling this side of a race car. If you moved over to the Audi side of the showroom, the top-tier offering in their small chassis was the 90CS quattro Sport, which cost about $3,500 less admittedly. However, you got a slow-revving 2.8-liter V6 rated at 172 horsepower. Okay, they had different missions. And the Audi was really intended for inclement weather. Why, then, were heated seats and washer nozzles extra? And why was the sky sack extra? It’s not like this was a stripper car. This was the equivalent of a $60,000 plus dollar car today! To draw it into much sharper contrast, the base price of today’s RS3 – which sprints from 0-60 in under 4 seconds – is $56,000. They apparently got the memo that heated seats should be standard, too.
So you (or I) could make a strong argument that the 90CS quattro Sport was a better built car than the E36, and in many ways, it was. But from and enthusiast’s standpoint, the decisions that went into the launch of the B3 and B4 cars were exactly what caused Audi’s early 90s sales problems. Don’t blame 60 Minutes. They were too soft and not luxurious enough to really justify their price. Good looking cars? Sure. But Audi fixed the issue with the A4 – tightening the looks up in a more aggressive package, adding a touch more (perceived, mostly) sport with turbocharged powerplants, and dropping the base price substantially. A base A4 2.8 quattro in 1996 rolled out the door at roughly $28,000, and at that price point, it’s no surprise that it was a lot more compelling to consider. Today though? Well, these 90s are pretty hard to come by at all, so when a great condition example comes up for sale, it’s more exciting to see than an A4 and always worth a look: