It seems appropriate to follow yesterday’s S8 with this model. In just a few years, 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 295 lb.ft of torque, you had an all-weather 155 mph warrior. And, it was available as an Avant:
Considering just how rare they are, it’s quite special that we get to look at a second Colorline 850CSi in such short order. And this one is quite a bit more rare to find than the prior Tobago Blue example. Only 13 were ordered in the rarest combination – Calypso Red Metallic with Trinidad Red and Black Nappa leather. This is really about as rare as an E31 gets.
Since I didn’t cover the differences between the EG91/2 (Euro) and EG93 (US) 850CSis, it’s worth taking a look at that. Euro-spec 850CSis got additional oil cooling for the differential and engine, along with 13.6″ floating rotors and different side mirrors. The front end also got special smoked lenses. I covered a bit more about what made all 850CSis special in the last post:
1994 BMW 850CSi Colorline
There are a few reasons to really prefer today’s CSi over the Tobago Blue. Beyond the increased rarity, this one has far fewer miles and the presentation is much better. There’s a lot more information provided, too. And, it’s already on this side of the Atlantic, though you’ll need to wait a few more months until it’s ready to roll into the U.S.. Of course, there is one drawback…and it’s a big one:
Update 11/26/18: Although listed as sold at $7,100 last auction, this car is back again with no reserve and sold for $7,099.
Update 11/15/18: This E34 sold for $7,100.
After selling earlier this year from out Feature Listings, this built and supercharged “540i” is back on eBay with a no reserve auction and some slick new photos. Bidding is currently only at $5,600 with a day and a half to go.
In the early years of the 1990s, the writing was on the wall for the high-strung M88 derivatives. They were excellent motors, no doubt, but power levels were rising to the point where the M5 was no longer top trump. It enjoyed a small power advantage over cars such as the V8 4.2 quattro, true – with 276 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque, the Audi had less punch but more pull. But cars like the M119-equipped 500E changed the playing field; 322 horsepower was enough to overcome the S38 in the M5, but the big number was the 354 lb.ft of torque. That was nearly 100 lb.ft more than the S38 and it was more usable, too.
BMW wasn’t to be outdone, launching its own series of V8 for the 1992 model year. in 3.0 and 4.0 form, the modern aluminum motors dubbed the M60 brought new levels of power to the third generation 5. In fact, so potent was the 4.0 version that BMW decided the more expensive M5 was effectively redundant in the marketplace. The M60B40 was rated at 282 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque and and good enough to scoot the luxury car from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds even when equipped with a 5-speed automatic.
But there was a 6-speed manual option as well, and of course you could opt for the sport package that would give you better seats, springs and a limited-slip differential. These options turned the two-ton Teuton into an athlete. While this particular E34 started life as a 525i, it’s been given the full 540 treatment and then some, culminating in a Vortech supercharger for some serious punch:
In yesterday’s Corrado SLC post, I referenced both how Volkswagen’s coupe was another attempt to create the “poor man’s Porsche”. Of course, at the same time that VW was perfecting its craft with arguably the best of their front-drive creations in the Corrado with the VR6 in the nose, Porsche wasn’t exactly napping at the wheel. They, too, had perfected their own pauper Porsche. The problem was, of course, that not many paupers could afford it.
The 968 stormed out of the gates and straight into the early 1990s recession wielding 236 horsepower from its VarioCam-equipped development of the 3.0 inline-4 from the 944S2. Evolutionary bodywork linked the model more closely with both the 928S4/GT and the 911 range. But with more power on tap than the standard 944 Turbo had in the mid-eighties, the base price was pretty much out of reach for most mortals. In 1992, the MSRP was $39,950 for a stripper Coupe. If you wanted the Cabriolet, you’d pay more than $10,000 additional. And if you opted for a Tiptronic transmission you’d be at $55,000. In 1992, mind you! That’s over $100,000 in today’s buying power and nearly double what a base 718 Boxster stickers for today. Even the basic Coupe in 1992 was double the sticker price of the 968 hardtop.
That made the Corrado a lot more compelling to consider in period, even with the 968’s stellar poise and road manners. It’s no surprise, then, that Porsche only managed to sell 2,234 968 Coupes here – compared to over 14,000 944 Turbos imported. A bulk of the Coupes, 1811, were 6-speed manuals, thankfully. But as we discovered yesterday, just because they were really expensive when new doesn’t mean that holds true today:
In recent posts I covered both the importance of the B5 chassis and its development into nuclear-grade weaponry in the RS4. In the midst was the substantially more tame yet still quite exciting S4 Avant.
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. 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. Light Silver Metallic was by far the most popular color ordered, and this particular Avant is one of 358 LSM manuals brought in for the 2001 model year:
Update 11/11/18: Price drop from the original $26,997 asking price by $2,020 to $24,977 today.
I casually mentioned in passing recently that we traded our E61 530xi Sports Wagon for an E82 135i Sport. While production overlapped between the two chassis, they are really polar opposites when it comes to BMWs. The 5-Series was obvious all about comfort and isolation, as well as carrying a huge load of anything you could throw at it through any weather. The 1-Series sought to return BMW to its more affordable small car roots by shrinking the swollen 3-Series down substantially.
What BMW unintentionally did was to create an E46 successor. The E82s are similarly sized, similarly equipped and were similarly priced to the E46. And in its most basic, most sporty form, the early 135i Sport is on paper a close match for the performance of the third generation M3. Okay, there’s no doubt that the 135i isn’t a M3 when you get behind the wheel. But is it a special car? Yes. And does it move? The N54/55 are rated at 300 horsepower – about 10% shy of the S54. But they’ve got 300 lb.ft of torque, almost about 15% more than the M3 had. And because they’re a turbo motor and they were able to tune that torque curve in, it’s about as flat as the Makgadikgadi Pan. That means roll-on performance, and the 135i rewards you any time you want. The strange thing is, it really doesn’t drive like it is a turbo motor. There’s no lag, no flat spots, no real woosh. It just feels like a very strong high-compression inline-6. And though it won’t corner like a E46 M3, it’s not far off in acceleration or driving feel.
The dash changed and some of the operations are different, but the seats and small greenhouse will instantly remind you of the earlier chassis. Ours is about as basic as they came – 6-speed manual, manual seats, no iDrive, but with a sunroof. But probably the ultimate spec is the late N55-equipped M-Sport and ‘is’ models. They’re quite hard to find even though they’re fairly new. Why is that?
Update 8/30/18: The asking price has dropped from the original $32,995 to $28,995 now.
While it was Audi who cut their teeth in the fast wagon market, the S6 Avants we saw the other day were the end of an era for the marque in the U.S.. Sure, the A6 3.0T Avant carried on and was just as quick, but its sales numbers dwindled as the naughts came to an end, and it was removed from the market in 2011. The A4 soldiered on, but even its offerings were slashed – first to fall was the S4 Avant, followed by the normal A4. Today, you can only get the automatic 2.0T Allroad if you want a 5-door Audi.
It was BMW who picked up the reigns of big sporty German wagons in the 2000s, with V8-equipped E39s leading towards the E61. Not to be outdone, the E46 introduced American customers to the smaller 3-series wagon for the first time (though it had been around for 2 prior generations) and that continued with the E91.
However, even though BMW offered two wagons right through 2010, they were rewarded with minuscule amounts of sales. In 2009, the company sold 1,430 3-series Sports Wagons in the U.S. – accounting for only 2% of sales of the E9x here. It was just as bad for the 5-series with 878 sold, so the company dropped it from the U.S. lineup in 2010. Frankly, it’s amazing that BMW continued to sell wagons at all here.
But they did, and you could order yourself up a neat sporty wagon. It wasn’t an M3, true, but the N52K-equipped 328i produced 230 horsepower and could be opted in rear-drive, 6-speed manual configuration with the M-Sport suspension:
We usually try to give plenty of time for readership to check out the auctions we link to. However, if you click on the link below you’ll find there’s only a few hours before this auction will end. Why am I writing it up?
Well, it should be pretty obvious. I like yellow cars, I like wagons, and I like Audis. Three checks there! This is a rare package, and I like rare, too. And before you start chattering about the BBK’s propensity to eat timing chain guides, this one’s already been upgraded. So it must have a million miles? No, they’re in check, too, at 112,000. Best of all, the seller is offering the car in a no reserve auction format and for some reason, bids aren’t outrageous yet.
If you want a big, bad and bold manual wagon, ACT NOW!
To this point, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the E39 M5 referred to as the “first of the robot-builts”. Sound ridiculous? So does dismissing a car because it was produced in mass quantities. While the original run of 4- and 6-cylinder M-cars got the trend rolling, there are quite a few who’d argue that the recipe of the super-saloon was better achieved in the third generation M5 rather than the first two. It was still very understated, yet with 400 horsepower and instant torque it was quite a bit faster than the prior generations had been. It retained the ability to demolish back roads, keep up with super cars, and bath its occupants in luxury. Despite not being assembled ‘by hand’, it was also the last of the “analogue” M5s, with limited computer intervention and interface. And, they only came as manuals. This certainly sounds like a recipe for success.
It was. BMW sold nearly 10,000 E39 M5s in North America – triple the combined total of the E28 and E34 models. So there should be a lot of really great examples out there to consider. Yet many are starting to come to market with upwards of 150,000 miles a a laundry list of maintenance to catch up on. Where does a low-mileage example fall these days? This beautiful Royal Red one in California gives us a clue:
Perhaps one reason that the S6 Avant didn’t really take of on U.S. shores was because of the shoes it had to fill. Enthusiasts had enjoyed the B5 S4 in Avant form for a few years, and consequently as a popular model when the B6 launched it was almost sure to make a return, almost certain to have more power, and almost certain to be available in a manual. Those premonitions came true, and so if you were willing to wait two years between the B5 and B6 S4 Avant production you were rewarded with the 4.2 liter V8 mated to a manual and even more sporty feel. For lovers of fast Audi wagons, the S4 was the answer to the things that the S6 wasn’t.
But as time has gone on, the “OMG it’s got a V8 and a manual!!!” shine of the B6 has waned slightly as long-term problems have reared their heads with the powertrain. Like the Allroad and S6, those problems are probably overstated by the “‘Exaggernet’, but they nonetheless exist. So while the B5 to B6 represented a huge jump in power, there are quite a few fans of the older generation still. That grunt deficit is easily overcome with the twin-turbocharged V6, as well, thanks to clever tuning potential. Like the B6, you could of course have the B5 with a manual. And, in some wild colors: