Update 12/3/19: This Audi 90CS quattro Sport is listed as sold for $7,900
Audi’s nomenclature took an interesting turn once again in the early 1990s. From the B2’s “4000CS quattro” – the only way the car was available at the end of the run, Audi had introduced the tiered 80/90 quattro for the B2 model range. That culminated in the 90 quattro 20V, but even though the run of the B3 was short in the U.S., by 1991 the model was already 6 years old for the European market. Audi then skipped the 1992 model year for the 90, offering only the holdover 80/80 quattro while it readied the 90’s replacement. That replacement was…the 90. But strangely back again was the S/CS model designation in this “new” chassis, the B4, which was a heavily revised B3 chassis with some new sheetmetal and trim.
But the big news was new engines; gone was the NG and 7A, last of a long line of inline-5s that had populated the noses of small Audis since the late 1970s. In its place was the AAH 2.8 liter 12 valve V6. Rated at 172 horsepower and 184 lb.ft of torque, on paper it was the superior motor to the double-overhead cam inline-5 it theoretically replaced. But the power delivery and experience were entirely different. While the peaky 7A encouraged you to explore the upper realm of the rev counter, the AAH wasn’t particularly rewarding at the redline. Where it was superior was in low-end torque and it’s smooth power delivery, and though the cast-iron V6 was no lighter than the inline-5, it’s shorter overall length meant that some (okay, only a bit) of the nose-heaviness that had plagued the B2 and B3 series was forgotten.
But the ‘CS’ quattro moniker only lived a short two years in the U.S. before it, too, was replaced by the last-year oddly-named Audi Sport 90 quattro. ’94s are equally strange, being termed the ’90CS quattro Sport’. These were also some of the slowest-selling Audis in a history of not particularly prolific sales; Audi shifted only 718 1993 models and barely more in 1994 at 773. You’re much more likely to find a last-year model, as the Sport 90 quattro and the slightly lower-spec 90 quattro accounted for nearly as many sales as the ’93 and ’94 years combined. As with the prior B3 90 quattro, the Achilles heel of the B4 was the price. The base price for the 90CS quattro in 1993 was nearly $33,000, and add your taxes and a few options and you were close to a base M3 in ’95.
From yesterday’s end of the run B2 Audi 90, today we have another special feature on a unique Audi. While the B3 heavily revised the safety, aerodynamics, comfort and luxury for the small Audi range, weight went up and power was effectively the same, meaning that the B3 was at a distinct performance disadvantage to the natural rival BMW. Audi did increase the amount of power that the B3 quattros had at their disposal with the introduction of the 7A 20V motor in 1990, but the twin-cam inline-5 wasn’t available in front drive Audis which sold in greater number. That gulf grew wider as BMW upped the power again with the new E36 chassis, now with the best part of 190 horsepower available in the 325i. To answer the competition, Audi heavily revised both its large and small chassis in for the 1991 and 1992 model years. The C4 model was introduced late in 1990 in Europe, and while Audi did away with the 200 model the new S4 ostensibly replaced it with even more sport. But the 100 saw massive changes too, with the introduction of automatic transmissions to the quattro range widening the appeal of the model. Though the V8 quattro had offered that option previously, it was a much more expensive model and the 100 was also available in Avant form. But the big change was under the hood, where a AAH 12 valve single cam 2.8 liter V6 replaced the previous NG/NF 2.3 naturally aspirated inline-5 and MC1/2 2.2 turbocharged inline-5 power units of the 100 quattro and front-drive and 200 Turbo front wheel drive models, respectively.
In the small chassis, Audi continued to offer two different chassis levels for the newly introduced for 1992 B4. Carrying over from the C4 range was the same 172 horsepower 2.8 V6, powering either all four wheels or the front wheels only. Few mechanical changes were made to the quattro models versus earlier inline-5 models, but the front drivers received more refinement from a trailing arm torsion beam axle instead of the previous Panhard rod design. Outside, new front and rear fascia was mostly expressed by integrating the hood and grill to match the C4 design. Fender flares increased, new contoured hoods offered more character, and different bumper covers updated the look slightly. New wheel designs were also incorporated into the B4 lineup, with 10 spoke Speedline-made wheels being standard and optional Ronal “Sport” 5-spoke wheels, both in a slightly greater 37mm offset as opposed to the 45mm offset of early B3 models (with the exception of the Coupe). There were plenty of other minor changes inside and out that added up to a very different and more refined feel versus the earlier B3. But Audi needed to provide some time for U.S. dealers to relaunch the new 90 model range. So, while in 1991 you could buy either a 90 quattro 20V or 80 quattro, in 1992 there was only a 80 model available – no 90s were sold. This coincided with the lowest sales figures for the small chassis Audi had recorded. The new 90 would launch here in late 1992 as a 1993 model in both quattro and FrontTrak form. And to help promote the new model, Audi brought over a few pre-production models, one of which we have here: