As the E34 M5 and W124 500E/E500 creep up in value, if you search you can still find excellent examples of the odd-ball turbocharged inline-5 all-wheel drive wonder from Ingolstadt. While both of those cars are legends and fan favorites in their own right, I’d like to suggest that most underappreciated yet most capable of that generation was the C4 Audi S4. Out of the box, it was at a disadvantage to the other two; it’s small displacement cast-iron inline-5 hung fully in front of the forward axle line and was at a distinct power disadvantage. With 227 horsepower on tap, it was some 84 horsepower shy of the S38B36 and nearly a hundred down on the M119. But it was turbocharged, so torque was over 250 lb.ft – close to the BMW’s level. Still, they were fairly heavy and if you wanted to shuffle with the Municher and Stuttgarter, you had to keep that AAN on boil and on boost. But the trump card that Audi presented in the market at that point was all-wheel drive, and coupled with the tunable nature of the AAN, it meant there was a lot of potential in the chassis of the C4. That was met with excellent build quality to create what was perhaps the zenith of Audi’s production in the inline-5. Despite that, they have remained far more affordable than either of the competition, though finding a good one today can be difficult. One of just 399 â€™94s sold in the U.S., this Brilliant Black example is one of 50 sold with black leather:
Update 1/17/19: This car is listed as sold for $2,750.
As Iâ€™ve mentioned before, the success of the Audi A4 really opened the U.S. market to a whole lineup of cars we might otherwise not have been privy to. Undoubtedly the best way to consider that is by looking at the C5 A6 lineup. But first you need to remember that prior to its 1998 launch, the C4 reigned in 1996 at the top of the Audi sales ladder for the U.S.. However, the number of configurations you could get was shockingly small. You had the choice between front-wheel drive and quattro, and again between sedan and Avant. Thatâ€™s it. Following the drop of the 2.2 liter turbocharged S6 for our market in 1995 and the 5-speed manual from the A6 lineup for 1996, your only â€śchoiceâ€ť if you wanted a mid-sized Audi was to begrugdingly select the rather stale 2.8 liter V6 rated at 172 horsepower and mated solely to a 4-speed automatic. It was competent, but boring. Actually, that sentence sums up the end of the C4 run here pretty well â€“ and the market recognized that, snapping up only around 10,000 of the models each year.
Turn your attention to the C5 lineup and you suddenly see the array of options opened by sales success. First to launch was the heavily revised sedan for 1998. Now with the 30 valve V6, horsepower was up to a more respectable 200 and the transmission gained a gear, though it was still automatic-only. The Avant carried over from the C4 lineup unchanged for â€™98, but the new sedan was enough to double sales of the A6. â€™99 launched the new Avant and with it, again a surge in sales by 50%. That allowed Audi to bring over some more exciting options:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2003 Audi A6 4.2 quattro on eBay
I mentioned yesterday Iâ€™d look at a M3, and here it is. There were some 26,202 E46 M3 Coupes to choose from when considering the model. So, often sellers and buyers are looking for something special to help differentiate their M3. Usually that manifests itself in color, miles or mods, but todayâ€™s example is quite unusual. Official production started rolling in early in 2001, but todayâ€™s M3 is claimed produced in June of 2000, making it a pre-production example of the legendary coupe. There seems to be good documentation to back up the claims that are made, along with a very unusual-to-see set of options. So is this the one to get?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 BMW M3 on eBay
Update 8/28/18: This clean 924S sold for $5,000. What a steal!
Rounding out my trio of affordable VAG 2-doors is, of course, the Porsche 924. Not that one would consider the 924 very affordable by the end of the run, mind you â€“ but, then, it was cheap by Porsche standards. In 1987, the Scirocco had grown 8 more valves and was a competent performer â€“ more than the match for most of the competition. Base price had also grown to almost $14,000, and equip one with power options to match its more luxurious Audi and Porsche cousins and suddenly you were close to $16,000 out the door. But it was still a big leap to the Special Build Coupe GT, which crested $21,000 with a few options. While it offered a bit more luxury than the 16V, there wasnâ€™t any improvement in performance from the 130 horsepower NG 2.3 10V. To get more grunt, you had to turn to Porsche.
Porscheâ€™s â€śbudgetâ€ť 944 had also grown in price, and by â€™87 you were looking at â€“ no surprise â€“ a $5,000 increase over the Audi to get a more prestigious badge. So to bring the 944 back to its sub-$20,000 base price roots, Porsche brought back the 924. The car that was originally suppose to be the Scirocco and was, for some time, the bread and butter of Porscheâ€™s sales was a 924 in body only as it now had 944 underpinnings. The Super 924 was therefore a bit of a sleeper, offering slightly better performance than the base 944 due to better aerodynamics of the pure design and lighter weight. Base price was briefly $19,900, so in dealerships that sold both Audi and Porsche products, this was a heads-up competitor to the late GTs. And though they ostensibly had similar missions, they were remarkably different cars. Today, little has changed but that the two remain in the same price bracket: