10K Friday: Gimmie Five – Audi 5-pot-off

Today’s 10K Friday is something a bit unique; instead of a normal comparison between similarly valued cars, I’m going to chart the development of the venerable Audi inline-5. While, due to a dearth of examples, we won’t go back to the very early days of the I5 in the U.S., I’ve rounded up some of the more notable configurations that the engine appeared in the U.S.. Since, save some exceptions like the legendary Quattro and RS2, nearly every used Audi with this motor fits the under $10,000 limit (or comes close to it), that gives us the opportunity to see Audi’s continual technical changes to the inline-5. Though not as memorable as BMW’s inline-6 or Porsche’s flat-6, this motor was extremely important to the company nonetheless and was a character-defining attribute of Audis for nearly 20 years. So, let’s see how they kept it relevant from the 1970s into the 1990s:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1987 Audi 4000CS quattro on Craigslist

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1986 Audi 5000CS Quattro

People who have owned Audis have stories about their Audis. Those that love them have stories about conquering snowbanks, hundreds of thousands of miles accrued, or the extreme value they provided in the used luxury market. Those that hate them recount the countless times they broke down, or the semi-ridiculous nature of those breakdowns; the steering rack fell off, all of the electrics died at once, or they rusted before they were even purchased new. In the world of used Audis, there just doesn’t seem to be any ambivalent middle ground; people love them, or hate them. While I fall into the hippie love-fest for most 1980s Audi products, I’ll admit that I have my fair share of horror stories that would probably scare off less devoted fans. I owned two big-body Audis; a 1989 200 quattro Avant, and a 1993 V8 quattro. In many ways, the 1989 was identical to this 1986 5000CS quattro underneath and outside, but the 200 had several updates to the interior. But the horror stories? Sure, there are plenty of those. There was the time on the Mass Pike outside Sturbridge – leaving a toll booth, the car was running great and I gave it the full boot out of the gate. Full out to redline, grab the next gear and right back on it – I must have been making an impression on the people as my land yacht wagon aimed its nose decidedly at the moon. When I looked in the mirror to see how impressed they were, I saw nothing – except white smoke. Lots and lots of white smoke. I pulled over to see that an oil feed line to the cooler had popped off and I had emptied the sump as quickly as the pump could pump at redline. Sweeeeeet. Then there was the time I looked at confused at the voltage gauge which read over 14 volts. Then it read 11. Then 14 again. Then over 14. I was over a hundred miles from home, and the subsequent drive home required me to steadfastly keep my eyes on the gauge and balance the electrical load by turning on and off all of the electrical items (which still worked) to keep the alternator from blowing up the battery. How about the time that the brakes stuck on; a common problem with collapsing brake lines that don’t allow the pressure to release. Driving down 95 in the low speed lane at 50 m.p.h., my wife turned to me and asked why I didn’t speed up a little bit. “I’M AT FULL THROTTLE”, I frustrating replied. Then there was the time on the way to a winter driving school that the car threw an alternator belt on 24 North and I had to drive back to a friends house at 4 in the morning with no lights. And that doesn’t even begin to recount my stories of the V8 quattro…these are the sort of stories that build character in enthusiasts or drive them away completely. And when you’re talking about the Type 44, most have been driven away; a complicated car which was hated so much thanks to bad press in the 1980s, Audi nearly withdrew from the U.S. marketplace. To say that finding a 5000CS quattro in the condition of this car today is rare is an understatement:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Audi 5000CS quattro on Cars.com

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Boxflare Showdown: M3 v. Quattro

This one has been brewing in my head for some time, and required only two things; the right two cars. I think, in this case thanks to the help of our reader Martin, I might just have the right two candidates. While BMW enthusiasts love to tout the virtue of the boxflared M3, they often overlook the importance of the Quattro. The chunky, Giugiaro-designed Audi made it to the market with its bulging quarters a full 5 years ahead of the M3, yet the DTM star is arguably much better known than the all-wheel drive Rally champion. Both were certainly important to the development of their respective corporate brands; both have illustrious careers as race cars and both are considered by connoisseurs to be the best design of those that followed. Quietly, while the market-star M3 has soaked up the headlines, good condition Quattros have also been appreciating, and with far fewer of them produced than M3s they’re a more rare sight today. They’re also, generally, much older and fewer were taken care of in the way that the M3s were pampered. Add little factory support and an even worse balance of the number imported to North America – only around 10% of the total of North American bound M3s – and it’s a hard match up. Yet, today we have two overall great condition cars to consider. Who wins the boxing match? Let’s start with the odds-on favorite M3:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1990 BMW M3 on eBay

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