Why would anyone even contemplate paying nearly $80,000 for a 26 year old, complicated and turbocharged Audi wagon? Because of the badge that adorns the front – the magical ‘Renn’ added to the S2 badge, along with the legendary name Porsche scripted below. That meant that this relatively unassuming Audi 80 quattro Avant had been produced in Zuffenhausen on the 959 production line rather than Ingolstadt or Neckarsulm and had added a healthy dose of even more “Sport” to the small chassis. Ostensibly, though the Sport Quattro was the first RS vehicle, the RS2 was the first to wear the badge which has become synonymous with Audi’s speed department. For many Audi aficionados, though the RS vehicles have become much faster and more luxurious, just like the with W124 500E and the E30 M3 Audi has never made a car better in its overall execution than the original. Not that it was slow by any means; Porsche’s massaging of the ADU inline-5 resulted in 311 horsepower – even more than the Sport Quattro had from essentially a very similar motor.
So despite being much heavier than the Sport had been, the RS2 wasn’t much slower; sub-5 seconds to 60 and a top speed north of 160 mph. Along the way, it was capable of bullying everything outside of a supercar; yet this car also established the move from Audi’s 2-door halo vehicle to a long line of fast five doors. Porsche also upgraded the brakes and wheels with Brembo units and 17″ ‘Cup 1’ wheels creating a signature look, and tacked on 911 mirrors for good measure. So, too, was the color signature; original called RS Blue rather than the color name it’s often mistaken for – the later Nogaro – bright blue is still the go-to shade for Audi’s fastest and was just announced on the launch of the new RS6 Avant. Even within its fast contemporaries, this car was legendary, and the upgrades to the motors and wheels spawned an entire generation of enthusiasts to turn up their inline-5s stateside. Now that these cars are legal for importation, a steady stream have been coming up for sale:
We’re pretty used to the formula here: take a limited edition or special production 911, slap a neat color on it, and watch the price rise. Even brand new cars – ones that you can roll down to the dealership and order up yourself – are demanding a strong premium in the used marketplace. Insanity? A ‘bubble’? Bad economics? It doesn’t matter what the cause is, it’s the way life is for the foreseeable future.
But there’s a really compelling alternative, I think – for about the same money as most of the modern Porsche range, you can jump into near supercar-level performance and exotic looks with the Audi R8. The ‘regular’ V10 cranked out 540 horsepower, and hooked to the S-Tronic 7-speed gearbox is good for 3.5 second blasts to 60. And that speed is linked to all-four wheels with a gorgeous body and interior full of the most modern electronics. Sure, this isn’t a ‘Plus’ model, but there are a few reasons to like this one, and it should be pretty obvious.
As we’ve said before, a few select marques and cars get a pass when it comes to these pages, and one of my favorite exceptions is Volvo wagons. The Sultans of Square went a bit bonkers with turbocharging over a few generations; the 240, 740, 850, and V70 all had relatively high-performance turbocharged versions of their sibling sedans that were both practical and pulse-quickening. But when it comes to the top of the heap, the 850 T5-R and its replacement, the 850R, must certainly be in contention.
Launched around the same time Volvo was curb-hopping its Estate version of the 850 in the BTCC (replete with inflatable dog in the cargo area), the T5-R took a page from the Audi RS2 and E500 book and turned to Porsche to up the ante. Fiddling with the engine tuning resulted in 243 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, and was met with a stiff suspension, 17″ wheels, and interior and exterior tweaks. Like the RS2 with its famous (and often mistakenly called Nogaro) RS Blue, the T5-R’s signature shade was T5-R Yellow. These were quick in period and are still pretty respectable today, though the quite limited production numbers mean you might need to look to other markets to find one:
Predictably, as it did with Mercedes-Benz Pagodas, Porsche 930s, 80s BMW M products and the original GTI, the quick rising of selling prices for the Audi Quattro has continued to bring good examples to market. Where we used to wait seasons between seeing any at all, today you seem to be able to view at least one pretty good one on the market at any given time.
There are those that say you can’t really compare the Quattro to the M3, or even the 911 – though the pricing was quite similar. But isn’t that the point? In period, the other car you could have bought for the same money as a Quattro was a basic 911. And the market spoke: in 1983, Audi sold some 240 Quattros in the U.S.. Porsche, on the other hand, traded 5,707 911SCs between the Coupe, Targa and new Cabriolet models. There was basically no market overlap with the other two major contenders – the 944 Turbo and the M3. Both those cars, and the 911, were finished to a higher level of quality with better components, arguably, but the real difference was the type of owner who bought the Quattro versus the 911. These cars were built to be used and abused, and many were.
Today’s example wears LA3A Mars Red that was shared with the A1 and early A2 chassis Volkswagen GTI and GLIs (along with a few others), but is less frequent to see on the Quattro than the color that replaced it in 1984 – LY3D Tornado Red. It appears to defy the odds and be a survivor worthy of a closer look:
Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in previous posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.
But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.
For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a classic big sedan from Audi, and they’re exceedingly rare to find:
The E86 Z4 was a fairly radical departure from the E36/8 that it replaced. In many ways, the Z3 was born out of a series of spare parts and in some ways almost seemed an afterthought. It wasn’t as innovated as the Z1 and while the original M Coupe has become a fan favorite, the Z3 just overall seemed the odd-man out in the BMW lineup. On top of that, the design just overall hasn’t aged particularly well in my mind. But in 2002, the redesigned Anders Warming penned E85 Z4 roadster launched. It was bigger in every dimension, with cutting edge new styling that managed to incorporate both round and angular designs into one fluid package that somehow worked well. Over a decade on, it still looks quite new to me – one of the best tests of the staying power of a design. Also one of the best tests is that it was somewhat controversial at the time, but by 2006 and the launch of the M models most critics were convinced that it was a nice package. The addition of the stellar S54 powertrain certainly didn’t hurt, and with just 1,800 examples of the new Coupe design in the U.S., it was guaranteed classic status.
Despite the limited production numbers, neat looks, and legendary power plant, getting into a Z4 M Coupe won’t break the bank today. And if you’re willing to accept a less-than-perfect example, you can have one for a relative song:
Launched in 1992 for U.S. shores, the third generation 3-series instantly cemented itself as the new benchmark. In fact, for all of the attention fawned on ‘God’s Chariot’ (the E30), the reality is that the 3-series didn’t appear on notoriously BMW-leaning Car and Driver‘s Ten-Best list until the 1992 model year. Equipped with the M50 DOHC 189 horsepower inline-6, the modern yet still driver-oriented design would go on to become a regular thereafter. They were a sales success too, and like the E30 was for some time, they’re currently being largely ignored in the used market. After all, if you can get a clean M3 in the teens, why would you buy a 325i instead?
Well, this one is an interesting counterpoint. Someone obviously loved it a lot, and this E36 convertible is chock-full of options and neat accessories. And, it’s only got 18,000 miles:
For a few generations, Volkswagen fans were denied the cream of the crop for Volkswagen products. It took several years to finally get the original GTi to these shores, and then it wasn’t quite as hot as the European version. The second edition might have sported twin cams and 16 valves, but Euro customers got the addtional option of a supercharged, all-wheel drive version. There were plenty of cool options missing from the U.S. lineup in the 3rd generation, too – including the 2.9 liter VR6 Variant Syncro. So there was a bit of rejoicing finally when the all-wheel drive hot hatch was finally added to the U.S. lineup after the initial launch in 2003. Sporting the same 3.2 VR6 found in the TT, unlike the Mk.1 TT it was 6-speed manual only. It was also only available as a 2-door model, with special body kit unique to the R32 and dual exhaust to help announce its sporting intentions. With the best part of 240 horsepower on tap, it certainly seemed like the ultimate Golf and the sound generated from the narrow-angle 6 was mesmerizing. While heavy weight meant it wasn’t considerably quicker than the 1.8T models, it nonetheless has secured a spot in U.S. fans hearts as the top trump from the Mk.4 generation:
You can say that all examples of a model are the same regardless of color, and I will respect that as you opinion. But let’s be honest, they’re not. Pull up to a stop light in a black M3 and sure, some will take notice. Pull up to a light in a Phoenix Yellow Metallic example, and – love it or hate it – you’ll get attention. Which brings us to today’s car…one of the ultra-rare 850CSis originally imported to the United States.
Though they’re all the same specification, of the 225 imported here, one is a bit special. That’s because it was ordered through BMW’s Individual program in Daytona Violet over Lotus White and Daytona Violet leather. I think I’m in love!
When it comes to 80s and early 90s off-roaders, three names come to mind – Mercedes-Benz with the G-Wagon, Land Rover with the Range Rover and Defender models, and Toyota with the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. But one of the more popular and capable off-roaders in the period came from Isuzu, with their stellar Trooper.
The Trooper was sold in the U.S. for two generations between 1983 and, somewhat amazingly, 2002. But one of the more crazy aspects of Trooper history was the number of variants that were produced under other nameplates. Of course, the Trooper was famously re-introduced as a Honda Passport in the last 1990s, as well as under their Acura brand as the SLX model. Neither were particularly successful. But the badge engineering was far from over there.
In some parts of South America, the Trooper retained its name, but was sold under the Chevrolet nameplate – and it was oddly offered in Asia by Chevrolet dealers as well. In Japan, in addition to a Honda variation and Isuzu’s own sales, Subaru borrowed the Trooper too for their Bighorn model. New Zealand and Australia of course ended up with Holden-badged examples, one of which was called the Monterey. And that name carried to Europe, where the trooper was sold under Vauxhall (UK) and Opel (Continental Europe and Ireland) throughout the 90s. Well, one of those Opel Montereys has made it to the US….