Friends, the great experiment is finally underway. For generations, US fans have lamented Audi’s all-out refusal to bring its fastest wagons to the US market since 1991. Starting with the first generation S4 Avant and S6 Plus with their thundering (and optional) V8s, through the RS2, RS4, and RS6s, Audi has seemed convinced that it would not be able to sell the top-tier fast wagons here. They’re not alone; BMW has also robbed US enthusiasts of the best wagon offerings as we’ve seen, yet Mercedes-Benz has managed to eek out a market here over the past decade and change and has become the defacto boss of fast five doors, minus an occasional Cadillac interloper.
A few weeks ago, though, I saw the first shipment of fully-wrapped RS6s arrive at the port next to my home. Audi’s no longer playing around, and the full-fat 4.0T cranking out 561 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with a hybrid assistance motor and an eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s no surprise the numbers are staggering. 0-60 is a hair over 3 seconds, and it’ll bury the needle close to 200 mph if deregulated. This isn’t a supercar; this is a five-passenger wagon that weighs in just over 5,000 lbs – with nothing in it! Also staggering? The tech, with touchscreens, virtual cockpit, and torque-vectoring. The tires, measuring 285/30 and 22″ in diameter. The brakes, which are 16.5″ in front and ‘only’ 14.6″ out back. And, the price. Last I heard there was already a wait for these cars, and that’s despite the monster pricetag starting at $110,000. Lucky for you, you don’t have to wait…as long as you’re willing to pay:
The ‘what’ edition?
Don’t worry, that was my reaction too. It’s not that I don’t know the Latin origin of 10…heck, we’re only two weeks away from the month that begins with it (sidebar: Thanks for screwing up the straightforward month numbering system, Julius Caesar, though the weather in his and his adopted son’s months is much nicer). Anyway, here’s the R8.
The 2020 R8 V10 Performance Decennium Edition is ostensibly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Audi’s V10, which…premiered in 2009 here. So that’s eleven years (or twelve, if you count this year). So…what’s the rub? Well, in the US Audi just skipped the 2019 model year. As the performance of the V10…Performance…was already pretty sharp, the Decennium Edition didn’t add any extra power, so as not to step on Lamborhini’s parade and become a named storm. Instead, it’s a roughly $20,000 visual package that was added on top of your already quite expensive R8 if you ticked the box, and it was limited to just 50 cars in the US. So let’s see what you got:
Wait, the recent strings of Opels weren’t enough? Nope! Strap in! Back in August I took a look at an ‘Opel’ Monterey, which was really just a lightly rebadged Isuzu.
1993 Opel Monterey RS 4×4 Turbodiesel
Well, if you squint, this Bertone looks somewhat similar, but then all of the boxy off-roaders kinda do. That’s not where the link is, though. The Freeclimber was marketed under the Bertone, but as with previous Bertones – just as the X1/9 – it was really just a rebrand of an existing vehicle they had helped design. In this case, underneath the Freeclimber was a Daihatsu Rocky, and yeah, there’s definitely no link to Germany there. But things did get interesting under the hood…
We’ve covered just about every generation of 3-series wagon here, barring new ones. The E30 is most popular to import these days, and the E46 introduced the US market to the idea that BMW made smaller, fun wagons too; but in between, the rest of the world got to enjoy the neat looks of the E36 Touring.
So here we are; it’s 2020, and that means cars that were produced up through November 1995 are a lot easier to procure and import. And that’s exactly what someone did with this Calypso Red Metallic 320i Touring, produced for the UK market in April 1995. Now that it’s here, is it the one to get?
Like Porsche, BMW has gone crazy with the special editions recently, and who can blame them, really – slap some badges and a special color on a normal production car, announce it’s limited production, jack up the price; enthusiasts seems to love it these days.
In the case of the M5 30 Jahre Edition, which of course celebrated the European introduction of the model and not the US-market E28s, BMW announced in 2014 that they’d make 300 of the special edition M5s to commemorate the following year. These cars were auto-equipped with the Competition package, and the more than just badging, BMW Motorsport turned up the wick on them as well. Revised engine tuning yielded 600 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. Of course, the visual tweaks were much more noticeable than the power bump; 30 Jahres were produced solely in Frozen Dark Silver Metallic with dark chrome accents and special badging as well as 20″ Style M601 wheels with Jet Black accents outside, while inside black Merino leather was contrasted with ’30 Jahre M5′ embroidery, Alcantara interior trim, an Alcantara steering wheel, 30 Jahre door sills, and a 1/300 dashboard badge. One of these special editions has popped up for sale in Arizona, impressive since the claim is that only 30 made it here:
For some reason, I feel like I need a distraction today. Let’s look at some fun cars!
Following on the heels of the Carrera 2.7 MFI, Porsche introduced two hot 911s in 1975. Of course, the big arrival was the 930 Turbo Carrera. But Porsche took components from the 2.7 MFI and the Turbo Carrera, backed out the turbocharger, and produced the car you see here – the 200 horsepower Carrera 3.0, a healthy bump over US-spec cars. They are quite rare, having been built only between 1975 and 1977, and a total of just 3,687 are claimed to have been built. There were numerous changes between the 1976 and 1977 model years, with the ’76 being the more rare of the two. Of course, these were European-specification cars, and as a result were not imported to the US. So it was a bit of a treat to stumble across one of the roughly 1,100 ’76 Coupes (maybe…see below) for sale in Arizona:
The success of the Motorsport derived versions of each generation of the venerable 3-series mean that it’s both easy and a natural choice to concentrate on them in the used market. But BMW has also offered some pretty special non-M models in the 3-series lineup, and that’s especially true of the 2003-2006 330i. Much like the M3, the 330i was available in 2-door coupe and convertible; no surprise there – but the 330i was also quite popular as a sedan and the E46 M3 never came in that configuration. If you ticked the ZHP Performance Package box, you paid an additional $3,900 on top of the premium for your top-of-the-line 330i. While that was no small amount of change, what that amount resulted in was actually quite a bargain.
Developed by BMW Individual, you got a plethora of performance details throughout the package. Outside, M-Tech body pieces adorned the car front, sides and rear and blacked out trim replaced the chrome. So too were M-branded special Style 135 18″ wheels, with tires to match the width of bigger brother M3. Lower and stiffer suspension was met with more negative camber, special reinforcement, and revised control arms. The engine was upgraded too, with unique cams and a revised engine map resulting in 10 more horsepower, but the ZHP was more than 10 hp quicker off the line thanks to a shorter final drive and a 6-speed manual borrowed from M. Performance wise, the ZHP split the difference between the 330i and M3 in acceleration and cornering, so it really was a performance package to live up to its name. Inside, too, many special details adorned the ZHP – from small items like lightly revised gauges with special needles to unique shifter, steering wheel, seat fabric and eggcrate dash trim. Just like the S-Line Titanium Package Audis, these more potent 330is have a cultish following who proudly claim they;re not only special, but one of the most special BMWs made:
Yeah I know…a BUICK? Stick with me on this one.
After a gap of a few years and a less-than-spectacular fourth generation, the Regal came roaring back with pretty modern styling in 2008 and the promise of more performance aimed at a younger crowd. This was in part thanks to its underpinnings, which were in no small measure based upon GM’s corporate partner Opel’s Insignia and the Epsilon II platform. It was a front-driver, it’s true, but option was a direct-injected 2.0-liter Ecotec inline-4 cranking out 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque; numbers in line with performance legends such as Audi’s original S4. You could even get a manual transmission! And you could get this turbocharged package for under $30,000 – far less than the traditional performance sedan.
Of course, it was still
an Opel a Buick, so they didn’t sell all that well. And dropping residual values meant that if you brushed a guardrail when it was five years old, the insurance company would probably total it. What to do with your totaled Buick then? Turn it into an Opel, of course…
The first generation X5 definitely will not go down as the best-looking BMW ever produced, but I’d argue that it’s also not the worst looking of the high-riding ‘activity’ vehicles out there. And in some respects, they make a lot of sense. Pull up next to a modern full-sized trunk in an E30 or similar vintage ‘mid-sized’ car, and you’re looking directly at running boards. The X5 offered 5-series driving style with a commanding road position, and while it wasn’t really an off-roader let’s be honest – very few of the millions of SUVs you see out there ever see more than a gravel road.
What the E53 did offer, though, was a cross-over to the Sport package available in the E39. Because of that, you could opt for the 3.0-liter M54 hooked to a five-speed manual, and unlike the E39, you could opt to get those two hooked to all-wheel drive. They’re hard to find, but one popped up with some neat mods and in a neat color combination. Is it worth consideration?
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: