It’s a bit amazing to consider that two of the most significant halo cars in German motoring history – both homologation models intended to lead their respective marques into the next decade – so closely paralleled each other, yet were so very different. It’s but a 35 minute train ride between Munich and Ingolstadt, and in the late 1970s both BMW and Audi wanted a range-topping model to grab attention. But their approaches were radically different. BMW designed a bespoke mid-engine, tube-frame supercar around a basic engine design it already had. Audi, on the other had, took a basic car design it already had and added a revolutionary drivetrain.
Both were styled by Giugiaro. Both had to be built out-of-house; Baur had a hand in each. Both had legendary engineers – Walter Treser and Roland Gumpert for Audi, Jochen Neerpasch at BMW. Both raced, though the series they were intended for were ultimately cancelled. Both launched a brand name – BMW’s M division, and Audi’s quattro (and later quattro GmbH). And today, both are both legends and highly sought by collectors. So today we have an interesting showdown; two prime examples have come to market and are nearly the exact same price. Of course, for that to occur the Audi entrant is the ‘ultimate’ evolution of the Quattro, the Sport model. So let’s put aside the ridiculous $700,000 plus asking prices of each of these cars for a moment, and consider – all things being equal (which they nearly are!), which one would you choose? Let’s start with the M1:
Like the C3 chassis that predated it, the C4 went through numerous changes seemingly every year – giving each individual model year something special for fans to covet. 1994 to 1995 saw some major changes for the C4; the most obvious being the model designation change from S4 (1991-1994) to S6 (1995-1997). European models had some additional drivetrain options that weren’t available in the U.S., and indeed the Avant had previously been available in S4 form, but the 2.2 liter turbocharged inline-5 carried over largely unchanged into 1995. The big news was the addition of the Avant to the U.S. lineup; at the time, as expensive as an Audi got here. There was also the obvious external refresh; smooth body-colored bumpers and wider side trims eliminated the rubberized black moldings. The hood and lights were lightly re-sculpted too, along with the change (rolling, for some models) from the Fuchs-made 5-spoke alloys to the Speedline-made 6-spoke Avus wheels which would be the signature S-wheel for the next decade.
Gone were two staples of the Audi lineup from the 1980s – Procon 10, the seatbelt pre-tensioning safety system Audi highly marketed in the late 1990s disappeared with little fanfare, but also, perhaps more strikingly, S cars would no longer be branded with “quattro” badges – a change that would carry on nearly until today’s models, where models like the RS7 re-introduced it in the grill. Inside minor changes were introduced; a revised dashboard, shift knob, along with the introduction of the most notable item (once again, rolling) with a 3-spoke sport steering wheel. It was a tremendous amount of minor fiddling that in sum resulted in a slightly different feel for the S6; slightly more polished and grown up, carrying the new design language for Audi that would remain for the next decade.
Audi wasn’t done, though, because in “1995.5” Audi once again altered several items on the then-still-new S6. This included a major switch moving forward – the elimination of driver control of the rear differential, a hallmark of Audis since the introduction of the original Quattro. Audi opted for an “electronic differential lock”, which in reality was a system which utilized the ABS system to detect wheelspin and apply the brakes. This major change resulted in some minor interior tweaks, such as moving the cigarette lighter, and there were additional revisions to the radio. The transmission’s traditional weak first gear was also addressed, as well as swapping infrared locking for radio frequency and some other minor trim. All of these changes – some of them running – give the limited production S6s a bit of a bespoke feel. With numbers produced only in the hundreds, these are special and coveted cars that are very capable – and highly sought:
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.
1983 was the last year of the Type 43 (C2) model, as its replacement the revolutionary Type 44 (C3) design had already been hinted at with the 1981 “2000 Concept” model. The Type 44 would usher in more power, more refinement, and the addition of all-wheel drive. That meant that the Type 43 was quickly forgotten as the newer car emerged. Even in the mid-80s when these cars were nearly new, they felt and looked old compared to the rest of Audi’s lineup.
Performance was dimmed quite a bit over European counterparts, too. The range-topping 5000S Turbo model did feature the same basic engine as the Quattro, but without intercooling and hooked only to an automatic transmission. As a result they were quite a bit more pokey than the U.S.-spec Quattro, which wasn’t exactly a cheetah itself. The Turbo did offer a 30% bump in power over the standard 5000S to 130, though, and had 280mm front brakes and 240mm rear discs unlike the standard 5000S. Those larger brakes necessitated 5-bolt hubs, so the 5000S Turbo shared the 15″ x 6″ Ronal R8s worn by the same model year Quattros. These cars are increasingly rare to find today in functional condition:
Update 4/28/19: Back in December 2018 I looked at this beautiful, low-mileage Coupe GT Special Build with a $12,000 asking price. It quickly disappeared, but has popped back up at another dealer, now with a $14,950 asking price. While it seems unlikely to sell, appreciation for this chassis has been rapidly growing and pricing creeping up. Finding an original one like this is very tough today!
How many times can you write-up the same car, or find something new to say? Somehow, for me these older Audis drive a passion of discovery which keeps them fresh. Today’s example of a B2 Audi is, like the 4000CS quattro from the other day, a last year model. Unlike the 4000CSq, though, the late Coupe GTs were upgraded with the Special Build package. A crossover to the B3 chassis, they featured rear disc brakes, color-matched trim, B3 interior fabric and a 20 horsepower bump thanks to the addition of the 2.3 liter NG inline-5. The Special Build also had a slightly different version of the ’86 digital dashboard. The best performing GT offered here, these are generally considered the most desirable of the lineup.
Today’s example is much like my ‘87.5 project, (unfortunately) right down to the automatic transmission. But with only 60,000 claimed miles and in pristine shape, is this the one to get?
For U.S. Quattro fans, ’85 models are a bit special as they held numerous upgrades over the prior models. Like the rest of the Type 85/B2 lineup, those included revisions to the exterior, most notably the slanted grill and color matched spoiler, but also inside a new dashboard and revised seat fabric patterns. Like the ’84s, wheels were 8″ Ronals, but hidden was a new and more reliable fuse box location to run the whole car.
A few unique colors were offered on the ’85 up models, but since importation ended after one ’86 made it here, these colors are also a bit unique. Unique too was the headlight treatment, which had chrome aero bezels to match the grill. A total of only 73 of these upgraded 85s (plus the one 86) made it to the U.S., and they’ve pretty much always been the most sought of the scant 664 original Quattros sold here. This particular ’85 comes to market looking minty fresh in Amazon Blue Metallic over Quartz leather:
Fortunately for its seller but unfortunate if you actually were interested in it, the 2.7T-swapped Audi B6 A4 Ultrasport Avant ‘Unicorn Killer’ I wrote up a few weeks ago sold just before I went to press. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other interesting options out there, and I found two in direct competition (at least, ostensibly) with one another on my local Craigslist.
Here, we have two all-wheel drive wagons from VAG. Both are complicated. Both are reasonably quick. Both have mindbogglingly long names. Both have 6-speed manuals, both originally had MSRPs north of $40,000 and both, predictably, are quite rare to find. But while the mileage on the two is different, their asking prices are within a hundred dollars. So which would you take?
It’s often difficult for a second act to follow a legend, and that’s just what the C4 S4 had to do when it launched for U.S. customers in 1992. The Type 44 was already a fan favorite before the 20V version appeared here briefly for the 1991 model year, with wider flared track, bigger brakes, and more power. To answer fans, Audi introduced an even more potent version with the S4; even bigger wheels, lower suspension, and a few more horses were encased in a thoroughly modern shape, yet one that was easily recognizable to fans of the brand. With a reputation for smooth power delivery and still the market cornered on all-wheel drive performance luxury vehicles, Audi’s new S4 sold out almost immediately in a period when the European makes had difficulty moving their expensive wares.
But the Type 44 still held one advantage over its replacement; as we saw recently, an optional fifth door. While the Avant version of the new 100 was available immediately, there was no range-topping S4 wagon brought here. That was finally remedied with the relaunch of the now renamed S6 Avant for 1995. With smoothed out bumpers, revised passenger mirror, rolling changes such as new Speedline Avus 6-spoke wheels replaced the Fuchs that the S4 wore, and headrests became closed. There were more changes with the “95.5” model; the infrared remote locking became radio frequency and the B-pillar receiver disappeared; so, too, did the option to lock the rear differential yourself, as Audi opted to work in an electronic differential lock utilizing the ABS speed sensors rather than a physically locking rear end.
These were really only minor changes to the recipe, which at its roots remained a fan fantasy. The traditional inline-5 that had hung out of the nose of the high-end Audis was still there, with its dual-cam head augmented by electronic fuel injection and electronic boost control. The turbo spun up quickly and had an overboost function, giving drivers 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque to be mastered solely by a manual transmission with Torsen center differential. Form-fitting electric sport seats kept front passengers firmly planted in place through the prodigious grip generated by the meaty 225 section tires. Combined with the prodigious space the Avant offered families and the ability of these cars to eat up highway miles with aplomb regardless of weather, not to mention the incredible tuning potential of the AAN 20V turbo, they’ve become highly sought steeds with a very limited pool of around 300 originally imported:
Update 1/17/19: The white S6 listed as sold for $8,900.
If you weren’t paying attention, a few weeks ago we saw a record high price (since they were new) for a C4 Audi. It was a particularly impressive 1993 Audi S4 with a scant 12,000 miles on the odometer, and it sold for $33,000. If that sounds like a lot, I’d wager it was still a relative bargain. Find an equal contemporaneous M5 or 500E, and you’d likely have to add a “1” in front of that sales number to take it home.
So here we are looking at two turbocharged quattro sedans of the same ilk. Both are the revised S6, both are well presented, but both are also driver-quality, with far more miles than appeared on the S4. Which is the one to take home? Let’s start with the late build 1995.5 in Pearlescent White Metallic:
While it hasn’t been particularly long since I looked at a B2 – either in Coupe GT or in 4000S form – it has been a bit since we saw a nice example of the fan-favorite 4000 quattro. In fact, it’s been over a year since I looked at the last late-build 4000CS quattro.
Such is the marketplace at this point. The newest example is on the verge of being 32 years old and, frankly, not many have lived glamorous lives. Despite this, they are resilient. I was reminded to the 4000CS quattro when I watched a recent Motorweek featuring the then-new 325ix. While admittedly the E30 packed more power than Audi’s traditional normally aspirated inline-5, to me the 4000 still holds greater appeal and was better in its execution of a reliable all-weather sedan. I won’t go through everything that made these cars special as I have done several times, but if you’re interested you can read about the early or late models by clicking.
Today, both the ix and quattro models are few and far-between. Audi originally sold about 4,000 each model year of the 4-year run of the democratized all-wheel drive system shared with its very rare Quattro brethren, but at a cut-rate price and with exceptionally low residual value (I bought mine at 9 years old with under 100,000 miles for only 10% of its original sticker price), there just aren’t a lot of good ones remaining. Here’s one: