Back in 2021 I took a look at a bit of a rare package – it bordered on “didn’t know you could still get those” level. Strange, but true – manual gearboxes were being phased out of Audi’s lineup much more quickly than BMW. So it was a treat to find an A4 with a 6-speed manual:
2011 Audi A4 2.0T quattro 6-Speed
As I explained in that post, by 2011 you could get the A4 in either Avant or sedan, front-drive or quattro, with only the 2.0T rated at 211 horsepower. Like the 2021 car, today’s example is also a manual and also has the 18″ Sport Package, which gave you eponymous 18″ wheels, sport suspension, and front sport seats. This one also has some go-fast goodies, and it still looks pretty modern for an 11-year-old car:
Developed by BMW Individual, the ZHP Performance Package added $3,900 to the price of your 330i model. That sounds like a lot, but you got some meaningful upgrades. 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.
These are fan favorites, and can draw really big bids – indeed, some sell for more than M3s. Let’s take a look at this Imola Red example and see where it falls:
It hasn’t been all that long since I looked at a 7A-powered 90 or, for that matter, a very clean Coupe Quattro:
1990 Audi Coupe Quattro
However, today’s car – while broadly similar to that Coupe above, is definitely worth a closer look. That’s because it has a scant 27,000 miles on the clock. How is that even possible?
The other day an Alpine White M2 briskly blew past me. It’s amazing how much presence that car has rolling down the road; it’s nearly square-looking and quite mean. Unlike the 1M that preceded it, the M2 hasn’t maintained its pricing on the used market in quite the same way. Right now, the M2 Competition (your only option) stickers at nearly $60,000 with no options but also has a derivative of the S55 from the M3/4. The earlier M2s aren’t quite as mean, and like the 1M they had a turned up version of the normal production motor rather than a “S” motor. In this case, it’s a 370 horsepower version of the N55 and they weigh a bit less than the M3/4 (though, only a bit), so performance is on par with similar acceleration numbers. Equipped in lovely Long Beach Blue Metallic with matching contrasting stitching, this particular example also has the ‘slower’ but preferable long-term 6-speed manual. And to make it a bit more sweet, it’s got a few Dinan mods tacked on:
Even though for me the B5 chassis A4 was the beginning of the dilution of the Audi brand, I admit I have always had a soft spot for nice examples. And the first A4 had plenty of things to celebrate. First off, it effectively saved and resurrected the brand in the U.S. from near extinction; consider for a moment Audi sold a total of 18,124 cars in 1995, the same year that the A4 was introduced as a 1996. By 1997, Audi sold 16,333 of just the A4 quattro model alone. As a success, that subsequently meant that there were a plethora of options to be had in the new chassis as production opened up. Soon we had the 1.8T turbo model joining the V6, the V6 was soon revised to have 30 valves, there was a light refresh in ’98 as well and another in ’01, the Avant joined the lineup for ’98, and of course we got a new S4 in 2000.
Considering that for some time there had only been one way per a year to get the small chassis in quattro form, this relatively dizzying array of chassis configurations meant that there are still quite a few nice ones out there to be had. Today finding clean examples is getting hard, and they’re heading up in price:
Truth told the E91 isn’t a particularly rare car. There are plenty up for sale every day of the week, and of those that you can find for sale today, the all-wheel drive 328i xDrive isn’t particularly rare, either. But what is not seen very often is the combination of those two factors plus a stick in the center console which can be articulated in 7 different positions. That’s right, we have a unicorn manual! Such is the frequency with which these are referred to by the mythological term, you’d be forgiven for thinking that BMW dealers had a special option box that you could select for your unicorn badge.
Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!
Thus, when it comes time to sell your unicorn package car, you too can tell everyone that this was the only one that’s like it! Except for the other ones that are like it. But don’t mind them. Let’s look at this one!
BMW’s naming convention went all wonky (even wonkier, perhaps?) after 2010, as they moved away from the previous ‘iX’ moniker to the new ‘xDrive’ nameplate. To make normal models seem equally special, or perhaps to keep German badge makers employed, they then introduced a new model option – ‘sDrive’. While you might at first think this stands for ‘sport’, you’d be wrong. In fact, the ‘sDrive’ is like Audi’s ‘FrontTrak’ – a fancy name for a two-wheel drive model. Does that automatically mean rear-drive? No. You can, for example, get a brand new 2020 BMW X1 sDrive, which means front-wheel drive, but ostensibly the name is associated with the rear-drive-only Z4 roadster, as we see here.
The revised E89 Z4 launched in 2009, and gone were two things – the M variant, and the coupe, which was replaced by a folding hardtop design. Europe got a plethora of engine choices, but in America we got two, essentially shared with the E8x series – the sDrive3.0i and the sDrive3.5i. As with the E8x and E9x series, the “3.5” wasn’t actually a 3.5, but the twin-turbocharged N54 under the hood. Unlike both of those other models, though, the N54 was not replaced with the N55 single-turbo motor after 2010. Instead, the N54 soldiered on. Also unlike the E8x and e9x models, while there was a ‘is’ model launched that turned up the twist to 1M levels of power, in the Z4 that engine choice could only be had with a seven-speed DCT gearbox. That means that this car was the most potent form of the E89 you could get at the time with a manual transmission:
A few weeks ago I looked at a 1995 Volvo 850 T5-R wagon, one of the all-time great designs launched by the company:
1995 Volvo 850 T5-R Wagon
The Porsche-modified engine managed to channel an impressive 243 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque. The downsides? Well, not only was that particular example expensive, it was front-drive only and equipped with an automatic transaxle. Of course, move forward a generation and there was an even more potent possibility if you like fast five-doors; the V70R. The V70R had 300 horsepower driving all-four wheels through a transversely mounted turbo five, along with heavily bolstered sport seats, Brembo brakes, and an Öhlins adjustable suspension. And yeah, you could get a six-speed manual. A vast majority of these cars were used quite heavily as intended, but still are appealing to consider in the used market:
There were a lot of haters when the E60 series debuted, and it remains a polarizing design today. While the prior three revisions of the 5-Series had been evolutionary, there was little to identify connections to the previous generation beginning in 2004. But the M5 didn’t just break with tradition with the exterior styling.
Leaps in horsepower had been impressive, but not outrageous in the prior three generations. From the Euro-specification 286 horsepower M88/3 in the E28 came 315 horsepower in the 3.6 E34, then 340 in the last 3.8s. The world seemed shocked when the E39 announced a 394 horsepower V8 under the hood, but in all reality it was essentially as much of a jump from the E28 to the last E34. But the E60. That was a jump. Replacing the 4.9 liter V8 in the E39 was now a 5.0-liter S85 V10, and it was made to scream. It sported a forged crankshaft, lightweight pistons and valves, 10 individual throttle bodies, hollow cams, 12:1 compression, semi-dry sump lubrication, and double VANOS variable valve timing. The result? 500 horsepower and a shrieking exhaust note that is simply unforgettable.
Are these cars collector worthy? They certainly have a strong following and there is no denying that condition being equal, they are currently the the one of the cheapest M5s you can buy. And the one to get, it would seem, would be a 6-speed manual:
I can walk down to any dealership just like anyone else, and provided I have a pulse, probably walk out with financing for most mid-range cars regardless of whether or not I could actually afford them. Indeed, easy credit has led to the proliferation of many of our favorite brands and cars to the point where most don’t feel all that special anymore. A $2,500 1990 Jetta, for example, is much more rare to see today in that condition – or, at all, truthfully – compared to a new M car.
So all modern cars aren’t really all that exciting? That’s far from the truth, too, as there are many special examples that float by our feed. So while the F10 M5 isn’t a model often featured, it’s probably our loss for not doing so. It’s also easy to forget that even though it feels pretty new, the F10 has been out of production for almost 4 years and the earliest examples are now nearly 12 years old. Plus, as most M5s do, the entry price point on the antiquated models has dropped considerably compared to their original MSRP, while their performance is still contemporaneous to today’s cars.
The S63B44T0 found under the hood of this particular example was good for 550 plus horsepower; not much more than the model it replaced with that wicked V10. But torque? That’s another matter. While the S85 cranked out an impressive 380 lb.ft at 6,100 rpms, the two turbos tacked onto the S63 V8 produced 500 lb.ft of torque with a curve as flat as the Salt Lake from 1,500 rpms through over 5,000. That massive power could be channeled through a manual gearbox, to boot!
But it’s really the color combination of Amazonitsilber Metallic (X07) from BMW Individual that has us looking at today’s example: