Back when I bought my first Audi, there were two five doors available in the US; the A6 Avant and the S6 Avant. Other markets had more options, its true, but it’s also not like the cup overfloweth. Today? The story has changed. Right now, Audi markets 15 different five door models. FIFTEEN. How is that possible? Well, you’ve got seemingly infinite variants of just a few chassis underpinnings, that’s how. There’s the Q3, Q5, the ‘slinkier’ Q5 Sportback, then the S versions of both of those, the Q7 and SQ7, the Q8, SQ8, and RS Q8, the e-tron, the e-tron Sportback, both A4 and A6 allroads, and finally, the RS6 Avant. Wow, how times have changed!
Today I’m going to look at two of Audi’s most expensive products outside of the R8. Both share a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, an 8-speed automatic, around 600 horsepower, sub-4-second 0-60 times, ‘track-tuned’ ability, and $110,000 plus starting prices. But what if you just can’t wait to get down to your dealership?
This Merkur sold for $4,350.
As enthusiasts, oddly we often lament new cars. Undoubtedly, newer models turn better, stop better and accelerate faster than most of the cars that they replace. They return better fuel economy, have more gears, and are generally more reliable. In a crash, they’ll save your life and some will even call the police for you. Impressive? Sure, without a doubt. But if I had a nickle for every time I heard how some enthusiast would rather have a brand new example of a car from their youth, I’d be a rich man. I’ve heard it from all sources; desire for a bullet-proof reliable new W126 S-Class, longing for a return of the real Quattro with locking differentials, dreams of finding a new E30 M3 or 3.2 Carrera. But if you’re a bit different, perhaps you’re one of the devoted Merkur fans.
Now, I know what you’re saying. Merkurs are Fords, and Fords are American. How about this – Ford Europe’s headquarters is in Cologne, Germany. And they produce a fair amount of cars in Germany even today. Since we consider the Volkswagens built in Chattanooga and Westmoreland, the BMWs built in Spartanburg, and the Mercedes-Benz models bolted together in Alabama, I think we can deviate for a moment into a hot Ford.
Audi and SAAB helped to mainstream turbocharging, and by the 1980s it was almost expected in performance circles. That culminated in a wave of ever increasing performance hot hatchbacks that completely changed our perception of speed. As newer, faster models emerged, the technology increasingly filtered its way into lower-spec models until the results of all of the turbocharging basically were acknowledged to be wrecking the world’s environment. I call it ‘Trickle-down Turbonomics’. The result? Ford launched a series of turbocharged hatchbacks and sedans in the 80s, including the Fiesta RS, the Mustang SVO, the turbocharged Thunderbird, and this car – the XR4Ti, the US version of the Ford Sierra.
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:
As I mentioned in the last listing, Europe got some really interesting options in the C4 S4/S6 that I’d probably be looking at were I importing one. On top of that, most of the C4 range is relatively cheap compared to both other vintage Audis and the prices they achieve in the US market. For reference, here’s the last example:
1995 Audi S6 Avant Euro-Spec
Now before you get all excited and say that I forgot a very important addition symbol on the end of the title here, this one isn’t a Plus. But, it sure looks like it is! Finished in RS Blue over matching Alcantara, what we have here is a right-hand drive S6 Avant 20V Turbo with a few nice upgrades. We’re still a year away from being legally able to import late C4s like this, but what will it cost?
I suppose I’m not a very fair consumer, if I’m honest. For years, I decried Volkswagen for depriving Americans of the very best offerings it had. Golf Rallye and Country? Nope, and not the Limited either. Passat G60 Syncro? Nope, we didn’t get that either. There’s a string of great TDis that didn’t come here (and still don’t), along with one of the ones that really bugged me – the 4-door GTi. It just never made sense to me how you could argue the GTi was a super practical car when they made a more practical version that just wasn’t brought here. Of course, that ended with the Mk.V, so then my annoyance turned back to the Golf Limited. Sure, we had the R32 – by all rights, a great car, that was not available in 4-door version in the first generation and then not available in either a 4-door or manual in the second generation. To me, in an effort to be gimmicky Volkswagen had really lost the bit. Apparently I wasn’t alone in that thought, because Volkswagen finally made my GTi wishes come true in 2012 with the U.S. introduction of the spiritual successor to the Golf Limited – the Mk. 6 Golf R. Gone was the VR6, replaced by the more potent and tunable 2.0T which could now be specified with a manual and all-wheel drive, and importantly in 4-door guise. Did I buy one? Nope, because this German wonder priced in at a shocking $36,000 with options. For a Golf, mind you.
Today, though, the first generation of Golf Rs has become in some cases cheaper than the car it replaced, the Mk.5 R32 , which as I just explained only came in two-door DSG. This Golf R, though, has four doors and 1.5 manual gears per a door:
Following in the footsteps of the Z4 sDrive28i I just talked about, let’s check out the changes from the 1-Series to the 2-Series. As with the Z4, turbo inline-six power continued in the M235i, which was effectively a restyled 135i with a N55 with a touch more twist and more weight. Purists may decry that an M badge crept into the lineup but the reality is that if you drive one of these turbocharged small BMWs, and I own a 135i Sport, they’re worthy of the letter. Whether you agree or not doesn’t change the fact that one thing was notably absent from the revised 2-series – the normally aspirated N52 was dropped in favor of the N20 in the ’28’ model. So they were cheaper, right? Well, yes and no. This 2016 228i Coupe we’re looking at today stickered at just shy of $33,000; hardly cheap, but one of the cheaper BMWs you could buy in 2016. However, this particular 228i didn’t leave the dealership in the 30s, thanks to a healthy dose of optional equipment that has left it one of the more unique configurations I’ve seen. Let’s take a look:
The E23 has always been a design which to me has been quite polarizing. As with the E12 and E24, Paul Bracq was heavily involved in the final design and it shows – in many ways, the E23 looks like a cross between the two that was scaled up 10%. The results of that in my mind weren’t always good. Growing up, my father had both E24s and E28s, clean looking, well proportioned designs, and when I first saw an E23 I remember thinking it looked a bit ungainly. In U.S. specification, the bumpers were too big and the wheels were too small, resulting in a car which appeared heavy, sagging and sad. When he’s really upset, my son manages to invert his lip and stick it out, tears streaming down his cheeks. It’s a look which nearly mimics the U.S. spec front end of the E23 I now recognize. However, in European trim the E23 made more sense – it looked lighter, smaller and better proportioned. While not as stately as the W116, it certainly looked a fair bit sportier outside and more modern. Couple those European-market looks with some great period BBS RS wheels and the look is just about perfect; throw in the turbocharged M106 motor and you’ve peeked much interest. Of course, unfortunately the M106 was only pared with an automatic transmission – but then, what would happen if you swapped that for a 5-speed?
Every once in a while, something pops up that surprises me. So I’ll start off by saying that I had no idea that this model even existed. ‘What?’, you say – and rightly so, as I just looked at an E89 Z4 Roadster a few weeks ago:
2011 BMW Z4 sDrive35i
Ah, but that was the turbocharged ’35’ model, and while I knew there was a lower-specification naturally aspirated ’30i’ model (the same engine configuration was called ’28i’ in the E8x/E9x at the same time, making things more confusing). What I didn’t realize is that model was short-lived, though I suppose it should have made sense. The 2-Series went to four-cylinder power with its introduction in 2014, ending a long line of naturally aspirated inline-6 power in BMW coupes. But the change had already happened in 2012 in the E89; the N52 was dropped in favor of the N20. That should give you a clue as to displacement; this ’28’ was now 2.0 liters with a turbocharger. That probably sounds like a bit of a disappointment, but in typical German fashion it was pragmatic. The N20 was shorter, lighter, more fuel efficient, and effectively, just as powerful. Output was down to 240 horsepower from 255 with the N52, but torque was up to 260 lb-ft – 40 more than the N52, and while it can’t out-stump-pull the N54/N55’s numbers, for argument’s sake the 2.0 put out the same twist as the S54. Better still, while a majority of these engines were hooked to the equally pragmatic and efficient ZF 8-speed automatic, you could get a six-speed manual. So here’s one of the chosen few so selected:
Let’s say that instead of just hoping that some day your car will be worth a mint, or indeed even caring what other people think about your vehicular choices, you just want have a car which looks good and is enjoyable to drive. Let’s not forget, this advice is coming from someone with somewhat polarizing vehicle choices…so, take the advice with a grain of salt, but I’m going to persist in my argument that the 944 Turbo is the car for you. A true David of the 1980s, the 944 Turbo was the understated and unassuming Goliath slayer, turned down by the factory so as not to have its performance overshadow the 911 range. Being faster than a 911 is pretty much verboten in Germany and especially in Stuttgart, but nearly everyone that experienced a 944 Turbo in the 1980s came away with the impression that in every statistical (and in some non-statistical ways) it was a better car than the Carrera.
But, as our astute readership has previously noted, certain cars – the Audi Quattro, the BMW M3 and M5, and of course the 911 range – were the cars groups of individuals dream of. The 944 Turbo really wasn’t. There weren’t many people that hung 944 Turbo posters on their walls, because there was always something from Porsche that was a little bit more special – the 928 was more futuristic, the 911 was more comforting as a predictable classic, and “Turbo” was synonymous with only one Porsche in history.
That model wasn’t the 944, nor was it the 924. And though both of those respective cars outperformed their brethren in period and were very impressive outside of the Zuffenhausen lineup, the market of today in many ways continues to mimic the original sales trends. The 944 Turbo outsold the Quattro, outsold the M3 – neither, it should be noted, limited production cars. But today, probably in part because of its success, the 944 Turbo just doesn’t get the wows, the attention, or the press of its contemporaries. Of course, there’s one more thing it doesn’t get as a result – their price:
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: