One of the reasons it’s hard to get excited about the Type 43 Audi is just how far forward the bar was moved with the Type 44. Similar to the leap from the 6-series to the 8-series BMW, the Type 44 was a radical departure both in style, aerodynamics, and chassis dynamics. The basic Type 44 chassis would endure a remarkable run, too – from its basic layout in the Forschungsauto FV Auto 2000 from the 1981 Frankfurt Auto Show right through the derivative D11 V8 quattro through the 1994 model year. The C3 was revolutionary in its incorporation of modern aerodynamic devices, helping to drop drag coefficients to a then-excellent .30 cd. The Audi design prompted many copies, the most notable of which was the very popular Ford Taurus.
But the C3 was about more than just a slick body. Underneath it continued the C2’s turbocharging on top-tier models. With the addition of intercooling, power was up quite a bit from the prior model. Where the 1983 5000 Turbo generated 130 horsepower and 142 lb.ft of torque in U.S. trim, the C3’s MC1 brought 158 horsepower and 166 lb.ft of torque to the party. It was good enough to prompt notoriously BMW-friendly Car and Driver to name it to its ’10 Best’ list for the first time. In the later 200 20V, it also brought a tamed version of Audi’s Sport Quattro motor to market. The Ingolstadt company also pioneered full body galvanization, something that would become the norm for many newer cars moving forward. That body also grew, as Audi added its signature ‘Avant’ model to the lineup. But of course the big news was the 1986 addition of the word synonymous with Audi in the 1980s and ever since – quattro:
Update 11/11/18: This 5000S was relisted and is listed as sold again at $1,525.
Update 10/3/18: This 5000S sold at $1,325.
Back in May I took a look at a 1985 Audi 5000S. As I said at the time, the 5000S was just about as undesirable as an Audi got from that period for me. Most were boring color combinations with a boring 3-speed automatic and boring performance as a result. But, importantly, they existed. And without them, Audi probably wouldn’t have for our market.
Sure it would be exciting to look at a 1985 Quattro. But they only sold 73 of those. The 4000 quattro? 4,897 left dealerships. The GT? 3,586 were sold. In fact, if you combine all other Audis sold in 1985, you still come up short to the number of non-Turbo 5000s that left dealers. At nearly 40,000 spoken for, this car here represents the bulk of Audi sales and the bread-and-butter of the company’s appeal in the 80s. In fact, 1985 Type 44 sales were the most prolific of any Audi chassis from 1970 through 2000 in the U.S.. That was why the 60 Minutes sham had such impact on the company. By 1988, the number of Type 44s sold here was down to 10,000 from nearly 50,000 high point of 1985.
But in 1985 the “unintended acceleration” wasn’t yet a new item and these were still selling like the proverbial hotcake. So let’s take a look at this claimed low-mileage example and see if we can see some appeal today:
Update 9/26/18: This V8 quattro sold for $1,775.
We’re going from one of the best 200 20V quattros out there to the more typical comparison point for an early 90s Audi – a project. I won’t bore you with all the details of what made the V8 quattro unique because I did so back in August when we looked at a very clean and tidy ’90 in Indigo Blue Metallic. Sufficed to say, they’re neat cars that all too often are parted out rather than going through the laborious task of keeping them afloat.
So here we have a ’90 V8 quattro. Like the majority, it is a 4-speed automatic in Pearlescent White Metallic. Generally speaking, I mentioned in my last few V8 posts that the cars to have are the rare 5-speed manuals, the less often seen 4.2, or the absolute best 3.6 you can find. But there are a few reasons to be interested in this particular one – let me tell you why:
Recently, I saw a picture of the new Volvo V90. It’s a handsome and striking design, wide, low and some rakish angles – especially in the rear. Where Volvos have traditionally been pretty square, this one reminded me in many ways of another large wagon, but one from 30 years ago – the Audi Type 44 Avant. Pardon the pun, but it was pretty avant garde for the time; much more aerodynamic and futuristic looking than its contemporaries, arguably it still doesn’t look particularly old today. Okay, you can point out some of the 80s styling elements – large black rubber moldings surround the car, the wheels look tiny in comparison to the modern 19″ or 20″ wheels that seemingly everything wears, and there are no fancy LED strips and clear taillights. But this uncluttered design still looks great and stands apart from most other 1980s products. While the Type 44 range was topped by the 1991 200 20V model that most lust after, a clean earlier 5000 example like this is neat to see:
Much as the Quattro set the trend for performance turbocharged all-wheel drive coupes in the 1980s, Audi launched another trend-setter in 1988. The V8 quattro was not an all-new design; it borrowed heavily from the Type 44 200 chassis, but several revisions completely redefined the character of Audi’s flagship. First was the motor, an all-aluminum quad cam V8 coded PT displaced 3.6 liters initially. If you thought it was effectively two Volkswagen 16V motors sandwiched together, you thought correctly – Audi mimicked what Porsche had done with the 944/928 motor designs. With 240 horsepower, the new V8 offered about a 20% boost in power over the 10V turbo motors that were in the European 200s. But the real innovation wasn’t the motor – it was the automatic transmission. Combining a multi-plate clutch center differential and an all-new Torsen rear differential, the V8 quattro drove decidedly quite differently than the inline-5 variants. Weight, while not down thanks to a host of luxury items, was moved backwards and the V8 was more balanced and less prone to understeer than the turbos were. Additionally, the torque was near instant. But by 1991, the gap between the now 20V variant of the 200 and the V8 was so narrow that Audi upped the displacement. The new ABH V8 upped the power to 276 horsepower and 296 lb.ft of torque. Outside, subtle changes helped to distinguish the luxury variant after Audi’s brief foray into absolutely no badging from 1990-1991. Now with small “V8” monikers front and rear, along with a small “quattro” script, the performance was quite a bit improved over the earlier car. Additionally, there were small changes to the 4.2 model – such as some new colors, a transmission cooler and a mildly revised cockpit featuring the updated climate control. But outside remained effectively unchanged, as the 4.2 wore the same forged BBS RG wheels that the 1991 3.6 V8s had. What was always a bit special was the presentation of the V8 quattro – low, hunkered down and widened over the normal slab-sided 200, the headlights and hood treatment hinted at the revised Audi design language that would carry through to the mid-2000s. Plus, the V8 quattro sported some awesome flares to pull it all together. If you like cars such as the 500E and 540i, you can thank the V8 quattro for establishing the benchmark for them. Yet considered over-complicated and prone to mechanical failure, few of these pioneering luxury Autobahn cruisers survive in the U.S. today:
You’d be forgiven for thinking, based solely on my 1980s Audi coverage, that there was only one front drive model available during those times – the Coupe GT. True enough, the 2-door is my favorite of the front drive Audis from that time, but in fact Audi produced many two wheel drive cars right up to the 2000s. Few remember, for example, that there was a front drive A8 available briefly with a smaller 3.7 motor. A few generations earlier, though, and it was a different large Audi that was initially available in front drive only – the 5000, before it was a quattro, was powered only by the leading wheels. Indeed, even its famous appearance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was, while a Turbo model, still front drive only. And while it’s been the quattro versions of both the Coupe and 4000 that were more popularly remembered, both the 5000S and 4000S enjoyed a popular base and were good cars in their own right. Today we have two of these forgotten and forlorn Audis to take a look at:
There are probably a few out there reading this who will remember Huey Lewis and the News, or perhaps you’re a fan of Christian Bale and his performance in American Psycho which prominently featured a notoriously catchy song by the band, “It’s Hip to be Square”. While the song itself was a relative hit, for me it’s Bale’s character’s critique of the band that is particularly poignant when considering Audis from the 1980s:
“You like Huey Lewis and the News? Their early work was a little too new wave for my taste, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far more bitter, cynical sense of humor. I think their undisputed masterpiece is “Hip to Be Square,” a song so catchy, most people probably don’t listen to the lyrics. But they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of conformity, and the importance of trends, it’s also a personal statement about the band itself!”
Audi reinvented itself in the 1980s; with crisp, clean new designs that stood apart from their countrymen. They were boxy but aerodynamic, clean and economical – yet at the same time, they were really noticeable, looked expensive and have stood the test of time. Yet few people partook in these 1980s Audis compared to some more period marques. If Mercedes-Benz was the sign that you had made it to opulent wealth and still made good decisions, BMW was the sign that – well, you’d just made it to wealth. But Audis, though quite dear in price, were always a bit different; outsiders in their own land. Whilst everyone else took tried and true paths, Audi forged ahead through unusual means – small displacement, turbocharged motors feeding locking differentials and all-wheel drive, for example. Every model seemed to be a statement within itself that the company was different, and few embody that ethos quite as well as the 5000CS quattro and Coupe GT: