Update 4/23/19: After a few months, this beautiful Bamboo Metallic 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant has popped up with new photos on eBay in a reserve auction. The seller was looking for $10,000 last time around. Will it sell this time?
I don’t think there are any young children sitting around pining for the loss of the wagon. It’s hard to imagine a young teen hanging a picture of a Audi Allroad on his wall next to the idealistic Ferraris and Porsches, after all. Say to a average car-obsessed 10-year old “someday you’ll really want a wagon”, and they’ll probably laugh. Then try to tell them it will be beige…
All of this raises an interesting point: at what point does this particular car become appealing? Is it because it’s rare? Certainly there aren’t many 200 20V quattro Avants out there, with most fans accepting that approximately 149 were imported. Is it because it’s old? Now on the verge of being 30, the scant number originally imported has dwindled to the point where I’m sure someone knows them all by name. After all, there were more people in my high school graduating class than 200 20V Avants imported. Is it because it’s powerful? Well, to be honest, the 217 horsepower the 3B turbocharged double-overhead cam 20V inline-5 chucked out originally seems pretty tame today. But at the time, you needed to spend a lot of money to go faster than this 5-door. Is it because it’s beige? Now it gets interesting, as I was frustrated by the drapes-match-the-carpet tones in a recent S8, which otherwise shares most of the characteristics I just mentioned:
2001 Audi S8
Yet here, this rare Bamboo Metallic over rare Travertine in the (you guessed it) rare 200 20V quattro Avant pulls the right strings and becomes quite desirable:
Let’s head back to some rarities we never received in the U.S.. Now, the V8 quattro did come here, as did (briefly) a manual version. However, U.S. manuals were not only few in number, they were solely 5-speed and hooked only to the lower-output PT 3.6 from the late ’89-90s and a few ’91s. By the time the revised ABH 4.2 launched, Audi had dumped the manual option for North America; if you wanted to row your own in a fast quattro, your option was the S4.
In Europe, though, the S4 could also be mated to a 4.2 V8. And instead of 5-speeds, those cars got the 6-speed manual gearbox. That combination would go on to be the highlight reel of the S6, S6 Plus and early S8s, too. But a few select V8 quattros with the 276 horsepower 4.2 got that 6-cog manual, and our reader John spotted a very clean example:
Update 3/25/19: This Audi 50000S quattro sold for $1,500.
Did I say ‘trio’ of Audis? Well, when a clean older quattro pops up for sale, it’s always worth a look, so here’s numero quattro. As with the 80, the 5000S was an interesting addition to the marketplace for Audi. When the Type 44 quattro was introduced in the U.S. for the 1986 model year, it was solely available as a top-tier turbocharged 5000CS model. That continued for the ’87 model year, but in ’88 – the last year for the ‘5000’ moniker – Audi started to bring the C3 in line with its European counterparts. In Europe, Audi had offered the 100 quattro and 200 quattro, the latter being the turbocharged model. That would be the same in the U.S. starting in 1989. But in 1988, both models were termed “5000” and, as it did with front-drive models in the large-chassis range for 86-88, the “S” or “CS” would denote naturally aspirated and turbocharged models, respectively. This was somewhat confusing as the same naming convention did not carry to the B2 chassis.
To make it even more confusing, it was reasonably hard to tell the 5000S and 5000CS quattros apart – at least, from the side. There were no body differences and both wore aerodynamic 15″ wheels, also associated with the Turbo model. This was changed in 1989 as the naturally aspirated 100 moved to 4×108″ wheels and brakes, although the quattro model had BBS wheels that visually matched the 200 model. Both models moved to the new, smaller chromed badges. One easy way to tell the models apart was from the front, where instead of the dual-chamber European-look headlights the 5000CS and Turbo models wore, the 5000S quattro shared the normal single chamber 9004 U.S. DOT lights. Peek inside and you were much more likely to see velour instead of leather. And, of course, pop the hood and the motivation was completely different:
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:
Update 9/13/18: This 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro sold for $7,900
Although 60 Minutes had disasterous effects on its U.S. sales, the confabulation by the television program failed to halt Audi’s rapid developments in the late 1980s. First to launch was the V8 quattro in 1988. Although we wouldn’t see the model emerge until late ’89 as a 1990 model year car, Europeans got a jump start on Audi’s top-tier luxury performance sedan. However, Audi simultaneously upgraded the 200 model with a new performance version, and in 1989 launched the DOHC 20V version of the model. This car sat in between the V8 and normal 200, with the familiar 2.2 liter turbocharged inline-5 just where you’d expect it but now with more spunk. Producing 217 horsepower and 228 lb.ft of torque, it was down on grunt to the PT V8’s 240/258. However, at 3,350 lbs, it was also down on weight nearly 600 lbs and equipped solely with a 5-speed manual, and consequently the 200 20V could scoot to 60 in around 6.5 seconds and the boost didn’t run out until 150 mph. The V8 and 200 20V shared some bits, such as the front “UFO” floating rotor design, forged 7.5″ BBS wheels and some interior trim, as well as the obvious body similarities. However, the two cars had remarkably different character and driving styles thanks to their drivetrain and engine differences.
Both have become hard to find in today’s market; the V8 because of expensive repairs, and the 200 because of scarcity and parts pilfering. Because the 3B came only in the 200 to these shores, plenty have been used as a basis to build S2 clones or upgrade an older 4000 quattro chassis. Audi claims they built a total of 4,767 sedans and 1616 Avants worldwide, Audi sold around 1,200 total 200 20Vs here, with the vast majority being sedans like today’s example:
When it came to the late 1980s, Audi’s monopoly on the all-wheel drive market was coming to an end. Not only were new turbocharged pocket-rockets being born seemingly every day, but Mercedes-Benz had introduced their new “4Matic” designed by Steyr-Daimler-Puch. While you could make a pretty convincing argument that Audi’s design was superior in extreme conditions, there was at least one aspect of the Mercedes-Benz that trumped Ingolstadt’s design – you could get an automatic.
Now, to most enthusiasts that probably sounds like a bad idea. But when it came to selling car – especially expensive luxury cars – the overwhelming majority of buyers wanted the car to do most of the heavy lifting. Audi’s response was the next generation of quattro drivetrains; like Steyr’s system, with a series of clutches in the center differential that helped to transfer power and allowed the car to be mated to an automatic transmission. That transmission – the ZF 4HP24A – was a derivative of the 4HP24, the same automatic found in the V12-equipped BMW 750 and 850s. Like the Mercedes-Benz, Audi employed Bosch ABS and a locking rear differential. But unlike other Audis with their manual- or electronic-locking rear differential, the V8 quattro used a Torsen rear differential with helical gears which would automatically split torque in up to a 3:1 ratio to the wheel with grip.
But the V8 quattro wasn’t only about its unique new form of all-wheel drive. The moniker obviously indicated there had been a change in motivation, too, and indeed the V8 launched a new all-aluminum 4 cam, 32 valve V8 displacing 3.6 liters dubbed the PT. Rated at 240 horsepower and 254 lb.ft of torque, it was the most powerful Audi for sale in the late 1980s and brought the brand to a luxury level it had previously not competed at. In the U.S., these mega-Audis were met with mixed success. The 1990 launch of the V8 resulted in reasonably good sales; Audi sold 2,823 between late 1989 and the end of 1990 which represented over 10% of their yearly sales. Consider that the legendary Quattro never even broke 1% of Audi’s annual sales here; in its most successful year Quattros comprised .62% of the overall sales for the company.
But it was downhill – sharply – from there, as Audi nearly left the U.S. market and top-flight executives hit a notoriously bad sales patch. That meant that in total only 3,868 V8 quattros were sold in the U.S. This might be one of the best ’90s left:
It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been well over a decade since I bid farewell to my Audi 200. It was never meant to be; I had always admired the turbocharged Avants and so when one came up for sale for an incredibly low asking price, I jumped.
Turned out it was more than just me that needed a jump. And it turned out that the 200 needed a lot more than just a jump; the clutch was thoroughly fried, as were the brakes, and the fuel system, and a few other odds and ends. I patched it together and we enjoyed a memorable run of events. Of all my automotive calamity stories, about 50% revolve around both of my big body Audis. The V8 created more hair-raising events (such as the time the throttle stuck wide open and in an effort to stop it I managed to set the brakes on fire), but the 200 wasn’t to be outdone.
There was the time I left the tollbooth on the Mass Pike. The car was running particularly well that day, so I gave it WOT leaving the gate. First to second and the nose was pointed at the sky! Surely, everyone must be saying “WOOOOOOOW!!!“, and it turns out they were because I had blown an oil cooler line and was crop dusting Sturbridge with a thick coat of atomized 10W-40. Another time the voltage regulator died, leaving me to switch various electrical items on and off to balance the charge between 11.5 and 14 volts all the ride home from Cape Cod. It blew several tires while on the road, which admittedly probably wasn’t it’s fault but was exciting nonetheless. I found out that the ABS worked – well – in an ice storm on 95 one time as I passed a braking BMW on the hard shoulder. The coolant lines froze one day – a major feat, since there was theoretically coolant in them. It twice threw alternator belts, leaving me to drive home the length of Rt. 24 at 5am with no lights on. The air conditioner didn’t work. Actually, basically everything electronic didn’t work particularly well if I’m honest. The radio’s blown speakers weren’t enough to overcome the wind noise created by the necessity to have the windows down at all times if the outside temp was over 60. But the kicker? The kicker was that the brake lines collapsed, leaving the calipers to randomly seize partially closed. As a result, you had to go full throttle to maintain 50 mph which, as you read at the beginning of this passage, occasionally presented an explosive problem. I gave up eventually, unable to stomach this car consuming more of my money.
Sound charming? It was. But most of my issues probably would have been remedied if I simply had bought a better example:
Let’s go back to the beginning of Type 44 production today and take a look at this Audi 5000S. To me, this car represents just about the least appealing model in the lineup for 1985. No turbo, no quattro, automatic, Kalahari Beige Metallic – it really doesn’t get more yawn than this. “But it’s a ‘S’ model“, you say. Ah, but continuing on the theme of Audi’s unconventional naming strategy in the U.S., there was cleverly no non-S model for a few years – everyone got a participation trophy.
As it turns out, there were a lot of ‘everyone’. The new 5000, which started selling in the U.S. in 1984, was a massive success for Audi. In fact, it was far and away the most successful model they sold in the 1980s. And while we love to see turbos and quattro and manuals, it was specifically this car – gold Audi 5000S front-drive automatics – that sold in droves. Audi sold 48,057 5000s in 1985, for example. Only about 20% were Turbos. And the quattro model didn’t launch until very late in the year. Even when it did, they similarly never accounted for more than 20% of sales of the Type 44.
Still, ~40,000 doesn’t sound like a bit number. But consider Audi sold a total of 26,000 other cars between the Coupe, Quattro and all 4000s the same year. And the 5000’s proliferation wasn’t just over one model year. From 1984 to 1988, Audi sold 171,494 Type 44s in the U.S. and was really only limited by the November 1986 airing of the 60 Minutes debacle. This ’85 is representative of how a majority were delivered, but is not indicative of the condition of most today: