Without a doubt, wagons are one of the favorite subjects here at GCFSB, and while there are plenty of desirable, big name Avants, Tourings and Estates that grab the headlines and generate the “likes” on Myface or Spacebook or Instaselfie or whatever, if I’m honest I’m always a fan of the underdog Passat Variant. Perhaps it’s because I’ve owned two, perhaps it’s because it’s the less common choice; I’m not entirely certain. True, the Passat isn’t the best performing wagon out there, and I’d concede that it’s not the best looking or best made one either. But in terms of the performance you can get in a stealthy, good looking package on a budget, I think that the Passat may be the real sleeper in the German wagon realm.
But the positive aspects of the Passats aren’t unknown to all; the Quantum Syncro is always a popular if rarely seen ’80s icon for the company, and when we got to the Golf-based B3 and B4, there were some cool options too – such as the not-for-the-U.S. G60 Syncro. But even in the U.S., the B4 offered some neat performance options for the wagon aficionado – interestingly, in very different directions. Check the “TDi” option, and you had a hyper-miler capable of over a thousand miles on a tank of gas. Check the “GLX” option on your order form and you’d get the torquey, great sounding VR6 engine and BBS wheels in a sporty package. While both of those engine options were also available in the Golf lineup at the same time, if you wanted a true 5-door you could only select the Passat. Admittedly that’s a niche market, so it should come as no surprise that this is a fairly uncommon car to see today:
The lineup of offbeat VAG survivors continues today with this second generation Volkswagen Passat, of course badged the “Quantum” for the U.S. market. Volkswagen was happy to tout the Quantum as the sole “German engineered Grand Touring car sold in America that was available as both a sedan and station wagon and came equipped with a 5-cylinder, fuel injected engine, front-wheel drive, power assisted rack and pinion steering, four-wheel independent suspension AND cruise control”. You don’t say, VW? Seriously, I think they could have left a few modifiers off that description and it still would have been true. This model replaced the lovely and popular Dasher model which had been available in several configurations. Briefly, the new B2 continued that and if you’ve ever seen a 1982 Quantum 2-door hatchback in person in the U.S., you might be alone. The model was dropped quickly, though continuing on was the Variant (VW-speak for wagon) model. And because the underpinnings were shared with the B2 Audi, things started to get pretty interesting for the upscale VW. And, confusing.
The weird part is that this model actually tread on the toes of its even more upscale competition – the Audi 4000. Though early 4000s had the 5-cylinder available as an option, when it came to the mid-80s Audi saved the inline-5 only for the quattro models and Coupe GT/5000 front drivers. The 4000 grabbed the engine from the GTI, instead. But you could still get a 5-cylinder Quantum, and you could get a wagon version – something Audi didn’t offer at all in the B2:
As I mentioned in my Audi A4 TDI post, the VAG community loves things that are different; and any Volkswagen Polo that makes it to the U.S. is certainly different since the model was never sold here. The Polo launched in 1975 as a rebadged Audi 50, but managed to outlive the car that it was based upon by some good measure. In 1981, the second generation debuted on the A02 platform – a standalone for the model and its be-trunked twin, the Derby (also not sold here). These super-minis were intended to be cheap and efficient; very basic equipment was met with very basic engines, though there was a GT version and an even cooler supercharged G40 model which we’ve looked at previously.
Today’s example is none of those. This is the basic 2-door wagon model that looks a bit like a delivery van. I had a friend I went to visit in Germany, and he and his girlfriend shuttled me around in a Polo not too dissimilar to this. A Volkswagen fan, I loved being in a model that wasn’t available in the States, but I did get the distinct impression that for many Germans ownership of a Polo was akin to a venereal disease. It was something you had to live with and couldn’t easily get rid of, and you really didn’t want anyone else to know you had it. But because these are different than the run-of-the-mill A2s, are they desirable today?
Update 10/18/19: This super supercharged 540iT sold for $11,100. Deal!
BMW’s continual refusal to bring the most powerful form of its its Touring/Sports Wagon historical lineup has been, as a 5-door enthusiast, pretty frustrating. That’s left Audi in the 2000s and Mercedes-Benz more recently to thoroughly dominate fast 5-doors, with the brief Cadillac interloper. But just because you couldn’t get an M5 Touring over here didn’t mean you couldn’t at least get M performance.
For that, though, you had to turn to fabled California tuner Dinan. No stranger on these pages, Dinan’s well-thought mods and clean execution earned his company a place in the revered showrooms of new BMWs. Cheap? Certainly not. Just the supercharger alone on this particular 540i was $16,000. But you get what you pay for, and the result when Dinan blew on the M62 was a claimed 400 horsepower. So this 540iT has the chops to back up its M5 looks:
Last week Carter took a look at a US-legal C5 Audi RS6 Avant that in terms of “super wagons” is right up there, and now that they are over 15 years-old, serious collectible vehicles. Thing is, you don’t get these amazing long bodies without some serious creative engineering and doing things like twin-turbocharging an already big V8. Mercedes-Benz is never one to be outdone, so they jumped into the game with the first-generation E55 AMG Estate and then went nuts on the W211 chassis with the supercharged E55 and 6.2 liter V8 E63. Today’s car is is the latter E63 that is just 1 or 62 examples produced for the 2007 model year for the US market. However, just like the RS6, big power means big issues, and judging by this car’s history, the E63 is not immune to that.
Most German car enthusiasts are no longer familiar with the name “DKW”. It’s a shame considering the long history of DKW, whose name originates from the German Dampf-Kraft-Wagen or “steam powered vehicle” – just to give you a sense of the time period they started out. DKW reached its zenith in the 1930s, a time when Germany was experiencing massive growth in its economy and Hitler wanted to turn the Fatherland into a nation of drivers. Ironically, despite his notable efforts supporting Grand Prix racers and the development of the Beetle, pre-War automobile ownership in Germany was amongst the lowest in all of Europe. They were, rather, a nation of riders – motorcycles, to be precise, buying more of the two-wheeled transport than anyone else in Europe. It was what gave companies like BMW a start, for example, but the most successful of all of the pre-War motorcycle companies was DKW. Upon joining the Auto Union in 1932, they began experimenting more with small cars. But the aftermath of World War II meant that the area that DKW, Audi and Horch – 3/4 of the Auto Union company – were stuck in Soviet controlled areas, most of the factories being disassembled and sent back further behind the Iron Curtain as war reparations.
The result was that in the late 1940s and early 1950s, new efforts to resurrect these names were attempted. It’s not very surprising that the attempts were made; after all, imagine if Chevrolet went out of business due to a War; you can bet once things were cleaned up, someone would try to make a Corvette. And sure enough, based upon some pre-War designs the F89 was born. As with most post-War cars in Germany, it was small, affordable and versatile. DKW utilized the platform to create what was, in essence, the first Audi Avant. The F94 chassis you see here was an updated version of the F89, replete with the 2-stroke 3-cylinder engine that the company claimed gave the power of an inline-6 – hence the paradoxical naming strategy of 3=6 for the Sonderklasse. With a space-saving transverse motor driving the front wheels, there was ample room for flexible seating in the rear. Outside was a reasonably aerodynamic, compact design and the small motor ensured reasonable fuel economy – though no promise of speed. Today, nearly 70 years after the design was first sketched out, finding these Universal Kombis is extraordinarily hard – and when they surface in the U.S., they’re typically not in particularly good shape:
Although the C3 Audi chassis enjoyed a reasonably long production run of 1984-1991, each year introduced changes that, while evolutionary, were notable and make each specific model year feel a little bit bespoke. The biggest change was the 1986 introduction of Audi’s all-wheel drive system of quattro to the large model range, making three distinct packages you could get the unique drivetrain in the luxury market. In the U.S. market, 1986 5000 quattros came only in “CS” spec and sedan – basically, fully loaded with only heated seats, Fuchs forged wheels and Pearlescent White Metallic paint as options. 1987 opened the options, but not with more gadgetry – the Avant, previously only available in front drive normally aspirated “S” form, joined the quattro lineup full time after being introduced about halfway through the 1986 model run. Alcantara also became a seldom-selected option. 1988 saw a very minor revision to the turbocharged “CS” models with new script badges in the rear and a few more options including heating for the rear seats and Velour interior options, but the big news was a new “5000S quattro” model, which came sans turbo and without the twin-bulb headlights, but shared the big brother turbo brakes and wheels. It was a smart move to drop the price on the quattro models, as the normal run 5000 reported outsold the 5000CS quattro by a measure of 4:1!
1989 was highlighted by a complete model refresh, moving to the European “100/200? model designations. Accompanying the change were some new colors and minor alterations, such as more upscale-looking 15?x6” BBS wheels (color matched on Pearlescent White Metallic examples, just as the aero and Fuchs wheels had been). But inside an entirely new sweeping dashboard setup would be the standard on big Audis for the next 7 years. Instead of the previously confusing “S/CS” monikers, turbocharged models now wore the 200 badge, while normally aspirated models were 100s. The Alcantara and Velour options disappeared on the 200 models, which came only fully-loaded, and Fuchs were no longer an option. The 100 quattro shared many components with the 80/90 quattros from the same time, including the NG normally aspirated motor instead of the turbocharged MC1. 100s also ran the familiar small-chassis 4×108 bolt pattern with accompanying smaller brakes, but oldly Audi commissioned BBS to make a run of 15?x6? wheels that matched the look of the 200’s wheels outwardly. Mechanically, otherwise there were few changes to either model, though as with the 80/90 quattros, the option to lock your own differential was now limited to the rear, and then speed limited to 15 m.p.h.. While 1990 saw few changes to the run overall, there was a change in motor in the 200. A rolling change saw the revised (and very short lived) MC2 replace the MC1. Twin knock sensors allowed engineers to run higher compression; coupled with a reground camshaft, lighter mass flywheel and smaller K24 turbo meant that the MC2 could run less boost and spool more quickly for a better driving experience, but ultimately the facts and figures say the power was unchanged. As always, top of the heap was the 200 quattro Avant, like this Zermatt Silver Metallic example:
I don’t think a lot of people saw this coming, but the Mercedes-Benz AMG estates from the mid-2000s are firmly holding their values. The results don’t lie, none have traded hands under the low $20,000 range that I can find and most are above $30,000. Great news if you own one, maybe not so great if you want to buy one. Although if the values keep holding strong, I guess buying one isn’t the worst idea ever as you are basically parking your money. However, there is another way to get your big V8 AMG wagon fix if you don’t want to pony up $30,000.
The only W203 worth buying, the C55 AMG, actually was made in wagon form in 2005 and 2006. They didn’t make many of them, less than 2,000, and exactly zero came to the United States. Not exactly a common car to find and even less so as it is rumored a lot of them went to Japan and other Asian countries. However, you can still find a handful for sale in Germany at any given time and they actually look pretty darn cool. We just have to wait until 2030 to import one to the United States. Canada however, get your chequebooks ready!
While the B10 BiTurbo generated the headlines as the world’s fastest sedan, BMW’s replacement M60 V8 motor was making its way into production and the M30 inline-6 was on its way out. Of course that meant it wasn’t too long before Buchloe got their hands on one, and in turn it wasn’t too long before the B10 4.0 replaced the BiTurbo as the top offering. But a year later, Alpina had already punched out the block to 4.6 liters. Now generating 340 horsepower, the new B10 4.6 not only was as quick as the M5, it was considerably cheaper and less complicated than the BiTurbo had been too.
Like the 4.0 before it, the standard 17″ Alpina wheel treatment, upgraded suspension, larger and less restrictive exhaust, aerodynamic tweaks and unique interiors all made their way here. Also like the 4.0, the 4.6 was available as either a sedan or Touring, and as either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed Switch-Tronic automatic. A scant 46 were built before the end of E34 production, of which only 19 were Touring models – making this one of the most limited Alpinas produced:
Audi brought the S4 Avant to the United States for the first time in 2001. It joined the sedan lineup and offered a follow-up to the large chassis S6 Avant from 1995. This was actually the second S4 Avant, as Europeans had enjoyed the C4-based creation in the early 90s. Audi’s renaming convention therefore created a successor to the B4-based S2 Avant. Instead of the traditional inline-5 motivation, though, Audi had developed a new 2.7 liter version of its V6. With a K03 turbocharger strapped to each side, the APB produced 250 horsepower at 5800 rpms and 258 lb.ft of torque at only 1850 revs. Like all the B5s, Audi’s new generation of ‘quattro’ used a T2 Torsen center differential and relied upon an electronic rear differential utilizing the ABS sensors. The B5 chassis used the same technology on the front differential as well and was capable of independently braking each front wheel to try to sort the car out through its dynamic stability program.
But the real fun was that it was available as an Avant and with a 6-speed manual. Just over 1,500 were claimed imported between 2001 and 2002’s model years, with about 600 of those being Tiptronic equipped. LY9B Brilliant Black was the second most popular color ordered behind Light Silver Metallic, and this particular Avant is one of 183 Brilliant Black (out of 850 total) manuals brought in for the 2001 model year: