Audi sales in North America collapsed in the years following the 1986 “Unintended Acceleration” fiasco involving automatic-transmission-equipped Audi 5000s, even for the completely unrelated Audi 4000. By 1988, the too-close-to-the-5000 4000’s name had been replaced with European-style 80 and 90 badging (the latter being the more luxurious version of the B3 Audi 80); the 80/90 Quattro offered the all-wheel-drive sure-footedness of the Toyota Camry All-Trac or Ford Tempo 4WD, plus German-style handling and styling. Here’s a very solid, low-mile ’88 that I spotted in a Denver-area yard a few weeks ago.
Now that’s a low odometer reading for a 31-year-old car in the crusher’s waiting room.
No rust whatsoever, no big dents, no scrapes, no missing trim. I haven’t seen a B3 Audi 80 or VW Passat that looks this nice, on the street or otherwise, for at least 15 years.
Inside, the seat cloth shows some easily-cleaned smudges. No rips, no dangling headliner, no evidence of the sort of rabid-doberman-versus-weed-whacker interior damage that I find in most junkyard cars this age. How does a car this nice end up getting thrown away?
I can think of two reasons. First, it might have some mechanical problem that would cost a lot to fix; perhaps it sat for a decade and then the finicky CIS fuel-injection system got clogged up with varnish. Second, Audi aficionados around here can have their pick of much quicker turbocharged A4s from the current century, available at very reasonable prices. As far as I know, not much of an American enthusiast following exists for the 1988-1992 Audi 80/90.
Compared to a turbo A4, power numbers for these cars don’t raise any eyebrows today: 130 horses from a naturally-aspirated 2.3-liter straight-five engine. That was not shabby for a 2,948-pound all-wheel-drive sedan in the late 1980s, but Audi spent the subsequent decade adding more and more power to its cars.
You’re more likely to find a manual transmission in one of these cars than in, say, a U.S.-market BMW of the same era, but most of the ones I find have the two-pedal rig. This car must have been fun to hoon around a snow-covered parking lot. Soon it will be shredded and reborn as refrigerators and warehouse shelving.
Here’s a dealership promo film, showing off the 80/90 in a way Toyota never would have done with the Camry All-Trac.