V.I.S.I.T. – Audi 5000

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Before Audi started selling literally dozens of Audi V8s on our shores following that whole 60 Minutes unpleasantness, we had the Audi 5000 as the third fiddle in the German triumvirate of executive sedans. Actually, things weren’t going too bad for Audi during those years. The year before that program aired Audi managed to sell almost 75 thousand cars in the US alone. Very impressive figures, for a brand that just years before was selling cars that even diehard Audi fans now wince at. The 5000 premiered just as the economy was getting better, and Americans were no longer satisfied with rolling living rooms that handled like rolling living rooms. Offering turbos and quattros (whatever those are), the 5000 came with an impossibly sleek drag coefficient and a spacious, well thought-out cabin that practically exuded German engineering.
 
The example above was obviously in fantastic condition, though I have to confess that this is probably the first time I’ve seen these particular wheels on the 5000.  It’s curious to see just how differently the W126 S-class, the E34 7-series, and the Audi 5000/200 have weathered on our shores over the years. It’s seemingly impossible to go a day without seeing a W126 in traffic. But if we’re talking about the Audi 5000, or the E23 or E32 7-series, you might as well forget it.

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A tip of the hat to the owner of this example for keeping this car in stock condition. Lately there’s been a frenzy in Audi circles over the very last Audi 200 20 Valve Avants that were sold in this country. And when I say very last, I mean out of the less than 160 that were imported in the first place. Even though Audi enthusiasts get weak in the knees at the sight of well kept Audi 200 Avants, that love doesn’t quite extend to the 5000 sedan.

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Some time ago I talked to a grizzled veteran of the car sales arts, who regaled me with fantastic tales of derring-do from his years in the trenches over a cuppa joe. Ahab (let’s just call him Ahab) used to sell Audis in Connecticut in the early 1980s, which were popular in the provinces of New England and were starting to present a serious challenge to the hegemony of Volvo, Saab, and Poozhoe. Before the infamous 60 Minutes program aired, he told me, his dealership used to move a few dozen cars a month and things were looking up. Big sedans from Ingolstadt were starting to steal sales from Mercedes and BMW, and embarrassing the relatively old-fashioned Pugs. Immediately after the program aired monthly sales dropped into the single digits, the dealership was avoided like it was radioactive, and six months later he was selling Hondas. So seeing any Audi from those years, especially in spectacular condition such as this example, is always a special occasion.

41 Comments

        1. Yeah, but that's just following the general trend of model bloat. I think the line of succession from the 5000 goes pretty directly to the A6.

          1. It does. The 1991 was the last year of the 44 chassis. The A6 was the next rev and got the turbo 20v in the S4. But it just wasn't the same. 🙁

      1. I would have to go with the V8 as the predecessor of the D2 A8, for a number of reasons. The 5000/200 cars were really the last ones in a line of cars that were neither here nor there, size and equipment-wise. The 5000 was not a true E32/W126 competitor, it was more of a V8 pathfinder.
        Some enterprising European coachbuilders even found a way to retrofit A8 panels on to the V8 models, facelifting them in the same way that VH and Carat facelifted the W140 with W220 body panels. I'm not making this up.

      2. Outside the USA this model was sold as the 3rd generation of Audi 100 and these slim headlight versions as the 2nd model Audi 200. This model was then superceded by the 4th generation Audi 100, which was later renamed as the first generation A6

        1. You're exactly right, I came here to say the same thing. This is the direct predecessor of the first generation A6.

    1. I consider this the predecessor, if only because it was the flagship at the time, and it was a very big car – as big if not bigger than an A8.

  1. My dad had an Audi 5000S when I was in high school and college. I enjoyed it at the time. It was his work car, I think he put close to 200k miles on it. It is the only car he has ever given away. There are no cheap Audi parts to keep these things on the road.
    He actually bought his used, post 60 Minutes. It came down to the Audi or a used Taurus, the Audi was significantly cheaper.

  2. Yay. Another chance to post "I had one and regret giving it away".
    <img src="http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/12448_212087817852_1647966_n.jpg"&gt;
    Pretty great car. There was nothing in it that was screwed up or tattered. Mine was a non-turbo quattro- big lights, black plate surround, velour and 5 speed manual. Even the dash was different that the turbo. That was part of Audi's problem. Every car was nearly its own line. The A4 started back making quattro an option.
    With 130hp and quattro, this car was a billy goat but would be a blast on the backroads. It was a genuinely fun car to drive.
    The car in Jay spotted looks like a turbo FWD. Turbo lights and grill, amber-red plate surround and 5 lug wheels. I've seen those on a few 5000s but rare. Thumbs up to the owner for keeping it going and looking nice. I bet it had a respray with the rear badges missing.
    Mine didn't like the Texas heat. The power steering pump busted, oil lines busted, battery and alternator failed. It was taking $500 a month to keep it going. The A4 was cheaper. But the A4 was a piece of crap.

    1. "The power steering pump busted, oil lines busted, battery and alternator failed. It was taking $500 a month to keep it going. The A4 was cheaper. But the A4 was a piece of crap."
      That, my fellow Hoons, is the essence of Hooniverse. This olelongrooffan, for one, loves it!

      1. Keep in mind, this was pre-internets and I was new to the city and didn't know a soul. The best I had was the quattro email list and that was an infrequent source.
        If I'd have the resources to info and parts like I have today, I'd still have that car.

    2. The one pictured looks just like my '89 200 turboquattro, except for the weird wheels. I believe they changed the dash when they started calling them 100 (non-turbo) and 200 (turbo) instead 5000.
      On mine the turbo ducting came off, the headliner fell in, the drivers window stopped working, and the transmission picked up a bad whine in 2nd, among other things. I paid about $8k for it, and probably spent twice that in maintenance in the 2 years I ran it. But it was flat out amazing to drive. Especially after I turned up the boost and added a bypass valve. The mods probably didn't help the transmission any…

      1. 1988 was the last year for the 5000. By that time the name was garbage. The 1989 did the refresh with the interior the body was 99% the same.
        The 1987 badging was plastic. The 1988 was metal. Pretty classy since it wouldn't off like every other badge Audi had used.
        My non-turbo may have been the reason I didn't eat the trans. 200hp would have been insane. Still, that 2.3 was a great engine and made the same noise as the Gruppe B cars.

    3. Yeah, from having talked to couple owners, there really did seem to be an ungodly variety of diff bits for the various versions of the same car. And I'm not even talking Audi 100/Audi 200 differences.
      This one really must have been resprayed at some point, they're not this nice even in museums.

      1. You can see the driver door is a touch darker than the rest of the car, so it's at least been partially resprayed. Probably different sections at different times.

    4. The Texas heat didn't like my '78 Fox, either. I got to go through The Infamous Summer Of 1980 with it (42 straight 100+ degree days, 69 days with no measured rain, back-to-back 113s on June 26th and 27th, days where it would be 100 degrees at 10am and 100 degrees at 10pm), and it didn't like it one bit.
      The radiator was too small, so the coolant ran hot, the oil ran hot (yes, it came with an oil temp gauge), and the a/c wasn't up to the job. Also, the dash cracked one day in the heat ( the car was less than two years old) with a loud bang.

      1. A lot of cars just aren't cut out for those sorts of temperatures, be it in TX or even on the east coast. I find it funny when sellers make a huge deal in the adverts about some car being a Florida car. To me that means the AC is shot, the dash is burnt and rattly, the paint is baked in places, windows delaminating, etc
        You have a very, ahem, detailed memory of that year : ) But yeah, if it was like that, I'd remember that too.

  3. For the last few years that I was in high school, I lived in an apt house that was surrounded on three sides by a Porsche/Audi dealership. I'd see these every day, sometime truckloads of them. I've alway really liked these cars, with the high ground clearance, and the sci-fi blobby style with the thin pillars. I'd love to have one.

  4. Our family had a 5000 fwd that I ruined by missing a red light. It was kinda light on its feet and was fun to drive.
    It was replaced with a same-body 100 Quattro that was a total dog. And expensive to maintain. Every week some electronic module would fail.
    For whatever reason, my folks soldier on, each with an A4 Avant 2.0T.

    1. Because 5000 > 100? 5000 sounds 'bigger' than 100, 100 sounds insufficient when the competitors were named 528i and 300E. Probably a cultural thing. They changed the name of the 80 to 4000 in the US.
      I'm just guessing here though.

        1. It does make you wonder how such a boat of a car can be moved by hardly more than a moped engine. An Audi 5000 CC would make much more sense, wouldn't it?

  5. A buddy of mine daily drives one of these, a 1986 Audi 100 CS (2011 German import) with only 142k km on it if I recall correctly. 5 cylinder, FWD, no turbo, manual gearbox and the luxury CS edition still means manual windows and no AC. It's great to drive and feels absolutely solid. I don't think he needs to spend much on maintenance to be honest, but we both do live close to the German border. Early 100 specific parts are getting harder to get though.
    It oozes 'luxury' and 'quality' a lot more than the over a decade newer and power-everything Legacy wagon I recently drove it back to back with. I got to compare it with the 1986 Merc w124 200D another buddy of mine drives as well. Both cars are quite different, yet the sense of class and solidness is similar. The Benz is a comfy couch you don't feel the need to drive fast in, the Audi is much more sporty and invites you to significantly break highway speed limits. But that might be due to the very different engines as well.

      1. That would be a great idea, but they're not my cars. And I can't do it all from memory, besides I just drove them not too long apart without doing review-like tests. The brother of the Audi 100 owner's got a set of E30s, among which a 325ix he rebuilt and restored. And I own a mk2 Golf as a second car. That's a nice 80s setup right there, although they aren't all in the same class. It's too bad the owners aren't into these kinds of things.

        1. I am daily driving a 87 FWD 1.8. don't know wether the four banger was ever available in the USDM, its quite the same lump as in millions of golfs and jettas out there, whick makes buying parts sheer pleasure over here. it feels a whole lot quicker than the numbers may imply, due to the 5speed and the lack of any gadgets (and I mean any, I have to crank the windows open, lock every door manually, also an AC was extraordinaire in germany back in the days) besides the sun roof and the said 5speed. also the huge chunk of car weighs only 2400 lbs, they were damn serious about the light weight and the low drag thing.
          I guess it was the ubiquitous auto (in germany type44s with AT are as popular as medical waste on the beach) and the loads of gadgets, audi didn't have that much experience with by the time, that gave the 5000 its bad reputation in the US. maybe the mixture of german engineering and the US maintainance policy also played its role.

  6. This was one of the more enjoyable drivers I've owned. It was succeeded by a much more powerful first-gen Acura Legend. Of the two, the Audi delivered better handling, road feel and shifter feedback (both were 5 speeds, pretty darn rare). In typical VAG fashion, it was all the failing little (expensive) bits that frustrated.

  7. I always liked those five-spoke wheels. More aggressive looking than what you typically saw on 5000s.

  8. My dad owned a 1984 5000S back in the day. It was without question the most unreliable car he's ever owned (and he owned a 1980 Seville). Ended up giving it away to his mechanic. Aside from the endless string of problems, and a motor so powerful that it could hit 60mph in just under a day with a tail wind, the car was rock solid at 120K miles and a lot of fun to drive. Not a single rattle or squeak anywhere, lots of room inside and good AC that kept the huge cabin cool during Florida summers (essential since the windows didn't work half the time). Great looking car even today (or is that, especially today when all cars have become somewhat generic).

  9. Hey that's my car. Just stumbled across this page and was flattered by the comments. I have owned it for about 5 years. It was a west coast car traded in at a local Chevy dealership here in Central Ohio. Picked it up for a song. It needed a little TLC and has been a solid German Highway cruiser. Chipped for a little extra punch. Handles great and smooth and quiet. everything works and it still brings smiles when I get behind the wheel. Had to change out the stock Aero wheels for the Fuchs, but an otherwise stock Turbo Quattro with under 200K on the odometer.

    1. Thanks for checking in Thunderbox. Your ride is, indeed, a sweet one. We Hoons love the idea of the smiles it brings to you and appreciate this style ride and I personally invite you to hang around the Hooniverse and see what fun stuff we have to offer. Sharing our space with some likeminded friends would be great. Enjoy yourself and thanks again for checking in.

  10. I had a US version 1984 5000 with auto.Worst year. Bought it used in 1987, kept it until 1998, when the engine oil and trans oil began to mix together. Figure out that German engineering feat. It was a sleek car, the first with flush window glass. One night with my new tires we went to dinner, two couples, it ran quickly up to 105 and we cruised there for a while. I would shadow the fast drivers on my long Friday drive home. Let the Camaro going 100 get ahead and use him as my rabbit. Easy to keep up. If my Audi hit a big sharp bump at 80mph the whole car would sound like a tuning fork. The door handles would freeze shut, The window lifts would break. German cars have a lot of little problems. It must be the fault of whatever Duke, or Baron, kid engineer gets that project. If that car was stick shift, I would still have it.
    Got a new Golf R now, Heavy car, Fast, very interesting Hot Rod features, the wheels all bend when you hit a bump, $550 a wheel, plus $250 tire and labor, and a LOT of my time. They say the wheel/Tire is not part of the drivetrain. They should be nice if they want to be the biggest in the World, like the Roman Empire, again.

  11. That Audi 5000 was THE most comfortable car for long drives. I attribute that chiefly to the all way electric seats, you could just zip in a little new seat angle, this way and that, and it was absolutely wonderful, you never got tired. They interior materials were something a Ford could only dream about. Only now are the car companies beginning to do nice materials. For all that class and luxury and perfect size it weighed 2,800 lbs. Compare to today at 1,000 more. What a fit and finish! Get one like the one above (I think those are forged wheels) with the turbo stick shift. Get it really cheap, the best one you can find, and find a really good mechanic to care for it. They NEVER rust.

  12. On that Audi 5000, the cat back exhaust finally perished, when then car was13 years old, in Chicago weather. I ordered new parts. Note that the exhaust is invisible under there. While it was noisy I stuck a black shop vac tip that had a flange under the bumper. All that showed in back was a 3 1/2" black angled back downpipe. Suddenly American drivers treated me differently. People notice all that performance BS.
    When I got the parts, and using my Bentley Book, I did a magnificent installation job, best one I have ever done. I still beam at how satisfying that was, better than new.
    Germans make the best cars, when they want to.

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