While our best scientists try to figure out where these all went (some theorize Estonia), let’s all try to remember what these were all about. The B4 Audi 80 came out in 1991 and was essentially a heavy facelift of the previous generation model. While this model was called the 80 in Europe, insecure and understandably skittish North American buyers needed a bigger, awesomer number, one they didn’t associate with the dusk of the malaise era or the year Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Showing commendable restraint, Audi christened it as the 90 in North America, as opposed to what could have very well been the 9000, given previous naming practices. But Saab already had dibs on that futuristic and totally boss model number.
Needless to say, we got only the choicest option on our 90s, in the form of autoboxes, AC, and nicer-specced interiors. The 90 came with a range of in-line fours, as well as V6s in top spec. The range topping RS2 Avant we were of course denied, with all of its turbocharged inline five goodness, so there’s little point in rubbing salt in that wound again. The B4s were quite popular in Europe, and are still considered to be stylish budget transportation in the Baltic states. And the design of the 90 has aged well, all things considered, even though they are somewhat boxy viewed through today’s eyes.
Having spoken to a number of owners, these are also considered in Audi circles to be somewhat more reliable than the A4s that came later, which may or may not be surprising to some of you. Additionally, they are sort of hard to find I am told, given the low sales numbers at that point in time and the survivability typical for early-90s Audis in North America. Which was not all that great.
This example wore a 2.5 TDi badge, which may or may not signal an engine swap. That’s a pretty random badge to affix to a stateside Audi 90, if it doesn’t actually have that underhood. I believe that badge is off a B5 2.5 L V6 TDI Passat, which came out in 1996 and was a pretty torquey thing. But that engine was only available after the 90 had exited production, and was not available in the concurrently available B3 or B4 Passats or Audi 90s. A pretty novel swap, if that’s what it is.
While Europe got a couple diesel engines in their Audi 80s, Audi decided not to push its luck in the states following that whole 60 Minutes unpleasantness. Speaking of which, it would take till the end of the 1990s for Audi to return to an annual sales level that it enjoyed in America prior to that infamous primetime roast.
[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]