V.I.S.I.T. – Audi Ur-S4

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Remember these? That’s right, from waaaaaaay back in the 1990s. A decade when the interwebs were slow, revolutions weren’t televised, and pants were baggy. The 1990s were also a time when spy agencies didn’t talk about what they did on national television every day, and when wearing a foam John Deere cap meant you were an actual farmer engaged in farming. Rather than an owner of a vintage records store in a posh northwest suburb of Washington DC. You know, the one right up the street from that vegan place run by that gentleman with dreadlocks that also sells knitted hats for $79.99 and the Chinese restaurant where a Ukrainian diplomat was once shot in the crotch by an unidentified assailant using a silenced pistol. And when that happened the metropolitan police shrugged and declared that it was a random act of violence, and speculated that the petty thief who did it was likely after the Szechuan Chicken takeout, the expired Amoco gas card, and $27.50 in crumpled bills and change that the diplomat had on him. Although some longtime beltway residents suspected a more complex motive. But who knows with these things.

Given how relatively non-old these Audis are, it seems kind of funny to ask where all of them went. “The junkyard!” the cynical and the well informed among you will declare in unison and roll your eyes. “Lithuania” some will say and nod knowingly. Okay, so most of these didn’t quite survive the last fifteen odd years. And yes, most of them were undone by the things that Audis of those years tended to become undone by, namely small electrical parts the purpose of which escaped even the master techs at the dealership, and which tended to cost the same as a transmission rebuild on a Chevy Cavalier. And the ones that weren’t undone by small electrical parts the purpose of which escaped even the master techs at the dealership, and which tended to cost the same as a transmission rebuild on a Chevy Cavalier, were undone by the fact that these cars depreciated faster than a Volvo wagon with golden retriever fur all over the interior. And that’s pretty fast.

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In the interest of balance, I have to say some positive things about Audis of the 1990s. For one thing, Audi had some of the sharpest looking wheel choices on their cars, or at least those cars that wheels instead of wheelcovers. Remember the 6-spoke wheels like the ones from the S8 and the S6? Best looking wheels of the decade, period! And their design lived on in various form just until recently. (Audi, please bring them back. It might even compel me to try some of your cars again).

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Audi also had some of the best looking paint colors, like the Tornado Red seen on the car here. And remember the dark Racing Green on the S8 from Ronin? Did you even remember that the S8 in Ronin was dark green? That was another nice color, very understated. And how about Ming Blue, that blue color that looked black at night, like the dark green? That was another superb-looking paint color that Audi had. And what about the interiors? I think we can all agree that Audi had some of the best looking cabins of the decade.

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All joking aside, it was a real treat to see this nicely preserved example, and I only wish that there were plenty more nicely preserved examples that could be viewed on a daily basis. But unfortunately, Audis of the early 1990s didn’t sell in any great number in the US, and their survival rate was further compromised by the unwillingness of owners to pour money into them past a certain point, especially given their repair costs.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]

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32 responses to “V.I.S.I.T. – Audi Ur-S4”

  1. TrueBlue315 Avatar

    Still a very well-balanced design, twenty years on. It wears that red so nicely.

  2. Vavon Avatar

    Isn't that rather an Ur-A6??? The one wich was the Audi 100 in Europe and became the A6 with the face-lift?
    <img src="http://www.audiheritage.be/site/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/audi-100.jpg&quot; width="650/">

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Before Audi really got on board with the A* naming scheme, it was the S4. Not quite sure how they came about that, but they did rename it to S6 before it was fully redesigned.

      1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

        Yup, S4 was 1992 thru 1994, and the the same car, slightly facelifted with body color skirts became the S6, and was 1994 thru 1996 if I recall correctly.

        1. Vavon Avatar

          That's really weird indeed, In Europe this car was only known as the 100 and after that the A6.
          Well you're never to old to learn and every day you learn something new!

          1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

            I gotta admit, that WAS one of the weirder nomenclature rearrangements of the decade. But it's worked out for them, and indexes haven't been too counterintuitive since, which is more than I can say for some other German automakers.

          2. Joseph Avatar

            You are missing the fact that this car is an S4. It was based on the 100. The S6 that came later was based on the A6. In the USA, we also had the 100 and the A6, but that's not the car in question. The S4 and S6 were also sold in Europe, and even offered with a V8 and 6 speed manual transmission that the USA didn't get.

      2. JTuhka Avatar

        The S4 was downsized by badge-engineering (from C to B platform) circa 1995.
        (B4) 80 = S2 —> (B5) A4 = S4
        (C4) 100 = S4 —> (C4) A6 = S6

    2. Joseph Avatar

      No. The car mentioned in the article is a S4. Compared to the 100/A6, the front fenders are flared, the front bumper is different, it sits slightly lower, although the S4 pictured has been lowered slightly from stock it appears. It also has a different suspension setup, different brakes, a completely different engine (a turbocharged inline 5 cyilnder), and was sold in the USA with a manual transmission only. It also had unique Recaro bolstered leather heated front seats, and bespoke heated rear seats, as well as a carphone. It also had white gauge dials instead of black. S6 models got a 3 spoke 'sport' steering wheel that further separated the model.
      The funny thing that this article got wrong was the reliability thing. A well maintained UrS6/UrS4 are known to be quite reliable. And the A6/100's from this chassis are considered to be even more reliable. The C4 chassis cars were a great time for Audi because they were very solidly made, with high quality components, and well engineered yet relatively simple mechanically. The prior chassis didn't have the features of this chassis, and the later chassis (C5), although packed with features and good looking in Avant form, is known to be made by beancounters instead of engineers, and it is shown in every detail of the car.

  3. dculberson Avatar

    What did I just read???
    Seriously, though, Audi made some really good looking cars in the 90's. Heartbreakingly good looking, since they were so ready to rend you in two with their operating costs. I love the S8 but weep at the idea of keeping one in good condition.

  4. 0ToTuttiFrutti Avatar

    My old man is an apparent Audi enthusiast, he owned 3 '90s vintage and an Allroad. The 90S (became A4) and the 100 (which looked just like the 5000 but must have been rebadged for a short time) were nice but seemed to have a "poor man's BMW" thing going on.
    The 90S had a 5-speed and a 2.8L V6 but none of the power it seemed it should, and the clutch was a vague long-throw, short-engagement deal. The 100 was a comfortable cruiser with a clever I-5 motor. It also had electrical gnomes who would sneak into the garage and drain the current from the battery, even though it was stored in a top-secret location under the rear passenger seat.
    The '97 A6 wagon lasted a good long time, until the transmission started slipping a couple of years ago. Of course, the cost of the repair far exceeded the car's value and it left on a tow truck, possibly for Lithuania.

    1. moorewr2 Avatar

      I am willing to bet your mysterious power drain was caused by the after-run fan relay. Mine has been disconnected for years…

  5. Syrax Avatar

    You mean the Avus?
    <img src="http://img69.imageshack.us/img69/4227/avusiis4lw6.jpg"/&gt;
    I like the last flat ones, the first puffy models are not my thing.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Yeeesss, Avus it was. I think the S4s of the early 2000s may have been the last to feature a version of those wheels. My fave are probably ones on the D2 S8, prefacelift.

      1. Syrax Avatar

        Yes, they were the 'official' B6 S4 wheels.

  6. BradleyBrownell Avatar

    I daily drive a 1995 Audi S6. Full sized sedan with a stick and a turbo? Pure awesome.
    This winter, it has been amazing. Studded snow tires, QUATTRO, and amazing heated seats make for a great long distance commuter.

    1. BradleyBrownell Avatar

      Oh, and we use 17" Avus for winter tires, and 18" Avus for summer tires. They look pretty awesome on that car.

      1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

        That's a pretty sharp setup, and those wheels definitely have the ability to improve the looks of sooo many cars.

  7. sohc Avatar

    <img src="http://www.hooptywagon.com/img/carshoots/drftsub/IMG_0322.JPG&quot; width="600">
    I saw one of these that was actually pretty clean and rust free a several years. Very similar shape and green house. awd turbos?

  8. wisc47 Avatar

    I think another reason why Audi's of the late 80's and early 90's are sparse in the US is because of the entire 60 Minutes debacle with the Audi 5000. If you're unfamiliar, there were claims of "unintended acceleration" on the program. Their segment was based off of some consumer claims that were somewhat suspect, and the entire segment was misleading to say the least. Anyways, I think it did a lot to hurt Audi's sales at the time, hence why you don't see as many old audis as you do BMWs or Mercs from that time.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      They even had their own group, called the "Audi Victims Network". No kidding. A group of morons.

      1. 0ToTuttiFrutti Avatar

        I'm a victim of "intended douchebaggery", which has occurred on many occasions at the hands of BMW and Merc drivers, should I start a support group?

    2. JayP2112 Avatar

      It devastated Audi sales in the US. Audi US was on a roll as the alternative to BMW-Merc but after the 60 Min crap, sales were 74k to 12k… took until 2000 to get that sales level again.
      In 2012, Audi US sold sold 140k units. Damn.

  9. brisbrd Avatar

    I bought the pictured 1997 A6 – last year of the body style in 2002. My 1990 Maxima SE had started to show its age (it spent 10 years in New Hampshire before I got it – there was more rust than steel by that time). The A6 was my second choice as the '97 328i I had my heart set on sold as I was driving to the dealer to pick it up. The A6 spent so much time in the shop and cost so much to repair that is has completely turned me off to all German cars. From the radio not working, the CD changer not working, the dash bulbs blowing and being impossible to find replacements for, the sunroof mechanicals breaking, the water pump exploding at 60k miles, the check engine light always on, the poor mileage and glacial acceleration, to the 12 headlight bulbs in in 6 months all while not providing enough light to see while driving at night – everything about that car made me hate it. Well, except one thing: Quattro.I fell in love with AWD in that car and it's the reason I bought my Legacy GT wagon.
    <img src="http://imageshack.us/a/img851/3415/outtie002.jpg"&gt;

    1. brisbrd Avatar

      Oh, and when I went to sell it, I couldn't find anyone who wanted it – even at the price I ended up trading it in for. I paid $15,500 for it and traded it in 2 years later for $5000.

    2. duurtlang_ Avatar

      I can understand why it would turn you off Audis. But German cars in general? That's like saying one bad Chrysler made you swear you'll never buy an American car.

    3. Joseph Avatar

      Wow, that must have been a lemon? My '96 A6 has 235,000 and the only thing I've ever had to do besides regular maintenance (timing belt, fluid changes, etc.), was change the windshield washer fluid pump and hose.
      In another 80,000 miles or so I may have to replace the shock absorbers.

  10. AB PD Avatar
    AB PD

    I had this exact same car (same color as well). Getting frustrated over a couple minor repairs and selling it was a decision I still regret today. It was an excellent car and the new owner has kept in touch and made it even better.

  11. Goodwin Avatar

    Almost bought a Ur-S4 Avant turbo on a stick a couple of years ago. Ive made a deal with the owner to pick it up the next day, but the owner got into a rather serious accident while driving the audi. Ended up getting a E34 instead.
    BTW these cars seem to be pretty rustproof, and since they are Quattros they might be a good choice, for those who live in places with lots of snow (and salt)

  12. TheRingmeister Avatar

    Hi folks. Just came across this and that's my car. Pics were taken (assume by the author of the page) in May 2012 on the street in Carlisle PA. Was there for the Import show. It's an early '92 S4, I purchased it in San Diego in '06 and still own it. It's pushing 280K on the odo now and it's still wearing the original T-red paint. Stromung exhaust is aftermarket (only real 'mod' on the car) and the Bolero wheels are not stock although they were available as an option on the S6 Plus in Europe. Car is squatting in the rear because it's loaded with suitcases and camping gear! Thanks for the commentary.
    <img src="http://i43.photobucket.com/albums/e370/awdaudi/ncesig.jpg?t=1338819694&quot; width ="600">