Audi 100/200 (1983-1991) - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Nathan Duff

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(From the archives) These big German sedans were frighteningly expensive and show, but set the blueprint for modern aerodynamic styling

 

Audi 100/200 (1983-1991)

It’s rare to see these big, five-cylinder Audis on Australian roads any more, but legacies of the 1982 100CD’s trend-setting ‘aero’ styling can be seen everywhere.

The wedge design dates back to NSU’s advanced but mechanically-flawed 1967 Ro80 and inspired numerous stylistic ‘tributes’ including the German-sourced VN Holden Commodore, Ford’s EA Falcon and a flurry of aerodynamically shaped American models.

From Unique Cars issue #320, Jan/Feb 2011

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Before the letters start flying, it needs to be acknowledged that the Audi shape was predated by Michelotti’s Leyland P76 design, albeit without Audi’s deference to drag reduction.

The elongated shape and sloped nose allowed Audi to boast a coefficient of drag (or Cd) for European base models of just 0.30. At the time, that bettered the air-slicing ability of most sports cars.

Some people even thought the model designation had been chosen in tribute to the new 100’s slippery shape but ‘CD’ in Audi speak was actually shorthand for ‘Corps Diplomatique’ – a Germanic throwback to the Rambler Ambassador?

| Read next: Audi 100CD review

Australia received its first shipments of 2.1-litre 100CD sedans in late-’83 – finally delivering some new product to a brand that had been subsisting on warmed-over 1970s designs. However, someone had forgotten to remind the Germans that autobahns are somewhat scarce over here and the early cars’ 203km/h top speed came at the price of sluggish acceleration.

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Those early 100s were at least competitively priced at $33,495 – pitching the 100 directly at the smaller BMW 528i and giving it a $7000 price advantage over Mercedes-Benz’s 190E. By 1985, when importer LNC Industries organised more Aussie-appropriate gearing and Audi chipped in with a 2.2-litre engine, the cost of a 100CD sedan had soared by $10,000. By 1989, it would break through $60,000!

| 2019 Market Review: Audi 1992 - 2008

Adding to the pain for both dealers and potential buyers was the 1986 arrival of Audi’s stylish 100 Avant station wagon. With more floor space than a Falcon and a useful sub-floor cubby-hole that would take as much luggage as the boot in many small cars, the Avant cost more than $50,000 and only a few dozen found well-heeled local owners.

The final dose of sticker shock came later that year when Audi announced its $92,000 200T. An additional 18kW of power, standard alloy wheels, ABS, fog lights buried in the bumper, electric seats and a sunroof didn’t even go close to compensating for one of the most extraordinary price slugs in Australian automotive history.

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Lesser versions of the CD came with electric windows and mirrors, climate-control air-con and most were equipped with optional cruise control, but their sparse cabins still resembled the pseudoephedrine shelves after a chemist shop ram-raid.

The dash is a dreary expanse of plastic with not a skerrick of timber or brushed metal embellishment. The velour-trimmed seats are comfortable but could have come from a mid-spec Commodore. Prohibitive compliance costs and exchange rates ensured that Australia never saw the all-wheel drive Quattro version of the 100/200 and that was a huge pity.

| Read next: 40 years of Audi Quattro

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European tests rated these among the best big sedans on the planet, with immense grip and great balance allied to decent performance from Euro-spec engines that eventually would produce up to 162kW.

Two rapid-fire switches in Australian market representation did nothing to inspire customer confidence in the brand and the last batches of 100CD sedans were discounted out of dealers during 1990.

ON THE ROAD

Before sliding behind the chunky wheel of an Audi 100/200, suspend everything you think you know about the handling traits of large, front-wheel-drive cars.

The people who took the nose-heavy Quattro coupe to World Rally domination also had both hands in the chassis design for these cars and the benefits are obvious.

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Most Australian-spec cars came with a stodgy three-speed automatic transmission and not much happens for the first 30 or so metres. Even the 200 Turbo took almost five seconds to reach 60km/h.

Full-power starts in a 200T can produce noticeable shuddering as the diff battles to mute torque-steer. Five-speed, non-turbo cars are more spirited but very scarce.

With the engine in its preferred 3000 to 4000rpm operating range, either version of the big Audi becomes a different and very enjoyable car to drive. Audi’s variable-ratio power steering was – when new, at least – exceptional. It made wheeling the big 100/200 out of a tight parking spot a sweat-free exercise before delivering all the feel and precision of a really good unassisted system whenever a tricky sequence of bends appeared.

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The basic handling trait was understeer but you had to be pushing very hard on a wet road before the front end began to assert its weight-biased dominance.

I worked for a time with importer LNC’s PR division and drove every locally-available 100/200 model on every conceivable surface except ice, without once getting into strife.

Even on corrugated gravel you could dial up 110km/h and carry on a normal conversation while the long-travel suspension and excellent sound deadening did their work.

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Early examples suffered with brick-hard European tyres but when equipped with decent rubber, even the 200T became virtually viceless and was praised by magazine test drivers for its handling.

The minimalist cabin may look bland but the seats are comfortable for the distances this car can pack into a day and Avants will swallow an immense amount of cargo, even with rear seat passengers on board.

Low weight and that slippery shape contributed to highway fuel economy that resulted in naturally-aspirated cars bettering 10.0L/100km and the thirsty Turbo getting below 12.

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BUYING

Not a lot to say here because surviving Audi 100/200s in worthwhile condition are very scarce indeed.

A few hundred 100CD sedans were imported between late 1983 and 1989, accompanied by probably 50 Avants and just 20 of the exorbitantly-priced 200T. Those numbers may have been bolstered over the ensuing decades by personal imports.

Usable 100CD automatics start at less than $2000 and a couple of rare five-speed sedans have been recently offered by dealers at $4000-4500.

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Enthusiasts of the turboed 200T will need to search patiently for a decent car. Our featured example was on the market for a considerable time and discounted by a frustrated owner to just $3500 without finding a buyer. The best 200Ts may reach $7000.

Equally rare and the bargain of the bunch is the 100 Avant. These wagons offer handling prowess to match the sedans, unique styling and immense interior space. Excellent survivors – if there are any in that condition – should sell for less than $5000.

I OWN ONE:

AUSTRALIA’S most public car tragic, John ’Captain Conrod’ Wright has owned over 130 vehicles during the past 40 years and rates his 200T as a "curate’s egg" – good in parts. And it effectively didn’t cost him a cent.

"It came via my friend Geoffrey Corah who gave it to me in lieu of a fee for co-driving with him in Targa," he explained. "It came with a set of lowered springs that Geoffrey wouldn’t fit as they spoiled the limousine ride, so I’ve fitted those and a set of Bilstein shocks and it really does handle very well.

Mechanically, the car has been the source of some minor traumas but now with the turbo "working properly", the 200 bowls effortlessly along the highway while sipping fuel at 7.0L/100km.

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"It’s got things wrong that I don’t like", John said. "The chrome is looking daggy and the seats look awful for a supposed luxury car but, for all of that, I hope to have it for some time."

 "I would really rather drive this car than most modern vehicles, simply for the effortless way it does everything you ask," Wright said.

"However, if anything major goes wrong, that’s going to effectively end its life as the cost of repairing a major failure to the turbo, transmission or whatever just couldn’t be justified based on what the car is worth." – CC

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Body & chassis

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Despite extensive use of galvanised panels, these early Audis may be starting to rust in expensive-to-fix places. Any car showing bubbling in the lower panels will most likely have been repaired after a crash without properly reinstating the rust-proofing. Damaged, mis-aligned bumpers are common in low-cost cars and won’t affect driveability unless the adjacent panels are out of whack as well. Second-hand doors, boot-lids and 100CD bonnets can be found cheaply but a used 200T bonnet was recently offered at $500. Make sure the hatch doesn’t collapse on your head due to tired supports (new ones are $70 each) and that a damaged seal isn’t allowing water to collect in the sub-boot. 

Engine & transmission

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The five-cylinder engine is durable, providing maintenance is thorough. Mechanical parts are available and most aren’t expensive. Electronic and fuel-injection problems causing stuttery acceleration or black exhaust smoke indicate a car with problems. Even if engine internals are sound, fuel and electronic system repairs could top $2000. It’s worth checking that the cam drive belt has been recently changed. Turbocharged cars need specialised evaluation but if performance feels sluggish or there’s any sign of white or grey smoke under acceleration, avoid the car. Automatic transmission seals can fail and impede gear selection. Check for dirty fluid and slow or no engagement of reverse. CV joints on FWD cars work hard and clicking while turning means new ones are needed. They are available for under $250 each.

Suspension & brakes

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Sagging springs and worn strut inserts will manifest in a bouncy and harsh ride. Rattling from the front end can be due to incorrect or improperly fitted strut inserts. The steering should feel heavier than typical for a power-steer car, but inconsistency of turning effort or hydraulic leaks mean work is needed. New brake rotors are easy to obtain and begin at $160 per pair, but do check that ABS, if fitted, is working effectively. Tyre quality can significantly affect wet-weather grip, so long-term owners should budget for good V-rated rubber and a wheel alignment. 

Interior & electrics

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Audi trim is mercifully basic and those well-made seats should still be intrinsically sound, even if they look a little tatty. Dash cracks can be fixed or ignored,

air-con wasn’t very effective even when new, and the cost of a new compressor and refrigerant recharge will be prohibitive unless the car is exceptional. Even winding down the windows may be a risk since replacement motors are difficult to source and costly. If a sunroof is fitted, check it works smoothly and there are no signs of water bypassing the seals.

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Audi 100/200 (1983-91) Specs

Number Built 1.38 million (100 & Avant); 77,571 (200T)
Body steel, integrated body/chassis 4-door sedan, wagon
Engine 2144/2226/2310cc OHC in-line 5cyl, fuel injection, turbocharger (200T)
Power 101kW @ 5700rpm*
Torque 188Nm @ 3500rpm*
Performance
0-100km/h – 12.2sec*
0-400m – 18.1sec*
Transmission 3-speed automatic, 5-speed manual (100CD only)
Suspension independent, struts, A-arms, anti-roll bar (f); torsion beam axle, coil springs, trailing arms (r)
Brakes four-wheel discs, power-assisted (ABS on 200T)
Tyres 185/70HR14 or 205/60HR15 radial
Price Range $3000-7000
* 100CD manual

 

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