Audi 100CD review
Wright-off: Audi's 100CD saloon was anything but Audi-nary...
I was working as a sub-editor at Wheels in November or December 1982 when I first read an enthusiastic report of that year’s Paris Salon, of which the undoubted star was the new Audi 100CD (for Corps Diplomatique, not coefficient of drag!). It was the automotive designer’s car, whose shape and execution sent rival experts back to their drawing boards. Opel’s styling boss said it was, "The benchmark, the car we will all be trying to match." A few years later we got the Opel Omega and then the VN Commodore.
Few cars have changed the look of the automobile. Consider the Citroën DS, which so charmed the world in 1955. Which designers aped that shape? Rover with the P6? Or the Volkswagen. Who took that distinctive set of curves as a starting point, except its own creator with the delectable Porsche 356?
But at Paris the 100CD represented a new thin end of the wedge. There were optimistic claims of a 0.30 coefficient of drag but the flush glass was palpable.
In 1982 BMWs still had the reverse slope frontal treatment and cd figures nearer 0.45 than 0.30, but everyone still wanted one and few cared overly about the aerodynamic penalty.
Additionally the three-pointed star of Mercedes and the sexy lines of Jaguar exuded their own magnetism.
The problem for Audi here was that many had not even heard of the marque which was commonly mispronounced ‘Ordi’. The five-cylinder engine just seemed to confirm oddness.
Sadly, to many observers, the new 100 looked audinary. Undistinguished. Smooth, yes, but bland.
This was one for the cognoscenti, the designer car with the invisible label.
The interior is even more subtle. Audi’s designers reckoned discretion was the better part of velour: there was no leather on offer. The loudest statement made was understatement. Encapsulating the spirit of this design was the AutoCheck monitoring system, which provided no superfluous information. Start the engine and between the speedo and tacho, a familiar yellow symbol for a blown light globe glowed. Press the brake pedal and it was generally replaced by a white ‘OK’.
‘OK’ was OK with me. I have owned two 100s, a 1984 pale metallic green one which suited all that subtlety to a subtle tee and a 1987 Titian edition, and still have a (dead) 200 ($100K to zero in 25 years!).
What a great cruiser that 100 was, the 1980s equivalent to the Peugeot 404: both had brilliant steering and an uncanny lack of wind noise.
My clearest memory of the green car is driving from Sydney to Brisbane in convoy with an upgraded four-speed automatic EA Falcon. Despite giving away a cylinder and numerous kilowatts and newton metres, my Audi could slip from 100km/h to 130km/h as quickly as the Falcon. I wish I still had one of these now almost gone-forever classics, which no-one else seems to covet.
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