Car Lust: Our Cars–1986 Audi Coupe GT

9 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Car Lust: Our Cars–1986 Audi Coupe GT
Audi A5

Our Cars–1986 Audi Coupe GT

Hafner#39;s $2,500 Used Car Challenge

In the posts linked above, I described my very public search for an interesting $2,500 car–a car that could serve both as an occasional second car and as the locus of my considerable Car Lust energies. The search was highly entertaining, diverse, and emotionally exhausting; but I emerged from the madness as the ecstatic owner of one of my most-lusted-after cars of all time, the 1986 Audi Coupe GT. And, best of all, I spent only $2,000 (a measly 80 percent of my starting budget) for a 115,000-mile Coupe GT and received as a throw-in some really nice Hakkapelitta snow tires mounted on a spare set of original Ronal rims.

I ended Part 3 with a triumphant purchase and the realization of a dream. But, of course, the purchase is just the beginning of the story. In this post I#39;ll introduce you to the Audi Coupe GT as we usually do at Car Lust–by describing what it was like when it was new, in its own context, fleshing that story out with how it fits into today#39;s world.

Then, tomorrow, I#39;ll complete the story with a more personal description of my specific car and the realities of life with a Car Lust-worthy beater. We spend a lot of time fawning over quirky older cars here, but does it really make any sort of sense to actually buy and drive one of those cars? Does the reality live up to the fantasy?

Well. I#39;ll save the full story for tomorrow, but things didn#39;t really get off to a great start.

First Impressions

On my drive home after buying the car–my first chance to spend some quality time in the car with myself–a Grade A case of buyer#39;s regret immediately kicked in. Once I actually owned the car, the car#39;s many imperfections began to assert themselves. Combined with my Saturn-induced used-car hypochondria. these very obvious imperfections put a quick end to my initial excitement.

The violent steering wheel vibration at highway speed immediately caught my attention, complemented nicely by the road noise pouring in through the broken sunroof and the five-cylinder engine#39;s loud, truck-like pulsing through the broken exhaust. The almost completely worthless stereo contributed only tinny, static-laced music to the din.

As any seasoned wine taster knows, smell can put the finishing touches on any sensory experience, and such was the case here as well–my olfactory senses were quickly overwhelmed by the intertwining aromas of burning oil and exhaust fumes were wafting into the cabin. All of this contributed to an overwhelming impression of a neglected and failing mechanical object ready to fly apart with the slightest provocation.

Things didn#39;t improve at the emissions station. As I sat idling and waiting for my test, I had plenty of time to dwell on the Audi#39;s unstable idle and the fact that one headlight was out. The attendant was surly because he couldn#39;t plug his equipment into my car (my cigarette lighter didn#39;t work and, due to his error, he couldn#39;t get the hood open).

Judging by his peals of derisive laughter, though, he cheered up when the Audi comprehensively failed the emissions test by blowing baby-seal-choking quantities of carbon monoxide and particulates. Lifting the floor mats and finding the floorboard carpet completely soaked through from some unknown leak did nothing to improve my mood.

So, yeah–things didn#39;t get off to a great start, but of course I#39;m getting way ahead of myself.

What Is An Audi Coupe GT?

In the early 1980s, in a world long before the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo became relatively commonplace, performance cars were cartoon characters–two-dimensional caricatures of two broad types. On the one hand were muscle cars, which even in their more contemporary form were uncomfortable and hopelessly out of their depth when the road began to curve.

On the other hand were sports cars and exotics, which had varying degrees of power, were fun on twisty roads, but were even less comfortable and usable than muscle cars. Neither type was consistently useful on real-world roads, where rain, snow, and other slick surfaces–to say nothing of the harsh demands of passengers and cargo–made both muscle cars and sports cars nearly useless.

Enter the#0160;original#0160;Audi Quattro (called the Ur-Quattro by today#39;s enthusiasts to#0160;#0160;differentiate it from later Audi Quattros). The Ur-Quattro was a truly revolutionary car that could not only keep pace with the big boys on dry pavement, but forge ahead like a mountain goat once the roads turned treacherous. The combination of all-wheel-drive and turbocharging might be commonplace now, but it was big news at the time–and Audi#39;s polished package proved a revelation.

The Ur-Quattro was#0160;a completely revolutionary car that kicked off#0160;the modern#0160;era of more competent, better-engineered performance.

The only hitch here is that my Audi Coupe GT is not that car . Oh, they#39;re certainly related–they#39;re both Audi Type 85 coupes, and they have a great deal of styling and mechanical commonality. But the Ur-Quattro was a revolutionary performance car because it redefined performance with the marriage of turbocharging and full-time Quattro all-wheel-drive.

The Coupe GT, well, didn#39;t . Like so many other cars of the 1980s, it made do with a naturally aspirated engine and front-wheel drive. The Ur-Quattro created a legend with its technology, but my lookalike doesn#39;t share the defining technology that made its more famous cousin a legend.

In fact, it#39;s easy to argue that the Coupe GT actually has more in common with the more pedestrian-looking Audi 4000 sedan and its clone, the Volkswagen Quantum. The Coupe GT is identical to a 4000 from the windshield forward, and many of its mechanical parts interchange with the 4000/Quantum.

Even that comparison is somewhat galling; the 4000 and Quantum were both available with the Quattro AWD magic (called Syncro on the Quantum), but the sporty-looking Coupe GT was left, forlornly, with prosaic front-wheel-drive. Audi did make a naturally aspirated Coupe Quattro, but that car never made it to the United States.

All of this means that while I drive a car that#39;s a dead ringer for one of the most famous rally cars ever made, I#39;m one of the few Audi drivers in North America without the Quattro AWD system–the technology that has defined Audi#39;s brand over the past three decades. I can#39;t deny that this makes me a little envious when I look at Audi merchandise; I can#39;t purchase anything with the Quattro script on it without feeling like a poseur.

As a huge fan of the Ur-Quattro and the great Quattro rally cars of the 1980s, I have to admit it#39;s a little bittersweet to watch a rally video and think, Hey, that car is just like mine! Well. except.

These feelings of Quattro inadequacy aren#39;t exactly counterbalanced by the Coupe GT#39;s sizzling straight-line performance. As one would expect, the five-cylinder engine split the difference between a four-cylinder and a six-cylinder–in this case, a contemporary four#39;s lack of power (110 horsepower) and a contemporary six#39;s lack of fuel efficiency (20-22 mpg). At 9.0 seconds from 0-60, the Coupe GT performs about like a modern Honda Fit subcompact, only without the Fit#39;s utility or economy.

All of this makes the Coupe GT sound like the 1980s equivalent of the 1998 Subaru Impreza RS. a car that looked tantalizingly similar to its hyper-performance, rally-inspired big brother but that offered economy-car levels of performance. However, unlike the Impreza RS, which was a sporty economy car in rally-car clothing, the Coupe GT made no pretensions of being a rally hero. Instead, it charted its own unique course as a classy sports coupe that split the broad difference between cheap and fun sports coupes like the Volkswagen Scirocco and expensive grand tourers like the Porsche 928 .

The Coupe GT combined a light 2,500-pound curb weight with a surprisingly rigid structure and a classy, understated interior; the combination gave the Coupe GT both a feel of elegance and world-class agility and responsiveness. The five-cylinder may not have produced world-beating levels of power, but it offered a solid boot of torque, smooth power delivery, and–best of all–a gorgeous wail as it revved to redline.

Even after months of ownership, the hair on the back of my neck stands up when my 24-year-old Coupe GT howls like a baritone Formula 1 car. That melodious soundtrack and the classy surroundings were matched by a precise gearshift, direct and communicative steering, and what Car and Driver described as one of the best ride-and-handling compromises we#39;ve ever encountered.

Audi Coupe

The Coupe GT matched that eager personality with a surprising level of practicality. I#39;m still a bit surprised that it#39;s not a hatchback, but the trunk is surprisingly deep. And the back seats are a revelation–I#39;d swear that this two-door fastback coupe offers more legroom than my massive old 1983 Chevrolet Malibu four-door wagon.

None of this is quite rally car material, admittedly, but, notwithstanding my Quattro envy it#39;s no more fair to compare the Coupe GT to the Ur-Quattro than it is to be disappointed with the Nissan 370Z because it can#39;t run with the Nissan GT-R supercar. Like the 370Z, the Coupe GT stood on its own as one of the great sports coupes of its time. It was capable in town, loped along comfortably on the freeway, and, most importantly, it loved to run on the back roads.

This combination of rally car looks, family car space and practicality, and a thoroughbred German driver#39;s car pedigree made the Coupe GT an easy winner in a 1985 Car and Driver comparison test with the Toyota Supra, Merkur XR4Ti. Mitsubishi Starion ESi, Nissan 300ZX, Ford Mustang SVO, Chrysler Laser XE, and Chevrolet Camaro Berlinetta. From the article:

The Coupe GT is this year#39;s secret car, folks. The masses don#39;t know about it. Driving this car is a rare treat.

When we leaf through the logbook we kept on this car, we#39;re almost embarrassed. Supposedly hardened road testers bubble like wide-eyed kids: #39;This must be the most expensive car here. It feels like money.#39; #39;The engine sings.#39; #39;Every control movement seems calibrated to my body and brain.#39;

What the Audi owns is a kind of stellar all-around ability that goes beyond simple performance testing and numbers crunching. It can do it all. The Coupe#39;s suspension is so absorbent in city driving that you#39;re sure it will fall all over itself when you dive-bomb a back road–but it doesn#39;t. In fact, it excels, soaking up the bumps and never losing its composure.

Subjectively speaking, it has the best all-around suspension of the group. The steering is equally impressive. it#39;s dead-nuts accurate and full of road feel. The (engine) is also a delight. The soothing hum it sends out is pure honey, from idle to redline.

It#39;s surprisingly torquey, and right-now responsive, so you don#39;t need to do a lot of shifting if you don#39;t want to. The Coupe GT#39;s driving environment is first-class as well. The cabin is simply and tastefully trimmed.

If you#39;re looking for serious deficiencies, well, the Coupe GT really doesn#39;t have any. we wouldn#39;t mind a few more ponies, and the design is getting a little dated, but we love it just the same.

Okay, so we#39;ve established that the Coupe GT was a subtle but masterfully executed 1980s sports coupe–quick, practical, and fun. What we haven#39;t yet established is whether a neglected, cheaply purchased, 24-year-old example of this car could preserve any of that magic and win over a jaded driver accustomed to driving today#39;s supremely polished and accomplished vehicles.

The answer to that question is yes, a million times yes. But more on that tomorrow.

I#39;m including the Audi Quattro rally video below because, despite everything I said above, my car is as much part of the Quattro#39;s proud rally heritage as any street Porsche 911 is part of that model#39;s motorsports lineage. My car shares the badge, silhouette, and basic mechanical layout with those amazing Group B cars, and I#39;m proud of that, front-wheel-drive or not.

The Ur-Quattro rally-car picture is from Fourtitude. one of several excellent Audi forums on the web. The picture of the gorgeous 1990 Ur-Quattro 20V is apparently from LensBug.com, but I saw it on QuattroWorld#39;s Audi 4000/Coupe GT forum. probably the best active resource for these cars. The brochure shot of the red and silver Coupe GTs is all over the web, and the print advertisement was on AdClassix.

All of the other photos are mine.

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