November, 1999

Three Generations of Audi
Text and photos by Matt Daniels

One evening while sitting in my driveway with John Stahmann, we noticed that along with his 1998 A4 1.8T and my two cars - a 1993 Audi 90S and 1986 Audi 4000 CS quattro, we had 3 different generations of the same model parked in front of us. For those unfamiliar with the earlier Audi models, the 4000 was Audi's base model in North America until 1987 (in Europe it had been named the 80 or 90, depending on trim level). For the 1988 U.S. model year, it was redesigned and rebadged as the 80 or 90; the same as the European models. In 1993, that model was given a facelift and the 80 designation was dropped. Then, the all-new Audi A4 debuted in North America as a 1996 model.

After thinking about these three different generations for awhile, I started getting crazy thoughts of doing a major comparison between them. I would get a few drivers together, have them drive all the cars back-to-back and comment on all sorts of things about the cars. In a perfect world, I would have even gotten my hands on the '88 to '92 80/90 model for an even more in depth comparison. It didn't take long for me to realize that I didn't have the time or the expertise to take on a major comparison like that. Plus, all 3 cars weren't exactly equal for doing comparison. Two of the cars where quattro models and one was a FWD and none of the cars had stock wheels on them. Also, my 4000 is pushing 200,000 miles, and John's A4 has a K04 turbo installed, among other things. Even though doing a major comparison was out of the question for me, I still thought it would be interesting to be able to look at these different generations side-by-side, even it if was just a simple comparison.

Since my two cars where red, I decided to recruit Rob Solomon, the head of the Utah chapter of the Rocky Mountain Audi Club, and his Laser Red 1.8T for a photo shoot. We headed out to some vacant warehouses (which would be hit by the Salt Lake tornado less than a week later) and photographed the three cars.

Following you will find the technical specs for the three different generations, photos I took and a few brief comments about each. In some cases, I also give some information about the '88-'92 80/90 model series, although I do not have specs or photos of that model. You can click on any photo for a larger version.


4k_side.jpg        90_side.jpg        a4_side.jpg

After 13 years, the styling of the 4000 still looks pretty good - especially with a good set of aftermarket wheels. It shares almost no commonalties with its future generations. The '93 90S and the A4 do share some common design elements, but not many. I still think the last-generation 90 model is a pretty good looking car, my only real complaint about it's exterior is what I call the "Dumbo-ear" mirrors, but they do offer excellent rear view vision.


4k_engine.jpg        90_engine.jpg        a4_engine.jpg

The 4000 came with a 115 hp 5-cylinder engine and it rolled over to the 80/90 models when they debuted - although a 20v 5-cyl motor with more horse power arrived sometime during the 80/90's early lifecycle. With the '93 redesign, the 90 got a brand new 2.8 liter 12V V6 engine that produced 172 hp. The A4 had the same 12v V6 engine in '96 and '97. In 1997 the A4 got the addition of a turbocharged 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine producing 150 hp and in '98 the 12v V6 was replaced by a 30v 2.8 V6 with 190 hp. In Europe, numerous other engines have been offered in all of these models.


4k_trunk2.jpg        90_trunk2.jpg        a4_trunk2.jpg

The 4000's "trunk" is pretty pathetic - as you can see in the photos, a full sized spare barely sits flat. When the all-new 80/90 series debuted in 1988, it also shared this same small trunk. Finally, with the face-lift in 1993, the 90 got a large trunk that remained when the A4 debuted. I personally think the trunk in the 1993 90 has better access than the A4, and it also has slightly more cargo space (14.0 cubic ft. compared to 13.7 cubic ft.)


4k_frontseat.jpg        90_frontseat.jpg         a4_frontseat.jpg

I think most of us will agree that the A4 has one of the best interior design and layout on the road today. The 4000s interior is pretty basic and it's design definitely from the 80's, and some controls are hard to access; the power window controls are in the center console behind the gear shifter. But it is easy to access things that may break, the instrument cluster is extremely easy to remove and replace. The 90 has a more modern interior, and it shares some design details with the A4, but overall the 90s interior isn't very exciting - it's one of the only things that has never impressed me about the car.

One thing that I've always loved about the interiors of the older Audi models is the hollow head rests. In my opinion they make the car look very sporty, although, when driving, the hollow head rests in the rear seats make rear vision difficult.

4k_backseat.jpg        90_backseat.jpg        a4_backseat.jpg

Believe it or not, the 4000 seems to have the most rear legroom out of all three cars, although it's rear seats are contoured and only comfortable for two people. The 90's rear legroom seems to be slightly more than the A4.

Other Exterior Photos

4k_front.jpg      90_front.jpg      a4_front.jpg      all_1.jpg
all_2.jpg  all_3.jpg  all_5.jpg      all_6.jpg
all_7.jpg      all_8.jpg      all_9.jpg

Model 1986 4000cs quattro 1993 90S 1998 A4 1.8T quattro
Engine Type In-line 5-cylinder 2.8 liter 12v V6 Turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder
Horsepower 115 @ 5500 rpm 172 @ 5500 rpm 150 @ 5700 rpm
Torque 126 lbs. ft @ 3000 rpm 184 lbs. ft @ 3000 rpm 155 lbs. ft @ 1750 rpm
Curb weight 2824 lbs. 3186 lbs. 3130 lbs.
Overall Lenth 176.6 in. 180.3 in 178.0
Overall Width 66.4 in. 66.7 in. 68.2 in.
Height 54.3 in. 55.0 in. 55.8 in.
Turning Circle 34.8 ft. 34.1 ft. 36.4 ft.
Trunk Capacity 9.7 cu. ft. 14.0 cu. ft. 13.7 cu. ft.
0-50 mph 6.9 sec. 6.4 sec. 5.8 sec.
0-60 mph 9.5 sec. 8.2 sec. 8.1 sec.
Top Speed 116 mph 137 mph 130 mph*
Fuel Economy
City 18 mpg 20 mpg 21 mpg
Highway 22 mpg 26 mpg 29 mpg

Copyright (c) 1999 AudiWorld