loading...

Auto-Biography

Text 
Michael Harnischfeger

Illustration
Bernd Schifferdecker

Five Decades of Success

The career of Audi’s sporty mid-size model began exactly 50 years ago. Since the “Ur-Audi” of 1965 and in eight generations of the Audi 80 and Audi A4, this model range has been the heart of the brand. With the ninth edition, it is ready to take yet another step into the future – the ideal opportunity to take a look back at its successful predecessors.

Auto Union Audi
1965 – 1972

Four stroke with chromeedges

The two-stroke era finally came to an end in 1965. Car drivers wanted modern four-stroke engines. It came in the form of the legendary medium-pressure engine with the unusually high compression ratio of 11.2:1. The engineers combined the fourcylinder with the moderately modified F102. With 72 hp, the model was reasonably powerful and came to market as an Audi, breathing new life into the Auto Union, which had been re-established in 1949.

Before the company became a 100-percent subsidiary of Volkswagen, a further model began rolling off its production lines in 1966. In keeping with the Zeitgeist, there was a new variant alongside the sedan. With its two side doors and robustly clad load compartment, the station wagon was, of course, a far cry from the elegance of a modern-day Avant. The primary demand at this time, however, was utility.

But the Audi, which was badged with numbers like 60, 72, 75, 80 or 90 depending on its engine, was far more than simply utilitarian. The Super 90, which entered production at the end of 1966, drew attention for the copious amounts of chrome along the edges of the bodyshell. And the elliptical aluminum bezel around the instruments gave way to imitation teak. Production of this ancestor to all Audi 80s and A4s, whose design harked back to the days of the German economic miracle, ceased in 1972. A new era was beginning.

Audi 80 B1
1972 – 1978

One hundred and ten hp

Four rings –
The first Audi of the post-war era comes from Ingolstadt.

The Ingolstadt company took its decisive step into the future in 1972 with the first Audi 80. The slightly notch-backed sedan had an unfussy design. It was sleek, almost a little cool, with not a single line too many. The Ingolstadt designers succeeded in creating an automobile of enduring style.

Many things beneath the skin were brand new, thought up with ambition and far-sightedness. Take the engines for example – the four-cylinders in the legendary EA 827 model range were arranged longitudinally between MacPherson struts. And, thanks to a negative steering offset, they improved stability under braking. The sedan, which, at 418 centimeters long, would today be considered a compact, was very spacious. The trunk swallowed 450 liters of luggage.

It started back then at a curb weight of less than 800 kilograms, which meant even the 55 hp of the 1.3-liter engine felt rather speedy, while the 75 or even 85 hp generated by the 1.6-liter gasoline engines was veritably rocket-like for many. Anyone who sat in the comfortable seats, gripped the slender steering wheel and looked at the large instrument dials framed in wood veneer had truly arrived in the middle class.

Many aspects of the Audi 80 concept and technology were also used by VW. The first Passat was basic-ally a fastback or wagon version of the Audi 80. In some export markets, it was even offered as the Audi Fox station wagon.

By 1973, Audi was already offering something attractive to those customers with sporty tendencies in the shape of the 100 hp 80 GT. Another log was added to the fire in 1975, with the 1.6-liter fuel-injection engine in the 80 GTE producing 110 hp. With its sharp cornering skills and a top speed of more than 180 km/h, it was immediately accepted as a sporty sedan for all who appreciate family values just as much as a spirited drive through the countryside or even along Alpine passes.

Audi 80 B2
1978 – 1986
The arrival of quattro

With 200 turbocharged hp, the Audi quattro was a sensation in 1980. But the permanent all-wheel drive was not reserved purely for the sports car with the mighty wheel arches. Audi brought the increase in performance and all-weather safety into the mid-range, too. In fall 1982, the 80 quattro sedan crowned the range that had been in production since 1978.

136 hp made the top 80 model not just a fast car, but also something of an automobile for connoisseurs, with a technically extravagant fuel-injection engine delivering its power with a soft, smoky voice. The displacement of 2.2 liters was spread among five cylinders, generating a highly distinctive, addictive timbre. Starting 1985, further quattro versions, also with a more mainstream 90 hp four-cylinder, completed the lineup and made sure that quattro became widely affordable.

The quality ambitions of its maker notwithstanding, the second-generation Audi 80, with its clean, technical styling, also proved to be a car for those who keep a tight hold on the purse strings. The model lineup began, as before, with the two-door 80 1.3 with 55 hp – followed by diesel versions with 54 hp. Another innovation was the so-called Formula E versions. Above the regular fourth gear was a long-ratio fifth. And, at stop lights, the driver was able to switch off the engine at the push of a button. It sprang back to life automatically as soon as first gear was engaged. Automatic start/stop systems are thus not a recent invention.

Audi 80 B3
1986 – 1991

No rust – and that ’s a promise!

They can still be seen on the road today – the B3 Audi 80. Almost 1.3 million of them rolled off the production lines between September 1986 and August 1991. But the sheer volume is not the only reason why this successful model – which will soon attain official classic car status in Germany – is still such a frequent sight these days. The more significant factor is the sophisticated full galvanization of all bodyshell panels – pioneered by Ingolstadt. With its ten-year guarantee against perforation corrosion, Ingolstadt issued a sensational promise of long-term quality.

The somewhat rounder bodyshell had other qualities, too – the sedan boasted a drag coefficient of just 0.29. This lowered fuel consumption. September 1990 marked the launch of the first turbo diesel in the Audi 80. The indirect-injection design produced 80 hp. It was fast and extremely fuel efficient. But it wasn’t until its successor, the B4, that diesel technology came into full bloom.

The third generation of the Audi 80 naturally served as the basis for other attractive models – it spawned the more highly positioned Audi 90, which was already established with its predecessor, as well as the coupé. As the S2 with 220 hp, it succeeded the Ur-quattro in 1990.

Audi 80 B4
1991 – 1995

40.273 km, 1.522 Liter: TDI

Die vierte Generation des Audi 80 wirkt auf viele wie ein Facelift. Doch der B4 ist eine komplette Neukonstruktion, unter anderem mit einer neuen Hinterachse für mehr Kofferraumvolumen. Der vom S2 Coupé übernommene Plakettenkühlergrill verleiht diesem Audi ein entsprechend stolzes Gesicht. Ein Jahr nach der Limousine erscheint im Herbst 1992 auch der von vielen Kunden lang-ersehnte Avant: ein Kombi der feinen Art.

Unter der Motorhaube tut sich einiges. Die neuen V6-Benziner mit 150 und 174 PS feiern Premiere. Die besonders dynamisch Gesinnten greifen zum 230 PS starken S2, den es als Limousine oder Avant gibt. Und mit dem Avant RS 2 etabliert Audi eine neue Fahrzeuggattung: Der mit Porsche entwickelte Power-Allradler bringt es auf 315 PS und liefert Fahrleistungen wie reinrassige Sportwagen.

Volksnäher als der RS 2 sind auf jeden Fall die TDI-Modelle. Zwei Jahre nach Einführung des ersten Fünfzylinder-TDI im Audi 100 feiern 1991 die Vierzylinder im Audi 80 Premiere. Die Idee, den Kraftstoff unter hohem Druck direkt in eine Mulde des Kol­bens zu injizieren, verhilft Audi ein weiteres Mal zu einem Vorsprung in der Motorentechnologie. Ein serienmäßiger Audi 80 TDI legt da insgesamt 40.273 Kilometer mit lediglich 1.522 Liter Sprit zurück. Macht 3,78 Liter pro 100 Kilometer.

Audi A4 B5
1994 – 2001

Neuer Name, bekannte Passion

Dass der Neue nicht mehr 80 heißen würde, kam nicht unvorbereitet. Bereits zuvor wurden A8 und A6 eingeführt, im November 1994 startete dann der A4 als Limousine. Mit Airbags, Servolenkung und ABS für alle Modelle hebt er Fahrsicherheit und Bedienkomfort auf ein neues Niveau, und die im Vorgänger schon beeindruckende Material- und Verarbeitungsqualität erreicht ebenfalls ein neues Level. Die Spaltmaße zeugen von hochpräziser Fertigung. Im September 1995 gesellt sich zur Limo­u­sine der Kombi Avant. Der Audi-Slogan „Schöne Kombis heißen Avant“ passt. Perfekt.

Bei den Motoren ist ein stetiger Leistungszuwachs zu erkennen, verbunden mit sinkenden Verbräuchen. Benziner mit Fünfventiltechnik oder die ersten TDI-Triebwerke mit Pumpe-Düse-Technologie stärken die Position des A4. Eine neue Vierlenker-Vorderachse verbessert Lenkpräzision und Handling. Das ist nicht nur wichtig im RS 4 Avant mit 380 PS aus einem 2,7-Liter-V6-Biturbo, dem ersten eigenständigen RS-Modell der Audi-Tochter quattroGmbH. Weiter verbreitet als dieser 1999 präsentierte Über-Avant sind die 2,5-Liter-TDI-Modelle. Mit 150 PS und 310 Nm sind ihre Sechszylinder ideale Doppelpass-Partner der Fünfstufen-Wandlerautomatik, die in einer zweiten Wählhebelgasse auch manuelle Gangwechsel erlaubt: tiptronic nennt Audi das bis heute verfolgte Prinzip.

Der am seltensten produzierte A4 ist der Avant duo. Das im Herbst 1996 vorgestellte Auto ist mit TDI und E-Motor ein Plug-in-Hybrid und fährt bis zu 50 Kilometer rein elektrisch. Nur 90 Exemplare werden gebaut, denn wer zu früh kommt …

Audi A4 B6
2000 – 2004

Looking good – staying safe

Design awards, readers’ choice – the sixth-generation A4 attracted accolades for its outstanding design left, right and center.

But progress at Audi means more than just looking good. New lightweight running gear with a high aluminum content further improved comfort and performance, while side and head airbags, as well as ESP, were part of standard equipment. It achieved top marks in the NCAP crash test and as “Best Pick” in the USA it achieved the best result the US safety experts had ever awarded to a midrange car.

The Avant appeared in 2001, suiting the purist design language equally well. The interior was the perfect combination of premium quality, style and intuitive operation. Readers of German car magazine auto motor und sport voted the A4 “Car of the Year” for the mid-size class in 2002.

Drive technology obviously didn’t stand still either. The 2.0 FSI marked the arrival of the first directinjection gasoline engine, while new V6 gasoline engines and the Multitronic continuously variable transmission are likewise part of the story of this A4. Its top-of-the-range gasoline engine also started a new chapter – the S4 Sedan and Avant both featuring a 4.2-liter V8. With the crankshaft spinning at 7,000 rpm, the five-valve unit sent 344 hp to the six-speed manual transmission and onward to all four wheels. There could be no doubt about it: this top A4 was also the work of car enthusiasts.

Audi A4 B7
2004 – 2008

Big grille with lots going on
behind it

The new design line with sweeping headlights and the Singleframe radiator grille gave the 2004 A4 a whole new look. In contrast to its predecessor, the sedan and the Avant were launched simultaneously and thrilled technophiles with a new top-of-the-range four-cylinder.

TFSI marked the combination of direct injection (FSI) and turbocharging (T). 200 high-revving horses in combination with a punchy 280 Nm of torque at just 1,800 rpm were what set this highly fuel efficient engine apart. Indeed, multiple evolutions of it are still in service today in a whole host of Group models. The TDIs, too, became more powerful yet more fuel efficient at the same time.

And finally, much to the delight of its fans, the RS 4 followed in November 2005 as a sedan and mid-2006 as an Avant. 420 hp at 7,800 rpm delivered breathtaking performance. The sprint from zero to 100 km/h was dispatched in less than five seconds. The lateral dynamics of the RS 4 were also impressive, thanks to the asymmetrical dynamic torque vectoring of the re-engineered quattro drive.

Audi A4 B8
2007 – 2015

Well assisted

Engineers have been working on the modular longitudinal platform for many years. This enormous matrix gives the technical experts new levels of freedom – and the designers, too. Walter de Silva, who joined the company in 2002, used it for an elegant creation./p>

The core of this platform is the swapped layout of clutch and transmission. This enabled the front axle of the A4 to move forward by 154 millimeters. The new mid-range car had an elegant and muscular stance. However, it was elegance that went handin- hand with functionality – the sedan’s cd figure was 0.27.

New four-cylinder gasoline engines, a modern dualclutch transmission with seven forwards gears, dynamic steering and adaptive dampers were just a few of the highlights of this model generation. Safety and ride comfort were also enhanced by a veritable armada of assistance systems for parking, maintaining a safe distance, changing lane and staying in lane.

In March 2009, the family was expanded with the A4 Avant allroad quattro. With its increased ground clearance and elegant outdoor look, it presented itself as the go-everywhere Audi. And finally, at the end of 2012, there were once again high-end sedans and Avant with the RS 4 logo on the grille. With 450 hp at 8,250 rpm, the 4.2-liter V8 FSI was the interim crowning glory of this range, notable, too, for its extremly high-performance quattro drive. Vorsprung durch Technik – just like in every generation.

(1) Always on – Steve Jobs revolutionizes communication with the iPhone. (2) Get connected – Audi integrates new online services into vehicles. (3) Speed King – Sebastian Vettel is the new star of Formula 1. (4) Get there safely – New assistance systems aid drivers in many situations.