Used Car Reviews – 1991 Audi 80 2.0E

Audi 80, 1991. Again a black car – what is it with them?
I’ve grown fond of the smallest of the ’80s-’90s Audis. While there’s something ever-so-slightly porcine about the round B3-B4 bodyshape, the build quality and resistance to rust make it a well-surviving car. Of course, it does count which one you pick and how you keep it; one 80 I checked out some time ago with a friend had such a leaky camcover gasket that we had to abort the testdrive after mere minutes and turn back; billowing underhood smoke is not a good selling point. Another didn’t try to set itself on fire but had peeling paint, and another (a brown one, no less) was saddled with the 1.6-litre diesel engine that just wouldn’t go. So, could today’s car redeem what the earlier ones had screwed up? Checking out local ads, I noted this 1991 example for sale at a used car dealer, along the strip where most of the dealers are around here. The ad made note of its cleanliness, and it didn’t lie; with zero rust, very few paint chips and a spartan but mostly unworn interior it was a car that had kept its cool. I’ve no idea how hot it could be in the summer, though, with no A/C or sunroof and in midnight black. The car didn’t come without some pointers of the 252 000 km odo reading; the driver’s door hinges let the door drop a little when opened and needed to be adjusted, and there was the smallest patch of wear on the driver’s seat’s left seatback bolster. But the recently-waxed metallic paint looked good and clean under fluorescent lighting, and the panels appeared straight and true. How do you like those fuel prices? From top: E85 ethanol, 95E10 ethanol/fuel blend, 98E5 premium and at the bottom is diesel, with a 13-cent/litre raise at new year’s. The Audi’s last owners were said to be an elderly couple, and the Audi’s image would certainly suit the story. The pre-facelift 80 doesn’t really lend itself to visual improvements, with the rounded, jawless front and slab sides combined with coin-sized wheels there’s little one can do to freshen things up while maintaining the classic German minimalist style. A set of Ronal cross-spoke wheels could be sourced easily enough, I think. The latter, B4 80 is still the same basic car but looks like it’s grown an attitude – and the Competition Quattro special edition looks fairly excellent. Even the clock was on time. But, there was something to complain about – see the one section on the rev gauge that’s had a light go out? That’s a minus in my book. The sound system was a fairly fiddly Sony unit. This car needs a period-correct Blaupunkt. Behind the wheel and out on the road, the Audi battled snowy crosswinds admirably. The two-litre four has the guts to propel the smallish car fairly well, with a satisfying thrum audible. I’m sure that were the car a quattro, the weight of the system would bog it down – but the four-wheel-drive 80s did come with a 16-valve version of the engine, instead of the eight-valve here. While I liked the snick-snack gearbox that felt pretty much the same as it does on newer VW-Group cars, the clutch on this car didn’t feel as confidence-inspiring. Blame the elderly owners, I thought. The steering wheel was tilted slightly to the right when driving straight ahead, so an alignment would need to be done – quickly glancing the car’s papers I noticed some front end parts had been replaced and that could’ve screwed the alignment. Still, there was a whine to be heard from front right, in highway speed. And while we’re talking maintenance, who replaces the timing belt three times in 100,000 km/60k miles? Timing belt: 148k ’00, 214k ’06, 240k ’10. Unless there was something that needed to be replaced with the belt taken out, like a crank seal, this is a bit hasty. Still, under hood things were so clean you could’ve eaten off the engine. If the dealership had steam-cleaned it, I’m all for it; if the previous owner had kept it well – even better. It’s the cleanest 20-year-old Audi engine I’ve seen. A good sign. So, unless that faint front-end whine is something dear, this 1800 euro car seemed a decent buy, despite inspection due date looming in March. It would need about a hundred’s worth of fixing with getting the alignment done for both the steering and driver’s door, but that’s about it. The winter tires under the car were fairly inoffensive Bridgestone Noranzas, but the summer set could do with fresher rubber – though, were the summer steelies replaced with a set of period alloy wheels, that wouldn’t be an issue. To end with, 252k on the clock is a bit on the high side for me to be absolutely infatuated with the Audi, but it seems to have worn its km:s well. The odo could read 70k less and I wouldn’t suspect a thing. Does the shininess of this Audi win you over, or does its dullness make you give it a pass?  

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