V.I.S.I.T. – Audi 90 Quattro

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While our best scientists try to figure out where these all went (some theorize Estonia), let’s all try to remember what these were all about. The B4 Audi 80 came out in 1991 and was essentially a heavy facelift of the previous generation model. While this model was called the 80 in Europe, insecure and understandably skittish North American buyers needed a bigger, awesomer number, one they didn’t associate with the dusk of the malaise era or the year Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Showing commendable restraint, Audi christened it as the 90 in North America, as opposed to what could have very well been the 9000, given previous naming practices. But Saab already had dibs on that futuristic and totally boss model number.

Needless to say, we got only the choicest option on our 90s, in the form of autoboxes, AC, and nicer-specced interiors. The 90 came with a range of in-line fours, as well as V6s in top spec. The range topping RS2 Avant we were of course denied, with all of its turbocharged inline five goodness, so there’s little point in rubbing salt in that wound again. The B4s were quite popular in Europe, and are still considered to be stylish budget transportation in the Baltic states. And the design of the 90 has aged well, all things considered, even though they are somewhat boxy viewed through today’s eyes.

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Having spoken to a number of owners, these are also considered in Audi circles to be somewhat more reliable than the A4s that came later, which may or may not be surprising to some of you.  Additionally, they are sort of hard to find I am told, given the low sales numbers at that point in time and the survivability typical for early-90s Audis in North America. Which was not all that great.

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This example wore a 2.5 TDi badge, which may or may not signal an engine swap. That’s a pretty random badge to affix to a stateside Audi 90, if it doesn’t actually have that underhood. I believe that badge is off a B5 2.5 L V6 TDI Passat, which came out in 1996 and was a pretty torquey thing. But that engine was only available after the 90 had exited production, and was not available in the concurrently available B3 or B4 Passats or Audi 90s. A pretty novel swap, if that’s what it is.

audi 90 4

While Europe got a couple diesel engines in their Audi 80s, Audi decided not to push its luck in the states following that whole 60 Minutes unpleasantness. Speaking of which, it would take till the end of the 1990s for Audi to return to an annual sales level that it enjoyed in America prior to that infamous primetime roast.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Jay Ramey]


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11 responses to “V.I.S.I.T. – Audi 90 Quattro”

  1. dukeisduke Avatar

    That badge is crooked. I seriously wonder if it really is a TDI.

    1. MVEilenstein Avatar

      Thought the same.

  2. stickmanonymous Avatar

    No doubt you've been asked this before, but what camera/lens setup are you using for these? Your photos are always amazing.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Nikon D800 w/ 28-300. Most of the detail shots are actually crops, first two photos are the same photo for example : )

      1. MVEilenstein Avatar

        Do you keep it tucked away in your car, in case you see something worth shooitng? I've been considering a decent point-and-shoot camera I can throw in my bag when I'm out and about.

        1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

          I have a Canon T1i with an 18-135 for that, I don't want the D800 bouncing around inside a car. It's quite heavy, and not particularly disposable : ) Prior to that I had a Nikon D200 for in-car duty. Next week will be my first VISIT post shot with the D200.

  3. bhtooefr Avatar

    First off, the 80/90 designation dates back far further – 80 to before even the B1, 90 I think to the B2. 80 was the lower trim level, 90 was the higher trim level. Similarly, our "5000" was really a 100 or 200 depending on trim level (and we actually got both of those after the 5000 S became the 100, and the 500 CS became the 200).
    Based on the badging, I'm guessing it began life as a US-spec car, either inline 5 or V6 gas. Probably quattro, not sure. None of those badges look original, but they're Audi badges, not VW.
    Now, as far as the engine goes, there's two possibilities here. Neither shipped in any B3 or B4 Audi anywhere. (For what it's worth, the B3 and B4 VW Passats are completely unrelated cars – they're derived from the A2 Golf.)
    The first possibility is, as you suggest, a 2.5 V6 TDI. This engine was first used in the B5 A4, C5 A6, and D2 A8, but I believe it shares engine mounts with the gassers, so you could bolt one in. Electricals would be a bit of a challenge, but doable. Driveline all bolts in.
    The next possibility is more period-correct – before the 2.5 V6 TDI was a 2.5 inline-5 TDI. Quite a bit cheaper, quite a bit more durable, used in the same vintage C4 cars so there's no real electrical incompatibilities to deal with, bolts in just as well, and some C4s had a quattro driveline geared properly for it (so, grab that transmission and rear end, and put them in the 90 as-is, using the 90's driveshaft – take advantage of same sausage, different lengths engineering). Audi never produced that car with that combo, but keep in mind that the 80/90 was their entry-level car, and it was basically Jetta-sized inside, with room for bigger engines (due to the engine orientation and length of the engine bay) and support for a superior AWD system. Most B3/B4 diesels were 1.6 or 1.9 4-cyl FWD turbodiesels.

  4. Ed Kim Avatar
    Ed Kim

    No one's noticed the considerable Euro mods on this car…it has a European short front bumper (North American cars came with a bumper extension like you can see in the rear bumper in the first pic), European lamp clusters all around (even the tail lamps, betrayed by pinkish lenses where the amber shines through…NA cars were all-red), and rear European license plate holder. Going through all that trouble, it's odd that the owner didn't do the rear European bumper as well.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Good eye, I wasn't sure about the bumpers though I was aware that ours are supposed to be bulkier, and that really is a Euro license plate niche.
      This car was on Ontario plates, so it just dawned on me that it COULD actually be a private import brought in under their 15 year rule (but why?)

  5. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Nice enough, but a spongy, puddingy drive compared to the A4. It's fair to say the B4 was better in every way except being worse to drive than the B5.

  6. Ralleyquattro Avatar

    For those interested in the conversion here is the link to the project page.
    If anyone is interested in doing an article I am all ears.
    Hope this helps.