ALTHOUGH Audi have in the past produced two coupes based on their biggest saloon (one in the early seventies, known simply as the 100 Coupe, and one more recently called the Avant), the really successful version has been that based on the medium-sized 80 saloon. The Coupe GT is one of the relatively rare “fastbacks” which offers full headroom to three back-seat passengers, and thus makes practical sense to would-be sports car owners.
Mechanically, the car is almost identical to the 80 on which it is based, save for the substitution of the five-cylinder engine. It is all the more strange, therefore, that Audi, in putting the rakish new tail on the car, did not take the opportunity of giving it a hatchback. What resulted was a handsome enough two-door “fastback” saloon with a boot, which nevertheless found a ready market with its willing two-litre engine and good economy. What it really needed to give it more character, though, was more power, and that is what Audi have supplied with the latest version.
The capacity has gone up to 2.2-litres, and fuel is now supplied to the five cylinders by mechanical injection, the same system used in the 100 and 200 range. The power output is now up to 130 b.h.p. from the previous 115 b.h.p., and torque figures are higher too.
The ease and smoothness with which the car performs is most impressive, and better use can be made of that positive gearchange now that it is allied to a close-ratio five-speed box, rather than the 4+E layout of before which seemed so out of place on a sporting car. Around the country lanes in which we sampled it, the Injection Coupe provided a great deal of fun, its firm power-assisted steering and low-profile tyres (185/60 HR 14) allowing it to be placed with accuracy even over broken surfaces. This is a reflection of the altered front suspension geometry which gives more feel than the oddly-weighted sensations apparent on the previous model and on the 80. A degree of understeer is obvious, but feeding in there power tightens the line effortlessly, the well-behaved rear axle simply following exactly where it should.
Within the car, the work that Audi are putting in on noise insulation pays off; even at high revs, the engine is very quiet, and road noise is not instrusive. The standard Audi dash is found here, just as it is in everything from the base-model 80 to the Quattro, and unfortunately fails to off-set its bland appearance with particularly good ergonomics. The binnacle-mounted switches, for instance, are too distant for finger-tip operation, and hidden from view by the wheel. Otherwise, the car is well equipped, with five seat-belts, central locking, electric windows and a sunroof all included as standard for £9,172. Externally, the only change is a new headlamp design, but the good looks of the car are enhanced by alloy wheels and the neat tail spoiler.
With its 15 gallon fuel load, the Coupe should be capable of touring on the grand scale, despite the small decrease in m.p.g. (still a respectable 22.1 in town) which accompanies its 9.1s 0-60 sprint. In its homeland, it can top 120 m.p.h., although we felt that Surrey was not the place to experiment, in view of the orange-striped Rover which sat opposite the press trial venue.
Even more frustrating was the fact that, on the same occasion, we also tried the new right-hand-drive Quattro. Originally, Audi decided not to produce these, but demand for the car has changed their corporate mind. Only a few other changes have been made to the unique turbocharged four-wheel-drive five-seater: the new lamps of the Coupe, some minor rear axle modifications, plus two-stage differential locks which are operated by a pneumatic control on the dash.
Otherwise, it is the mixture as before: fearsome acceleration, superlative traction and unbeatable grip. It is just a pity that even the Quattro has the same dash as other Audis, for a car of this calibre ought surely to look special to its occupants, even when sitting still. It remains unique in what it offers, however, and so it would be difficult to quibble at the price of £17,051. — G.C.