Turbo flair, large car excellence
The past few years have been marked by energetic and increasingly successful efforts by Audi to muscle in on the highly competitive and demanding luxury saloon market sector jealously guarded by Mercedes Benz, Jaguar and BMW. Expanding the excellence of its acclaimed four-wheel-drive system to a wide cross-section of its range has been one major Audi achievement, and, indeed, within months a 4WD Quattro version of the subject of this month’s test should be available on the British market. However, the FWD Audi 200T is an outstanding example of Audi’s assault on the luxury car market, an area where muted high-speed performance and capacious luxury are every bit as important as the all-round sporting excellence of something like the Audi Quattro coupé.
Taking on its rivals, with their big six, eight and 12-cylinder engines, Audi is at present bound to rely on its well-known five-cylinder unit, the inclined, fore-andaft mounted 2.1-litre engine fitted with a KKK turbocharger along with an air-to-air intercooler mounted behind the radiator. This endows the big four-door saloon with 182 bhp (DIN) as compared with the 136 bhp available from the standard Audi 100 with which it shares the distinctive, aerodynamically outstanding body shell. This represents a 12 bhp increment over the old square-cut Audi 200 5T which this model supersedes, but such an enormous amount of development work has been carried out on the latest engine that Audi claims it to be “virtually a new power unit”.
The new specification includes an 8.8:1 compression ratio, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection with air-jacketed injectors, electronic ignition with anti-knock control, overrun cut-off, reduced idling speed and idle volume control. A new exhaust manifold and turbocharger unit helps boost pressure build up more quickly, improving low-speed response and punch throughout the entire rev range.
A five-speed manual gearbox is provided as standard equipment, although an automatic transmission is available as an optional extra, while chassis and suspension settings are completely revised to cater for 15 in diameter alloy wheels (shod with 205/60VR-15 radials on the six-inch rims), with slightly increased spring and shock absorber rates, and an anti-roll bar working in conjunction with torsion beam dead rear axle, trailing arms and Panhard rod rear suspension. Front suspension follows Audi’s long tradition, being a MacPherson strut arrangement with self stabilising steering geometry.
The latest ABS anti-lock braking system is standard on the Audi 200T, offering even more sensitivity than before and the facility to be cancelled under adverse conditions (such as snow, ice and loose gravel, where it might actually have a negative effect) by means of a fascia switch. This latest ABS development features three anti-lock sensors rather than the two which had been used previously.
Up to now, most Audi models have been characterised by rather stark, sparingly equipped interiors: nicely finished, admittedly, but hardly lavish by modern standards. Once you slip in behind the wheel of the Audi 200T it doesn’t take more than a few seconds to see that this a criticism one is unable to level at this top-of-the-range saloon. Immediately ahead of the driver is a neatly legible spec and rev counter, flanked to one side by fuel contents gauge and the other water temperature gauge. In the between the two main circular instruments is a panel containing displays for the computer, multi-function digital radio and warning lights. There is a digital clock on the centre console, but the read-out immediately in front of the driver