Road Impressions

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Audi 90 quattro

Following a fairly recent rearrangement of the renowned Audi model range the Audi 80s will use only four-cylinder engines the celebrated five-in-line power-units (used because Audi couldn’t get a six-cylinder into the available space we are talking – of course, of north-south layouts) being the province of the new Audi 90. This four-door booted saloon is available with two engine options, giving respectively 115 or 136 bhp, both coupled to a sports five-speed gearbox, and with automatic transmission available on the FWD cars. But I am here concerned with the 4WD quattro, using the more powerful engine and, of course, permanently engaged four-wheel-drive. ABS anti-lock braking an optional extra, a car to the Vorsprung durch Technik formula.

All this works excellently in combination. The latest Audi 90 quattro is a very pleasant car to drive quickly, on wet roads or dry. It has a front and a centre differential, which can be locked by using a little rotary control on the console, a pictorial-anologue showing which diff is locked. The brakes are automatically put out of anti-lock action when either of these differentials is locked, but as these are so used only for starting under very slippery conditions, this does not apply to normal road driving, although the ABS can be switched out by the driver for possible extra braking effect on very loose surfaces or new snow/ ice. In ordinary driving the reassurance of 4WD and anti-lock brakes must be experienced to be believed, and these all-disc brakes are light, progressive, and very effective.

The Audi 90 quattro is not only a safe car, it is also a very driver-compatible one. The instrumentation is clear, in the German idiom adopted many years ago, of using white figures on black Vdo dials, with the speedometer and tachometer flanking the fuel and heat gauges. There is dimming of the aviation-type anti-dazzle panel lighting but this leaves the remoter digits and the clock a thought under-illuminated, even when full on, and the clock-hands are at all times less easy to see than digital readings would be. On the sides of the instrument binnacle are neat press-down switches for the auxiliary lamps etc, and on the left side a rotary-switch selects the side or headlamps, the latter dipped by flick-action of the lh control stalk. The centre of the steering wheel sounds the horn when depressed, and an optional cruise-control is incorporated in the rh stalk control for the wipers, washers, the headlamps being automatically washed when these are used. The centre console carries the finger-tip controls for front-and-rear-door electric windows, the sensible heater quadrant-levers, ash-tray, lighter, and radio with cassette shelf, and there are many ventilatory permutations and stowage places, the latter including a big lockable cubby, to add convenience to daily Audi driving

Add to this a sunroof, central locking, and fully adjustable driver’s seat, with cushion heating, and it is seen that the Audi 90 quattro is a very fully equipped car, although the driver does sit rather low, in contrast to the eminence of a BMW or Royce driver, and I found the ridge at the base of the seat-squab uncomfortable. The four doors, however, unlike those front doors of a Scirocco, possess proper “keeps”, but shut more “tinnily”. The boot has a low cill, but is somewhat restricted (19.1 cu ft) and the Audi has but a fail-safe emergency Michelin 170R15 radial tubeless-shod spare wheel, in case of trouble with the normal 195/60R14 tyres on alloy wheels, Goodyear Eagle NCT 60s on the test car. Not only is the Audi 90 quattro effectively equipped but the light and accurate steering, becoming heavier when holding the car through a long bend, the very pleasing, light and smooth change of the five-speed gearbox from a neat stumpy lever, and the instantly responsive, notably smooth, flow of power, delivered with quite an eager roar, combine to make the new Audi 90 quattro a most enjoyable way of getting quickly and notably securely from place to place — in short, a fine sport-saloon. The ride is interesting too, with some mild roll when cornering quickly, but hardish springing otherwise.

Performance in terms of cold figures, is often not as impressive as the way scar presents itself to the driver and occupants. but this Audi scores under both headings, representing. as I have said, a very pleasant means of enjoying one’s everyday driving, yet returning very useful speed and acceleration figures, such as a maximum speed of over 120 mph, to 60 mph pick up in nine seconds, and 30-50 mph in six seconds. Moreover, the fuel-injection, 2.226 cc five-pot engine gave 27.6 mpg in ordinary running, which with the 15-gallon tank, filled through a flap-covered lockable cap on the o/s represents a most useful range. The Cibie headlamps give a good night-driving beam and wind-noise is low. The interior is well contrived, and upholstered in durable-looking tweed trim, with simulated leather fascia and surrounds. The long warranties referred to in the VW Scirocco report are another reason for considering an Audi and I was very impressed after driving the 4WD 90, even though I have not had the advantage of taking the Quattro Driving Course, and shall never encounter again a DKW, or ever drive a Horch or a Wanderer, of which the four linked rings on the radiator grille and steering wheel reminded me. The twin exhaust tail-pipes and the rear spoiler of the 90 are discreet and the Oceanic blue paint finish was admired. At fast motorway cruising pace there is some mechanical noise increase, but not so pronounced or vibrationary as on my Sierra 4e4.

This effective Audi 90 quattro cannot be regarded as an expensive luxury at the basic price of £14,112.80, or £15,445.85 with the recommended ABS braking. — W.B.

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