May saw the RHD arrival of the evolutionary Audi 100 range. As for so many “new” cars the original theme is apparent, but the manufacturer has actually invested millions to make a product that, ostensibly at least, is little removed from a successful predecessor. The 100 has been a commercial success, for just over 2.9 million have been made in four distinct generations, the last C3-coded machine calling on an aerodynamic Cd of 0.30 and outselling all previous variants.
The main 1991 innovations in a line that has been with us since 1968, are a much strengthened body and a V6 motor, one that is initially offered alongside the famous inline fives that Audi pioneered on the 100 in 1976.
The V6 is not a particularly special unit, featuring an iron block topped by single overhead camshaft, two valve per cylinder, heads. The company objective (as with the less exotic fives) has been accessible torque, a development programme enlargement from 2.4 to 2.8 litres emphasising this trait after 255 pre-production examples of the smaller unit had been tested.
At 2771cc the 90 degree V6 shares a number of characteristics with other Volkswagen-Audi products, including an 86.4mm stroke (the bore is 82.5mm) and many of the cylinder head dimensions are identical for machine tool purposes.
The Audi V6 engine currently yields 174 bhp at 5500 rpm and 184 lb ft of torque by 4000 rpm, the latter figure assisted by complex intake manifolding and electronically-controlled flaps to effectively vary intake lengths. As ever, Audi mounted their engines longitudinally, a system that makes great design sense when you have planned from the start to have both front and 4-WD) (quattro-branded) derivatives.
Senior engineer Herbert Brockhaus was proudest of the strength gain, which is reported as ‘an increase in rigidity of 30 per cent’. He brushed aside worries that the interiors were noisier (via increased transmissions of road disturbance). Audi are also proud of the progression to 0.29Cd aerodynamics, after sessions in three wind tunnels.
The current recession has forced the UK Audi representatives to be realistic in their pricing of a large car (186.8 inches long by 69.3 inches girth) pitched amongst the Rover, Ford, BMW and Mercedes battle for executive sales. All have effective electronic antilock braking as standard, prices beginning at £17,650.26 and escalating to the £26,160.99 of the 2.8E quattro we experienced.
Over exceptionally bumpy Oxfordshire by roads and the smooth new M40 extension the 100 V6 proved just the beefy character its makers anticipated. The low-speed ride was firmer than we might have liked in this class and the steering said little about the considerable tractive/cornering/acceleration forces that the front wheels handle so ably. Yet 100 marched onward with inexorable poise and considerable speed. The manufacturers claims a credible 136 mph maximum, allied to a 9.2 second 0-62 mph progression and 20.2 urban mpg.
The 950-mile demonstrator did not impress us for its new features; the engine is able between 2000 and 4000 rpm, strained over 5000 to the 6400 limit. Interior noise levels were not the best in class, but muted speed on the M40 was welcome.
However, what did impress was the fit and finish quality within the new cabin, grey cloth, Jacquard trim and wood all handled with a uniform conscientiousness that promises Audi is a genuine competitor in this sector, not a jumped up mass producer with ideas beyond its metal stamping station. — JW