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The Audi 80 defined what people imagined as an Audi. Later succeeded by the best-selling A4, the 80 was the start of the platform that started it all.
Audi. Vorsprung Durch Technik. A brand with embedded innovation coursing through its veins. Audi is responsible for some big movements in the motoring industry. Their products are often understated, executive and minimal. They are the inconspicuous Germans in a world of flashy Mercedes and BMWs.
They are mostly defined for their level of practicality and overall usability as a daily family car. The car which we will be talking about today started this trend, the Audi 80 defined what people imagined as an Audi. Later succeeded by the best-selling A4, the 80 was the platform that started it all.
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The Audi 80 debuted in Europe in 1972. Australia and North America got it as the Audi Fox a year later. Originally it was available as either a two-door or a four-door sedan. It effectively took the place of several models that Audi had discontinued and provided the company with a viable rival to the Opel Ascona, Ford Taunus and Ford Cortina in the UK. The post-war attitude was still in full swing, cars had to be made with the intention of being used for life.
The platform was labeled B1, and the B1 Audi 80 became the second modern-era Audi developed under full Volkswagen group ownership. The B1 was a fresh start, a big move from the Auto Union era. A few engine options were available, a 1.3-liter option at 54-59 HP and a 1.5-liter 74-84 HP. On German home turf, two- and four-door saloons were available in base trim called simply Audi 80 and 80 S. In late 1973, Audi added the sportier 80 GT, a two-door only model featuring a carburetor 1.6-liter engine making 100HP. To accompany the powerplant, the Audi 80 had McPherson struts and other state-of-the-art suspension components installed as standard.
Audi's design and development gained attention at the 1973 European Car of the Year competition where the 80 won ahead of the Renault 5 and the Alfa Romeo Alfetta. A facelift came in 1976 with a revised front end similar to the newly introduced Audi 100 C2 with square instead of round headlights, a 1.6- instead of the 1.5-liter engine, and a whole new 80 GTE model with a fuel-injected version of the 1.6-liter 108HP replacing the former 80 GT. In certain markets a five-door "Avant" (Audi's name for an estate/wagon) variant was offered, effectively a rebranded Volkswagen Passat with Audi front panels. This version, first seen in mid-1975, appeared in the United States, South Africa, and several other markets.
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Audi presented a redesigned 80 in 1978. Audi continued to use the 80 nameplates in Europe but badged it as the 4000 in North America. The body of the B2 Audi 80 was designed by none other than Giorgetto Guigiaro. No Avant variant was available, as the VW Passat had this covered. The B2 was intended to move the 80 to the compact executive segment set to rival the BMW 3-series. The 80 then became available with a four-wheel drive system in 1983. This made it essentially a UR-Quattro without the turbocharger and with saloon bodywork, we like the sound of that!
The next gen, B3 got a significant facelift and had a luxury trim version badged as the Audi 90. But the one that really set the 80 into history was the following B4 generation. Changes included a longer wheelbase, a fully redesigned gas tank, and redesigned bumpers. The front grille was merged with the hood and given a bolder look and the interior gained much higher quality materials.
In Europe, all sedans were badged as 80 as the 90 name badge was ditched entirely. Audi of America went the opposite direction and began selling the sedan as the 90. B4s for the American market typically offered more luxury even in the standard version, with automatic transmission, cruise control, air conditioning, and leather seats, all of which were optional extras in Europe.
European market cars were now available with a selection of 4-cylinder engines as well as the I5 and two different V6s. However, the V6s were the only engines available in vehicles sold in North America. As another first, Audi introduced a new high-torque, turbocharged diesel engine, the 90HP 1.9 TDI.
All versions were available with 'Quattro' all-wheel-drive; at the time, however, it could only be combined with a 5-speed manual transmission. Additionally, Audi built around 4000 units of a homologation special of the B4-based DTM race car called the Quattro competition. This care with all-wheel drive and a 140HP from a 2-liter gas engine. Together with the S2 and the RS2, the Quattro Competition has become a highly sought-after collector's item.
Together with the sedan, Audi began making a B4-based station wagon and a convertible which was largely based on the B3 coupe, meaning that Audi now had sedan, coupe, cabriolet and wagon variants of the 80 available to European customers, though the last coupe sold to North American customers was in 1990 and 1991.
The B4 sedan was discontinued at the end of the 1994 model year, and the station wagon and Coupe followed suit a year later, the Cabriolet model however was carried on until 2000, in that time it had undergone a few minor touch-ups, such as gently redesigned bumpers and instrument clusters and more options available. The B4 platform sedans and wagons were replaced by the Audi A4 from 1995 onwards. The 80 walked so that all future Audi's could run, we wish a happy 50th birthday to Audi's most significant and influential platform.
Pedro is a writer based between London and Mont Blanc, he specializes in German and Japanese cars and culture.