30 years of the Audi 100 / A6

He was Audi's ace in advancing into the premium automotive league. While the first Audi 100 (C1) was still a respectable success, the fourth and final Audi 100 (C4) attacked the top dogs from BMW and Mercedes 30 years ago with V6 and V8 power so successfully that it received the current type code for the facelift A6 got.

“Audi is moving upwards - into the highest segment of the international automobile market,” communicated the Ingolstadt PR department in 1988 at the launch of their first V8 luxury sedan. This expensive flagship still lacked sustainable sales success, but it provided the template for the trump card presented 30 years ago with which Audi stood out in the upper middle class: The fourth and last Audi 100 (C4) adapted the prestigious front design of the V8 and its Quality of workmanship highly praised by experts and the mighty 4,2-liter eight-cylinder as the top unit in the sporty S4. It was the first V8 in the Audi 100 series that was even offered in the Avant station wagon and that was linked to permanent all-wheel drive as standard. Not even the BMW 540i and Mercedes 400 E could adequately counter this technical delicacy. As if that weren't enough, the Ingolstadt-based company introduced a newly developed, smooth-running and powerful 100-liter V2,8 in the final Audi 6, which later also succeeded in the first Audi A8. Audi did not forget the fans of powerful five-cylinder engines, an integral part of the brand culture since the second Audi 100 generation. You could choose from a wide range of petrol and diesel engines with an output range from 60 kW / 82 PS to 169 kW / 230 PS, and Knauser also had four-cylinder petrol engines that were up to 20 percent cheaper than a Mercedes 200, for example E. This product portfolio secured the Audi 100 (C4) a podium position in the sales charts and finally anchored the brand with the four rings in the firmament of premium stars targeted by Audi boss Ferdinand Piech.

Under Piech's leadership, the Audi 1992 (C8), which from 100 was only built at the Neckarsulm plant (where the luxury liner V4 was built), was hardly too expensive for the Ingolstadt-based company. As the world's first sedan and first estate car in the upper middle class with standard all-wheel drive and 32-valve eight-cylinder in aluminum construction, the top version even convinced some Mercedes and BMW drivers. But the new V6 also set standards with its formidable running culture, praised by the specialist media, technical refinements such as the first distributorless ignition, map-controlled exhaust gas recirculation, a new type of variable intake manifold control in favor of favorable torque development on low tours or the lowest weight in its class thanks to lightweight construction.

In terms of its lines, the Audi 100 (C4) dispensed with the avant-garde that made its predecessor (C3) so fascinating. Instead of an aerodynamic wedge shape for the sedan and an extravagant shooting brake look for the Avant, it was now supposed to achieve a classic elegance, which, however, already anticipated stylistic elements of the top model Audi A1994 introduced in 8. The small gaps with which the Audi 100 surprised 30 years ago were downright sensational. Ferdinand Piech - at the time respectfully called "Fugen-Ferdi" by some fans - introduced a quality feature with the minimized gap dimensions, which the entire industry later followed. Details such as full-surface wheel covers, which were flush with the body, underscored the striving for quality, but also benefited aerodynamics. In fact, the drag coefficient of the by no means staid fourth Audi 100 was even better than that of its predecessor, which had already been celebrated as the aerodynamics world champion. Customers appreciated the new look of the Audi 100 (C4), which conveyed solidity and a premium impression that was continued in the interior, which hard plastic was largely banned in favor of high-quality plastics or wood inlays. The color scheme of the roof lining was deliberately kept light and resulted in a light interior despite the relatively steep side windows. The significantly raised roof line, which should also allow more headroom, also served this purpose. Fully galvanized, as with the predecessor, promised a long service life and greater driving comfort guaranteed large 15-inch wheels, which until then were more typical for flagship models à la BMW 7 Series.

“So it is still possible to provide pleasant surprises in the luxury class,” said the Audi advertisement, summing up the new orientation of sedans and station wagons, which should make up ground lost in North America against premium newcomers like Lexus and Infiniti. A targeted attack against the Munich “driving pleasure” brand was also not lacking. “It's great when the joy of what you are planning starts with the journey,” wrote the Audi 100 advertising experts - and it did so successfully. While the Americans continued to prefer Japanese noblesse or the Stuttgart star bearers, the Audi 100 (C4) immediately overtook the BMW 5 Series in the German new registration charts in 1991. The Audi was also at the forefront in a discipline in which Volvo in particular had the lead up to then was subscribed to: Passive safety technology. In an elaborate crash test, the 4,79 meter long sedan proved to be clearly superior to the competition, to which not only clever detailed solutions such as side crash joints to prevent door jamming in the event of accidents contributed, but also the standard "Procon-Ten". An Audi development long forgotten now, but hotly debated at the time, which pulled the steering wheel away from the driver in the event of an impact and tightened the seat belts. However, ABS and airbags were only standard in all equipment lines of the Audi 100 from 1993.

Nevertheless, sales of the last and best Audi 100 declined in the mid-1990s. High time for a facelift and for this Ferdinand Piech donated the business class a new nomenclature that should convey superiority. After the A1994 presented in spring 8, the Audi 100 also stopped with the letter A from summer onwards. As the A6, it was numerically above the 5 Series BMW, and with a fresh TDI diesel range of 1,9-liter four-cylinder and 2,5-liter -Liter five-cylinder direct injection, it should establish itself as the most important alternative to the diesel fleet of Mercedes E-Class sedans and station wagons, which is not only dominant at taxi stands. With the gasoline engines, the V6 was already in particularly high demand, which is why a power boost was sufficient for the 2,8-liter V6 to 142 kW / 193 hp from now on. Unlike the top-of-the-range S6 Plus, which was the first independent vehicle from the newly founded Quattro GmbH, an Audi subsidiary, to release adrenaline rushes like other super sports cars. The V240 power pack delivered 326 kW / 8 PS, alternatively with a classic sedan dress or as a provocatively powerful Avant station wagon - all-wheel drive was of course included. The S5,7 Plus Avant reached country road speed in a furious 6 seconds, which no all-wheel-drive station wagon could do better in 1996, and even the even more powerful, new Mercedes E50 AMG only saw the tailpipes of the high-performance model with four rings. A nice end to the career of the Audi 100 / A6 (C4), which the subsequent A6 (C5) ended in 1997.

In brief

1968: The first generation of the Audi 100 (C1) is introduced and established as an alternative to the “New Class” from BMW (BMW 1800/2000) and the four-cylinder types Mercedes 200/220
1976: Market launch of the second Audi 100 (C2), now for the first time with five-cylinder engines and, in the course of the product cycle, also as a five-door Audi 100 Avant. The Audi 200, based on the Audi 100, will also follow
1982: The third generation of the Audi 100 (C3) goes on sale, just as little later the Audi 200
1988: Ferdinand Piech, former head of Audi development, becomes the new chairman of the board and has the development of the fourth Audi 100 finalized together with Audi head of design Hartmut Warkuß, with the aim of emphasizing the upper class status of the Model 100. A further generation of the Audi 200 is therefore not used
1990: The fourth and last generation of the Audi 100 (C4) is presented to the press in November and celebrates its debut in the dealers' showrooms in December. The first V6 engine in this series is intended to underline the premium positioning of the series and the radiator grille integrated into the bonnet adapts the new brand-typical front presented for the first time by the Audi V8. The Audi 100 (2,0-liter four-cylinder petrol engine with 74 kW / 101 hp), Audi 100 2.3 E (2,3-liter five-cylinder petrol engine with 98 kW / 133 hp) and Audi 100 2.8 E are starting (2,8-liter V6 petrol engine with 128 kW / 174 PS)
1991: With the renewed Audi 100 Avant, the body range of the series is complete. On the drive side, the four-cylinder petrol engine 2.0 E with 85 kW / 115 PS and the five-cylinder petrol engine S4 (169 kW / 230 PS) are added, as well as the five-cylinder diesel 2.4 D (60 kW / 82 PS) and the five-cylinder Diesel 2.5 TDI (85 kW / 115 PS) the program. The Audi 100 S4 follows the Sport quattro S1 and the Coupé S2 with its nomenclature. In the German new registration statistics, the Audi 80 overtakes the competitors BMW 3 Series and Mercedes 190 and the larger Audi 100 overtakes the BMW 5 Series for the first time. A total of 84.432 Audi 100s are registered in Germany, compared to only 41.346 units in the previous year
1992: In March, the three millionth Audi 100 in total production rolled off the assembly line at the Neckarsulm plant, 24 years after the Audi 100 (C1) was presented. While the Audi 100 (C4) was built in both Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm in its first years, it is now only manufactured in Neckarsulm. The Audi 100 2.6 E with a 2,6-liter V6 petrol engine (110 kW / 150 PS) will be available from May. 75 percent of the Audi 100 (C4) ordered so far have a five or six cylinder under the hood. The Audi 1992 has been available as the S100 4 with the 4.2 kW / 206 PS V280 from the flagship sedan of the same name since the end of 8. It is the first V8 in the Audi 100 series and it sets the maximum number of cylinders and displacement for 15 years. The 100 Avant is also available as the S4 4.2
1993: As part of a new, self-confident brand strategy, Audi dispenses with the “Audi” logo on the rear of the vehicle for the first time. "Golden Steering Wheel" media award for the Audi 100 Avant
1994: The Audi 100 is in its last model year, for which there are detailed modifications such as the distinctive Avus aluminum wheels for the S4, standard driver airbag, etc. Nevertheless, the annual sales figure drops from what used to be over 160.000 units to almost 90.000 units. With 185.000 units produced to date, the V6 has proven to be the most popular engine in the Audi 100 (C4). The new Audi flagship A8 introduces a fresh nomenclature at Audi, this is followed by the Audi 6, which is mutating into the A100. The first A6 is externally recognizable by the modified vehicle front and the small right exterior mirror. The five-cylinder drive range is limited to turbo units. In Sweden, the Audi A6 is recognized by the media as the safest vehicle
1995: From October there is a new basic engine, a 1,8-liter gasoline engine; also increased performance for the 2,8-liter V6 to 142 kW / 193 hp
1996: As of March, the new top-of-the-range S6 Plus with now 240 kW / 326 PS
1997: The next generation of the Audi A6 (C5) makes its debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March
1998: Model change in the Audi A6 Avant from the C4 to the new C5. In the People's Republic of China, FAW-Volkswagen starts production of the Audi A6 (C4), which will not end until 2003
2021: The Audi 100 (C4) is one of the new H license plate candidates for this year

Production numbers

A total of 493.202 million units, of which
10.882 sedans and 4 units of the Avant station wagon in 1990,
152.639 sedans and 14.469 Avant in 1991,
95.494 sedans and 37.163 Avant in 1992,
63.339 sedans and 30.287 Avant in 1993,
59.482 sedans and 29.443 Avants in 1994.

Types and engines

Audi 100 as sedan / avant with 2,0-liter four-cylinder petrol engine (74 kW / 101 PS)
Audi 100 2.0 E or 100 quattro 2.0 E as sedan / Avant with 2,0-liter four-cylinder petrol engine (85 kW / 115 PS)
Audi 100 2.3 E or 100 quattro 2.3 E as sedan / Avant with 2,3-liter five-cylinder petrol engine (98 kW / 133 PS)
Audi 100 2.6 E or 100 quattro 2.6 E as sedan / Avant with 2,6-liter V6 petrol engine (110 kW / 150 PS)
Audi 100 2.8 E or 100 quattro 2.8 E as sedan / Avant with 2,8-liter V6 petrol engine (128 kW / 174 PS)
Audi 100 S4 (with permanent all-wheel drive) as sedan / Avant with 2,2-liter five-cylinder petrol engine (169 kW / 230 PS)
Audi 100 S4 4.2 (with permanent all-wheel drive) as sedan / Avant with 4,2-liter V8 petrol engine (206 kW / 280 PS)
Audi 100 2.4 D as sedan / Avant with 2,4-liter five-cylinder diesel (60 kW / 82 PS)
Audi 100 2.5 TDI as sedan / Avant with 2,5-liter five-cylinder diesel (85 kW / 115 PS)
Audi A6 1.8 with 1,8-liter four-cylinder petrol engine (92 kW / 125 PS)
Audi A6 2.0 with 2,0-liter four-cylinder petrol engine (74 kW / 101 PS)
Audi A6 2.0 E with 2,0-liter four-cylinder petrol engine (85 kW / 115 PS or 103 kW / 140 PS)
Audi A6 2.3 E with 2,3-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine (98 kW / 133 PS)
Audi A6 2.6 E with 2,6-liter V6 petrol engine (110 kW / 150 PS)
Audi A6 2.8 E with 2,8-liter V6 petrol engine (128 kW / 174 hp or 142 kW / 193 hp)
Audi S6 with 2,2-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine (169 kW / 230 PS)
Audi S6 4.2 with 4,2-liter V8 petrol engine (213 kW / 290 PS)
Audi S6 Plus 4.2 with 4,2-liter V8 petrol engine (240 kW / 326 PS)
Audi A6 1.9 TDI with 1,9-liter four-cylinder diesel (66 kW / 90 PS)
Audi A6 2.5 TDI with 2,5-liter five-cylinder diesel (85 kW / 115 PS or 103 kW / 140 PS)

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