FWD Champions: The Audi Coupe GT
The Audi Coupe GT is a seemingly humdrum FWD variant of the car that put its automaker on the map in the modern era, the Quattro. Their respective values in the used car marketplace illustrate the disparity between the two cars: The significance, performance and rarity of the latter model means its prices can top $10K for a good copy, even today, while a clean Coupe GT can be had for less than $2K.
As alluded to, the difference in value arises from a combination of attributes possessed uniquely by the Quattro: its turbocharged engine, pioneering AWD, exclusivity (only 664 were imported to the US) and rally-style boxy fender flares, among other minor cosmetic touches. If the Quattro is the ne plus ultra of Audis in the ’80s, then, is there anything to like about the Coupe GT? What more is it than an attempt to cash in on the performance variant’s image by offering a car that mimicked its overall shape but was fitted with vastly inferior running gear?
Well, be that as it may, a closer look reveals quite a bit to like about the lesser car. For one thing, the absence of the extra differentials and driveshafts required by AWD lowers the Coupe GT’s weight by roughly 400 lbs compared to the Quattro’s 2,800 lbs. The Coupe GT’s 2.2l SOHC 5-cylinder may only develop 115 hp versus the Quattro’s 160, but it has proportionally less car to haul around. The engine’s location out over the front axle is unchanged, so the without the extra tackle in the rear, the Coupe GT’s weight distribution actually suffers relative to its sibling, but the overall car’s relative lack of mass pays dividends when it comes to chassis response. Light weight is the gift that keeps on giving.
Not only that, but Audi seems to have taken a page from Volkswagen’s GTI playbook and invested the Coupe GT with healthy dose of grin-inducing playfulness. Its lightness certainly plays a role, and the rear beam axle (same design as the GTI’s), rack-and-pinion steering and general suspension tuning seal the deal. It’s a testament to the Coupe GT’s handling quality and tunability that it’s relatively frequent participant in certain classes of road racing. And a pre-facelift (< ’85) fitted with slightly larger wheels, Euro headlights and lowered is a very handsome car, without the box flares arguably even more sleek than its big brother. Far from being a cynical spinoff of the Quattro, Audi had the good sense to infuse the Coupe GT with its own identity, one that makes it a FWD car I could happily live with.
Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting FWD cars I think highly of, in spite of my overwhelming RWD bias. Read the other installments here:
- Peugeot 205 GTI
- B4 Volkswagen Passat
- Lancia Fulvia Coupe
- Acura Vigor
- Mazda Millenia
- Citroën SM
- Fiat Coupé
- ’91-’96 Infiniti G20
- ’91-’94 B13 Nissan Sentra SE-R
- ’88-’92 Mazda MX-6
- Volkswagen Corrado
- Peugeot 405 Mi16
- ’78-’93 Saab 900
- Volvo 850 T-5R
- 5th-generation Honda Prelude
- 1st- and 2nd-generation Volkswagen Scirocco