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Another Boxy ’80s Audi:
The Early Coupe GT

October 10, 2014 by Matt

1983 Audi Coupe GT

I think this might have been what I always wanted. I just didn’t know it.

I’ve written about the ’81-’87 Audi Coupe GT before; it’s a personal favorite of mine. I daily-drove a 1986 Audi 4000 quattro for a couple of years, a car that shares the Coupe GT’s interior, engine and basic structure, only with a pair of rear doors and AWD instead of the Coupe’s FWD. So I learned to really appreciate what Car and Driver lauded as an “uncluttered,” “simply and tastefully trimmed” interior coupled with “dead-nuts accurate” steering “full of road feel.” For any car with sporting pretensions, getting those elements right, among others, is a great place to start.

My ownership experience wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, though. The 2.2-liter straight-5 made a nice burble, but 110 hp was completely inadequate when it came to moving the little sedan along with any kind of alacrity, despite the best efforts of the close-ratio 5-speed. Blame the car’s 2,800-lb weight for that.

1983 Audi Coupe GT Interior Inside Console Cockpit

But most significantly, I fell into what I’ll call Enthusiast AWD Delusion Syndrome. My reasoning was as follows: I appreciate the superiority of RWD over FWD the standpoint of engineering balance and how that affects the driving experience. Architecturally, my Audi 4000 was effectively a FWD car with a driveshaft, rear diff and axle shafts tacked on. In my mind, though, the mere fact that the rear wheels were driven meant it seemed more like a RWD than a FWD car. Naturally, this conceptual shift was completely at odds with the 4000’s behavior on the road, where it felt very nose-heavy, understeered resolutely and didn’t exhibit any of the fun tail-happiness characteristic of the best RWD mounts. But, just to underscore the point, my idea of the car changed when I discovered it had AWD; in my little automotive world, I felt like I was more of a true enthusiast because I hadn’t compromised and bought a FWD car, never mind the fact that the Audi’s balance and handling were, for all intents and purposes, identical to those of the layout I was trying to avoid. Furthermore, I have a feeling Enthusiast AWD Delusion Syndrome is more widespread than is generally realized, but that’s a topic to expand upon in another post.

So what does any of this have to do with the Coupe GT? Simply put, it shares all of the positives its sister car, my little 4000, and shores up the two deficiencies noted above. Is it RWD? No; it’s FWD, but it doesn’t deceive the enthusiast into thinking it’s more balanced than it is, and the lack of rear running gear nets a 400+ lb weight savings over the 4000, sharpening the car’s responses even further and, more significantly, freeing up the powerplant to shave a good second and a half off the 0-60 time. The Coupe GT is lighter, more tossable, quicker, less complicated and more straightforward than the 4000.

1983 Audi Coupe GT

It’s a great looking car, too. From an aesthetic standpoint, in spite of their more prominent black bumpers, I much prefer the early, pre-facelift ’81-’84 GT to the ’85-’87 car. The refresh may share the earlier car’s proportions and stance, but in being smoothed out and cleaned up, it lost some wedgy-ness, some of the attitude of the ’81-’84 model. The earlier, boxier car share a visual kinship with the first-generation VW Scirocco and Golf GTI, good company indeed, and a pair of cars, like the Coupe GT, their automaker got just right the first time. I just wish I had known it.

Image credits:,,

Filed under: Audi, Car Culture


  1. Jeremiah says:

    Loved the ones I (84 and 85) had, but they were much less reliable than my 1991 200 20v, which doesn’t even seem possible. I had a wheel fall off at 70 mph due to a failed bearing. After fixing that the front wheel all but fell off when a suspension joint failed. I like the later models better aesthetically and you can definitely feel the extra 10hp. The interiors are much better too. I think the 87 with 130hp would be the way to go. They handle great, but really are pretty slow.

    But what I really want is a Ur-Quattro.

    • Matt says:

      Sounds like you had a couple of lemons. Sorry to hear about the wheel problems! That would scare the pants off me (and probably kill me) if it happened at highway—or any, really—speed.

      I have eternal love for the 200q20v, no doubt about it, but there are some days when I crave a less complex, more straightfoward car, and that’s when I pine for a CGT.

  2. Ryan says:

    Kinda looks like a stretched Delorean.

  3. AL says:

    I’ll admit that I find FWD inferior to AWD although I am well aware that there are exceptions to every rule. Full disclosure, my daily driver is a WRX. I do think that taxing only two patches of rubber with both steering and power delivery has its inherent downsides, at least from a performance/enthusiast dynamics standpoint. I’ll concede that there are some very good-handling front-drivers but, IMO, once you start getting much over 200hp, the vehicle’s ability to effectively transfer that energy is very limited. One FWD attribute that I cannot stand, even if it’s in a mundane mid-size sedan appliance, is torque steer. I’ll find an AWD alternative to limit the amount of power that goes to the front wheels just to avoid torque steer. Combine that with the fact that I live in Minnesota, a performance-oriented AWD car (with dedicated snow tires/wheels for the winter) makes for a “best of all worlds” year-around fun machine. The only thing that stops that car is ground clearance! Maybe I am “delusional” but I don’t think I’ll ever own another FWD vehicle.

    • Matt says:

      Totally agree. There are definite advantages to AWD over FWD; I was just trying to emphasize the fact that I deluded myself into thinking chassis balance was one of them. :) Regarding one of your advantages, it probably helps that just about every FWD car that I want doesn’t have enough power to make torque steer a problem, haha.

  4. Nic says:

    “…I felt like I was more of a true enthusiast because I hadn’t compromised and bought a FWD car, never mind the fact that the Audi’s balance and handling were, for all intents and purposes, identical to those of the layout I was trying to avoid. Furthermore, I have a feeling Enthusiast AWD Delusion Syndrome is more widespread than is generally realized…”

    Enthusiast AWD Delusion Syndrome… I love it! A disorder that has been spreading at a faster rate than ever with all the AWD propaganda being spewed out by marketing departments these days. AWD helps traction while accelerating. That’s pretty much it. Does it help you stop better? No. Does it help you turn better? Usually not, unless you have a highly sophisticated system that continuously adjusts the speed of each wheel individually. Is it heavy? Yes. Is it expensive and complicated? Usually. I have often found myself falling into that trap that is Enthusiast AWD Delusion Syndrome, and every time this happens, logic and reasoning pulls me out. The truth is, the drawbacks of AWD usually outweigh the benefits.

    Often times, as you mentioned Matt, AWD cars are built on a FWD chassis. If that’s the case, unless you participate in rallycross or rally racing, you’re probably better off with the FWD car. The only advantage to the AWD car over the FWD one is acceleration in slippery conditions. If the conditions are so slippery that you need AWD, do you really want to be accelerating that fast? And how about the majority of the time you are driving when the conditions aren’t apocalyptic? Your acceleration his held back by all that heavy AWD equipment.

    Aside from the zero-sum gain by adding AWD to a FWD chassis, AWD also makes the car much more complicated and expensive to fix if something goes wrong. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my cars simple and unencumbered with extra complicated equipment that can fail. I learned that lesson the hard way by driving too many used European cars in my late teens and early 20s. The fewer electronic components that rely on a computer to function, the better. It means more money can be spend having fun with the car rather than repairing it.

    I really wasn’t expecting to go on such a rant, but re-reading this article, especially the part about AWD Enthusiast Syndrome, got my typing fingers excited. I come across a good number of people who have fallen victim to this disorder. While my rant is especially targeted towards proponents of FWD based AWD cars, even RWD based AWD cars usually turn out inferior to their rear-driven counterparts unless their power output is substantial. Time to put and end to Enthusiast AWD Delusion Syndrome once and for all! Let’s all put on black-and-white checkered-flag colored ribbons and declare this national E-AWD-DS awareness month!

    However, with all that being said, I lust badly for a Subaru Impreza 22B and a Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione… There are a few good AWD cars out there, but I just can’t help but think you made a poor choice if you chose, say, the AWD Ford Fusion over the FWD one, or the BMW 330xi over the 330i. Stop listening to marketing people and buy better tires.

    Yours truly,

    …from Montreal, Canada; where it is winter 6 months out of the year and the city doesn’t believe in regular plowing. Frequently found driving my Saab 9-5 Aero (FWD, gasp!) on Michelin X-Ice xi3 tires past AWD Audis and Subarus crashed in ditches during the winter.

    • Matt says:


      Thanks for the comment! Glad you can relate. :) And like you, there are still more than a few AWD cars out there on my “to buy” list… Haha. I guess EAWDDS is harder to get out of my system than I thought.

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