AUDI COUPÉ REVIEW

Launched in 1981, and closely related to the groundbreaking Quattro, here’s a sporting choice that’s still temptingly cheap.

 

The Audi Coupé was a welcome new addition to the UK new car price lists in March 1981. Its slightly upscale price of £7475 might have put it in direct competition with more powerful rivals, such as the 3.0-litre Ford Capri and BMW 323i – but with its Quattro-esque styling, and all the kudos that came with it, and the whiff of imported exclusivity that was still attached to Audi in the early 1980s, here was a car that offered a unique set of qualities in the coupé battlefield.

Heart of the Coupé’s appeal was its off-beat, non-turbo five-cylinder engine, which originally was available in 1921cc carburetted form, developing 115bhp. You either loved its warbling soundtrack or you were disturbed by it.

The range was quickly developed in two directions – in 1983, a more potent 2.2-litre 136bhp five-pot was introduced, and the following year, arrival of the facelifted model was marked by the addition of an 1.8-litre entry level. Improvements included new bumpers, and a softer, more aerodynamic grille to complement its new higher quality dashboard and switchgear.

Also new in ‘84 was arrival of the four-wheel drive Quattro version – and that proved highly popular in the UK, despite its high price. The Coupé remained on sale until 1988, by which time an impressive 174,687 had been built.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

(GT5E)

Engine     2226cc/5-cyl/OHC

Power      136bhp@5700rpm

Torque     137lb ft@3500rpm

Maximum speed 120mph

0-60mph9.1sec

Fuel consumption   26-34mpg

Transmission        FWD, five-spd manual

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Four cylinders good

The 8V 112bhp 1.8-litre Audi Coupé’s engine was donated from the Volkswagen Golf GTI, and is, therefore, a well known quantity. It’s strong and well respected, and as long as the cambelt is changed every four years or 40,000 miles, and the oil changes have been religiously adhered to on at least an annual basis, don’t be afraid of odometer readings of more than 150,000.

Five cylinders better

Like the four-cylinder version, the top of the range Coupés prove strong and reliable over huge mileages. They are sensitive to regular oil changes, and if the hydraulic tappets are noisy, that’s a sign it’s been less than rigorously maintained.  

Cooling critical

The five-cylinder Coupé has quite a small side-mounted radiator, and cooling capacity can be marginal. Make sure there are no signs of previous overheating, and that the fan cuts in at temperature. Also, it’s advised to do a full coolant change at least once every two years, as the waterways can clog up. Also water pumps aren’t that long-lived – five years on average. 

Corrosion is a killer

Unlike later galvanised Audis, the Coupé can rot like an Alfasud on a trip to Blackpool. Vulnerable areas are the boot floor, thanks to a leaking bootlid, the windscreen surround, and there can be issues with the front strut tops, too. Later models have plastic sill extensions, so check closely for hidden grot behind them. 

Quattro maladies

The four-wheel drive system deserves a buying guide all to itself, and although it’s rugged and long-lived, it’s not infallable. Watch out for whining differentials, and driveline clonks – these are easy tell-tales that all is not well. Walk away if there’s uneven tyre wear, or mismatched brands are fitted.

Don’t get caught short

The main concern with these cars is that so many parts are simply no longer available. So don’t shrug off a cracked headlamp or bumper, because you’ll be searching hard for a replacement. The same is true inside – and although most switchgear and fittings are reliable, they are nigh-on irreplaceable. Seat trim is the same – it wears out on the bolsters and you can’t replace it. 

 

OUR VERDICT

Forgetting the whole ‘Fire up the Quattro’ phenomenom, which is ancient history now, here’s a car that combines fabulous oh-so 1980s styling, rugged mechanicals, charismatic power units, the option of four-wheel drive, and a surprising amount of interior room.

If you’re expecting sports car thrills, then be prepared to be slightly disappointed. The Coupé’s steering is a little on the remote side, and the handling feels a bit saloon-like (unsurprising, considering it’s so closely related to the 80). And even in the most powerful 2.2-litre fuel injected form, none of them is particularly quick – instead you could be generous and say ‘brisk’. 

Prices of good Coupés are picking up after too many years in secondhand-land, but they are still good value compared with the more exotic (in classic terms) Ford Capri or Volkswagen Scirocco. And as for ownership, it could be argued that the more mature Audi trumps both of those alternatives.

Our pick of the range would definitely be a pre-facelift 2.2-litre GT 5E, although the later interior is a far nicer place to sit. But any one will give you many years of classic enjoyment.

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