By on October 2, 2012

The Audi “Unintended Acceleration” debacle of 1986, which whacked American Audi sales by about 75% within a few years, makes the 1982-86 Audi 5000 an historically significant Junkyard Find. The 60 Minutes piece about the 5000′s allegedly malevolent behavior turned the car’s image from masterpiece of aerodynamic science to bloody-clawed multiple murderer, with predictable effects on resale value for existing cars. This means that the 5000 of the Unintended Acceleration era that managed to stay on the good side of The Crusher until 2012 is a survivor of astonishing tenacity.
Plenty of cars had smooth lines like this by the early 1990s, so the ’84 5000 doesn’t really stand out from the crowd these days. Back in the early 1980s, however, this car looked double-take-inducing futuristic.
Everybody has flush glass now, but noisy and drag-inducing inset windows were the norm in the early 1980s. Here’s the car that introduced the flush-glass idea to the marketplace.
So, yeah, this car got a bum rap thanks to panic-mongering journalism. Ford managed to emerge comparatively unscathed from the infamous “Park-To-Reverse” controversy of a few years earlier, even though thousands of 1966-80 Fords really did suffer from a dangerous mechanical flaw.
Not that the 5000 was without its real-life weaknesses, of course; high complexity levels and glitchy electrical components kept cost-of-ownership fairly high for these things.
Note the recall-mandated decal applied to the shifter console. It’s too bad that Audi didn’t add a dash decal identifying the difference between the throttle and brake pedals.
I was impressed by how clean this car looked. Here’s why: 62,837 miles on the clock. Original owner who only drove to church on Sundays?

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88 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1984 Audi 5000 S, With Voodoo Incantantion To Ward Off Unintended Acceleration...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    I guess Lincoln wasn’t the first luxury automaker to employ baleen. Look at that shift gate!

  • avatar
    tced2

    I believe one of the car mags (CD?) did an article that examined the positioning of the brake and accelerator pedals on a number of cars of the time. It found that the Audi’s pedals were positioned so that an inattentive driver would mistake the accelerator for the brake pedal. Also the height of the brake pedal from the floor was lower.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Yeah, I kind of remember that info from back then.

      I wished that he had taken better pics of the brake and gas pedals for review. The only pic of them is obscured by the steering wheel…

  • avatar
    KalapanaBlack

    Wow, that leather (vinyl?) looks almost perfect. I realize the miles are low, but that car has to have sat quite a bit. Unless it was towed from its permanent garaged parking place to the scrap yard, I don’t see how there isn’t more wear on the seats.

  • avatar
    jmo

    A quick look on wikipedia indicates that ’86 Audi 5000 had a 110 bhp 2.2 I5 that brought it from 0-60 in 12.8 seconds. It barely had any intended acceleration let alone unintended.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      A contemporary BMW 325e had a 125 bhp engine, and the 1984 Mustang GT still only had 175. We’ve become accustomed to gigantic horsepower numbers very quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Actually I think the Mustang GT had 185 HP with 220 Torques. Doesn’t seem like much, but you gotta remember it weighed under 3K lbs and had an 8″ posi-locked rear end so you got nearly all of what the 302 V8 could push.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      It was plenty rapid for the day, especially at high highway speeds. As with most European cars, 0-60 was not a design goal, cruising all day at 100mph was. MUCH more fun with a 5spd though, we had several in the family back in the day. And yes, they were certainly “hanger queens”.

      • 0 avatar
        typhoon

        I have a 1988 Audi 80 quattro (5-cylinder, 5-speed) with about 123,000 miles on it that I still drive on occasion. It’s a dog off the line, but in-gear acceleration is fine, fuel economy is great, and yes, even after twenty-four years, the car is very smooth and stable at 100 MPH. It’s also a lot of fun on twisty roads; downshift before the turn and punch it inside. It’s difficult to get the car to lose its composure. And knock on wood, but everything still works (AC, sunroof, everything).

        My sister had a 1987 Audi 5000 in high school (also 5-cylinder, 5-speed) that was a bit beat up but still ran and drove well.

        They’re not for everyone, but these are some of the most beautiful cars of their time and a joy to drive (you just won’t be racing anybody).

  • avatar
    Trend-Shifter

    I have a 1984 Audi 5000S Avant FWD automatic and a 1987 5000S Quattro stickshift. Here is how I think the unintended acceleration issue came to be.

    When I start the 1984 Audi in warm weather for the first time in the morning it would immediately rev the engine quickly to 1800 rpms, then drop to 800 rpms, then to 1200 rpms, then stabilize.

    If you were to quickly drop it into gear after starting it would give the sensation of surging slightly ahead. At those rpms the brakes would have no problem holding the car even with a mild brake application. The problem is that the driver panics and tries to firmly apply the brakes. This is where the driver pushes on the gas rather than the brake.

    So you can see how the car can bring an inexperienced driver to mis-apply the gas instead of the brake pedal.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      As tced2 mentioned, I recall that due to the fact that the Audi had AWD as an option they had to offset the peddles to the left more than was usual.

      • 0 avatar
        Trend-Shifter

        The Quattro drive in the 80′s was only available in the stickshift version. It was not available with an automatic.

        So there was no reason that they could not have configured the brake pedal as required.

      • 0 avatar
        A Caving Ape

        @Trend-Shifter Ahhh if only that were still the case.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        “So there was no reason that they could not have configured the brake pedal as required.”

        So, you think they had separate floor pan tooling for the FWD and AWD cars?

      • 0 avatar
        Trend-Shifter

        ” So, you think they had separate floor pan tooling for the FWD and AWD cars? ”

        No, but every automaker can make both a stickshift and automatic version with the same floor pan. You just need to modify the brake pedal attaching rod to change the pedal placement or have a second set of pedal pivot brackets. It is not rocket science.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        You just need to modify the brake pedal attaching rod to change the pedal placement or have a second set of pedal pivot brackets. It is not rocket science.

        The issue was the transmission tunnel was too wide as it needed to accommodate the optional all wheel drive system, hence they had to offset the peddles. They didn’t stamp a separate smaller tunnel for non AWD cars.

      • 0 avatar
        Trend-Shifter

        @ jmo, you could be correct.

        However based on my driving position I see no difference if compared against other RWD vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Kevin Kluttz

        Pedals. And not inexperienced, but inattentive. Driving is easy if you PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE DOING.

    • 0 avatar
      56BelAire

      Can you imagine how many of these Audi’s would have crashed if in 1984 people had “smart” phones.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    One should always remember that the press is there because the only thing they could do requiring lower IQ would be to go into politics.

    And asking almost any “journalist” to report on something technical is like asking Al Gore to do a simple calculus problem.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I had a friend that bought one of these in the late ’80′s from a woman who was afraid of it because of the unintended acceleration issue; nevermind the fact that it was a manual transmission model. He bought it on the cheap!

    Anyway, the power steering went out and it became a “manual” steering model and then one by one the power door locks quit except for the back left door. It became the only door that would open and you had to get in and out of the car through that door and climb over the front seats.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    For all the talk about how ahead of the times the 5000 was those sealed beam headlights date the vehicle instantly. IIRC Ford is the company that got the regulations changed to allow non-standard headlight shapes. Don’t think the Taurus was the first Ford to use this, but it was the first 4 door sedand to have a truly cohesive “aero” look. Flush glass? Who cares when the headlights are recessed and boxy?

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      The ones sold in Europe always had flush, plastic lenses and did look more aerodynamic than the early U.S. market models with the quad sealed beams.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      However it looked, the aerodynamics were for real. My 5000S 5-speed could cruise at 120 mph with something like 110 hp and return more than 30 on the highway while averaging over 80 mph on college road trips.

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        The Audi 5000 had a drag coefficient .30 compared to .32 for the Ford Taurus, .35 for the Ford Thunderbird and .36 for the Ford Tempo.

        The number for the Audi is with flush headlights. The early U.S. version with sealed beams may have had a slightly higher drag coefficient. The numbers for the Thunderbird and Tempo are the original versions with sealed beams.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      The US was one of the few countries in the world still requiring sealed beam headlights. Bulbs for flush fitting lights were common everywhere else back to the mid sixties, but only were allowed for US sold cars starting with the 1986 model year. Which is why the new Taurus was so unique for having them, and why everyone else just switched over to the lenses used in the rest of the world. Modified to the US-specific beam patterns, of course; can’t be too much like everyone else, can we?

      I don’t know if Ford in particular was the main force behind the change of legislation, but if they were good for them!

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        Pedantic note: 1984 on the Lincoln Mark VII. It was the ONLY car sold in the US with composite headlights that year. A few (imported) cars actually had composite headlights in 1985 (i.e. Jetta and Maxima), a year before the Taurus.

      • 0 avatar
        ekaftan

        I have a 93 Volvo with a DOT headlight on the left side and an E-code on the right side and the difference is huge.

        You should just scrap that DOT headlight nonsense and make everybody switch to ecodes. Its a no brainer..

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      ” Don’t think the Taurus was the first Ford to use this,…”

      Correct. That honor went to the Lincoln Mark VII.

    • 0 avatar
      xantia10000

      Exactly. Sealed beams was not Audi’s design intention, it was an FMVSS requirement in the 1980s. Just about every European and Japanese car of that era offered flush headlamps for non-US markets.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    The Audis of that era were nice cars — when they worked. I owned an ’80 5000s diesel. Since the standard interior was cloth (which is what I had), I expect that the seats of the car in the photo are covered with real leather, not vinyl. Of course, the whole unintended acceleration thing was ridiculous. There were a lot of people who believed that if you stomp on the brake and the gas simultaneously, the car would actually move! Various car mags used much more powerful cars to demonstrate that this was not the case. And the idea that a driver with an automatic transmission car would NOT apply the brake before putting the car in gear is pretty risible, since all automatic transmission cars creep without applying the throttle when put into gear.

    Based on my ownership experience (and a lot of others’) the Audis of the era deserved to be whacked, not because they were runaways but because of stupid engineering design errors which precipitated expensive repairs. For example, like many German cars of the era, the central locking system was vacuum operated, not electric. My diesel had a vacuum pump located in the center of the well in the trunk where the spare tire was located. A poor gasket design for the trunk lid resulted in water leaking into the trunk, collecting in the well and ruining the vacuum pump.

    Somehow, I managed to keep this car going until 1987, but not before replacing the steering rack, replacing the cylinder head gasket, replacing the heater core (which flooded the interior with coolant when it failed), replacing the manual transmission linkage and replacing annually the master fuse for the a/c system (which failed predictably and inexplicably every winter when the a/c wasn’t in use), replacing the slave hydraulic cylinder for the clutch and so on.

    The paint was lovely, as was the interior. For 4 passengers, one of the most comfortable cars to drive for long distances I have ever owned.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      Unlike Mercedes Benz and BMW, I don’t think Audi ever peddled (garbage) imitation leather.

      • 0 avatar
        jacob_coulter

        I’m one of those odd balls that actually likes high quality imitation leather.

        I’ve had a few cars with it over the years (Volvo 240, MB Tex on a 190E, etc) it looks new forever and it cleans easily. There’s also no need to condition it.

        If you’re the type that buys a new car ever 3 years, real leather not an issue, but if you like to buy used and live here in the SouthWest, real leather dries out and cracks if it’s not garaged and maintained.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        When my wife and I were shopping for a new car in 1980 (when all of the smart guys were predicting astronomically high petroleum prices until The End of Time), we looked at the Mercedes 240D as well as the Audi. It just happened that we were shopping during cold weather season. One minute sitting on the cold, stiff MB-Tex in the 240D was all it took for my wife to scratch that car off the list. IIRC, the 240D was slightly more expensive than the 5000 Diesel, both with manual transmissions.

        On a new car that isn’t going to be used by preschoolers (with a propensity for spilling things), cloth seats are actually pretty nice. They’re cooler and warmer than leather, and not slippery. Leather, of course, has a nice smell and cleans up from spills. On used car, the thought of what’s been spilled, etc. on the cloth seats is kind of a turnoff.

        To be sure, MB-Tex is a model of durability and longevity . . . but it’s not too nice to sit on.

      • 0 avatar
        bkmurph

        I quite like the M-B Tex, having experienced it in the W124 E300. But, like DC Bruce, I prefer cloth in many (most?) cases.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        The ’84 5000S did have perforated vinyl seats. Not sure if they were standard or optional, but they were fairly rare. My dad drove a base model when the first hit the showrooms in 1984 and the vinyl seats had a different stitching pattern than the leather seats.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Almost every Audi on the road is that same way, they’re great until something breaks for no apparent reason.

      What makes them scarier is that some new Audis use VW parts.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      My one experience with Audi was dictated by my better half’s desire to own one. They were beautiful automobiles, but like all German engineering,they are perpetually asking questions no one needs the answer to. Like the vacuum locks. Or longitudinal FWD. This has a good ending, however. I knew I was over-matched at an early stage, but discovered a gem of a repair shop called A&P Specialties in Portland. Scrupulously honest and detail-oriented. The good ones need to be lauded for their excellence. They kept her car perfectly driveable until a Suburban decided to stop on the trunklid in the West Hills tunnel. RIP.

  • avatar
    msquare

    I always thought the unintended acceleration thing was crap, and after the idiots were done with Audi, they tried the same thing on other cars as well. I believe GM H-bodies (Bonneville, 88, LeSabre) were accused of the same thing and nothing came of it.

    One thing that came out of the affair that was good for a laugh:

    Audi = Accelerates Under Demonic Influence

  • avatar
    gslippy

    “…high complexity levels and glitchy electrical components kept cost-of-ownership fairly high for these things”

    I see nothing’s changed.

  • avatar
    EAM3

    My dad had an ’84 5000S. When things were working, it was actually a very nice car. Not fast but very comfortable, cold A/C (essential in FL) and rock solid. That car did not have even the lightest rattle or squeak at 110K miles, it felt like a new car inside. Having said that, about the only component that did not fail on it was the transmission. Just about everything else was replaced at least once. Towards the end he never rolled the windows down for fear that they would never come back up – that component (on all 4 doors) being the most common failure he experienced. Oh yeah, and miserable sealed beams. I spent hours trying to adjust the lights so that they would shine better than two disposable flashlights to no avail. He gave the car away to his mechanic in 1990.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    Bonus points to Murilee for the correct grammatical usage of the indefinite article “an” in front of “historically”. You may step to the front of the class.

    • 0 avatar
      aristurtle

      Ugh, no. Both of you fail.

      http://oxforddictionaries.com/words/a-historic-event-or-an-historic-event

      • 0 avatar
        MarkP

        I think the “an historic” usage probably started with the tendency of some in Great Britain to drop the initial h sound in some words. In that case “an ‘istoric” would be right. But then that might be some kind of folk etymology.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    At some point, an urban expression was “I’m Audi 5000, G(angster)” meaning, I suppose, “I’m gone in a flash”

    Still a very clean if now boring design, too bad they were sooo bad. This was a very well cared for car and not driven much. I can only surmise that someone was left this in a estate, whoever got it drove it until something gave out and then gave up on it.

    Amazes also how well Ford was able to copy this to make the original Tempo/Topaz twins. I’m sure Murilee can find one of those for comparison.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      For the upteenth time: Ford did not copy the 5000s when designing the Tempo/Topaz and Taurus/Sable. The Taurus/Sable design was already finalized when Audi revealed the 5000s in 1982; it just confirmed for Ford that they were on the right track. The Tempo/Topaz came out even earlier.

      And the truth is, if Murilee did compare them (probably more like a Vellum Venom article); you will see the Ford sedans have little in common design wise with the 5000s. The 5000s had frameless doors that fitted flush inside the door pillars (the glass covered the window frames, pinned to rails that slide up and down); the Fords had clamshell doors with the front edge of the front doors overlapping the windshield (i.e. M-B); channeling air over the top of the greenhouse rather than letting it flow down the sides. (The windows themselves were in conventional tracks.) Some of the Fords had no grill; all the cooling air came from under the front bumpers. And the Taurus wagon was a much better looker than the 5000s wagon.

      But both the 5000s and the Taurus/Sable looked great; fresh, clean honest designs that may be “bars of soap”; but are not bloated. And yes, I still to this day remember when I saw an Audi 5000s for the first time: it was in a drive-thru line in my town’s Taco Bell. It looked like a space ship had landed and taken its place among the other crease-and-tuck cars in line, absolutely stunning.

      I sat in one in a dealership, and have pictures I cut out of it in one of my photo albums at home. The last one I saw on the road was about 2-3 years ago; the Taurus/Sables definitely held up better. But the 5000s is still one of my design favorites.

    • 0 avatar
      ranwhenparked

      The Tempo/Topaz (and Taurus/Sable for that matter) actually took their styling cues from the Ford Sierra, which, of course, hit the market in 1982 – the same year as the Audi 100/5000, which means that it was more of a case of European designers, trained at the same schools, and working at the same time arriving at similar concepts. It’s not unusual at all, car styling always has a tendency to converge across makes and countries.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    I had two 1987 Audis. The 5000S, FWD with a 3 spd slushbox, I bought in 1993 with 50,000 miles. It was perfectly reliable for the next ~30k miles, then all hell broke loose. I sold it in 2003 for $800. I bought the 5000S Quattro (non-turbo 5 spd manual) in 1997 for $1500 and gave it away in 2008. The quality of manufacture was evident in that exactly the same parts broke in both cars, sometimes within days of each other. The VDO odometers quit within a few miles of each other, and the ignition switches within a few months. The Audi parts counter guy and I knew each other by first name. Failure of any sensor in the Bosche K-tronic injection system would cause the engine to quit cold. If the auto wouldn’t start, the first remedy was to open the trunk lid and wiggle it up and down. The quattro had 10 CV joints, one center driveshaft bearing, and a U-joint. I replaced all of them at least once. They went through a dozen door handles. Almost every engine maintenance item required removal of the front bumper. Cleaning the throttle body required removing the right front fender. The I-5 engine was bulletproof however, and even after 21 years of Michigan winter salt, the body remained rust free. The S was pretty nice, but the QS was amazing. Just for the fun of it, I’d stop and pull 4×4 pickups and SUVs out of snow banks. Eventually, I tired of “gooseneck sensors” and “bombs” and spending weekends under the car and I’ve remained Audi-free since.

  • avatar
    threeer

    While stationed in Germany (Mannheim, now sadly closed for good), my mother fell madly in love with the 5000. Mom and dad diddled around with deciding to buy (or not). They looked the first time when the dollar bought something like DM3.65…by the time she got serious, the rate had fallen tremendously, and the Audi wasn’t as cheap as it was, so they passed on it. Later in life, I owned two Audis, a 1980 Audi 5000 diesel (my prom car!) and a 1985 Audi 4000S (perhaps the worst car I owned. No, wait…that’d be the Mercury XR-7 I inexplicably decided to buy). The diesel was pretty solid, if not slow. The 4000 was horrendous. Still, I smile when I see a well-preserved 5000S, which is becoming a rarity.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      I owned a manual transmission 1987 4000S. It wasn’t horribly unreliable, but it did have some bugs. Water pump left me stranded one time, and I had to replace a couple of exterior door handles (common VW/Audi problem of the time). Its power sunroof occasionally decided it wouldn’t close, but I used the little tool in the glove box to remedy that problem when it surfaced. Other than that, it was a reasonably good, if somewhat underpowered car.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    “Back in the early 1980s, however, this car looked double-take-inducing futuristic.”

    Yes, in a sea of GM B-body clones and leftover 70′s tanks, these things were space-ships. I wanted one back in the day, but was upside down on a 1983 Trans Am that I wanted before I knew about the Audi. I think it might have been the first 4-door sedan I’d ever lusted after.

  • avatar
    Speed Spaniel

    Here is a rather odd story that perplexes me to this day. I have always loved Audis, but I had a bad scare with one a few years ago. My 2007 S4 was in for service and I was given a lovely 2008 A4 Avant loaner. It was an automatic with a turbo 4. While commuting home on a very busy interstate outside of Boston, being 100% sober and drug free, the car surged and kept accelerating. The accelerator I noticed had stuck half way and I used my foot to physically pry it up. The brake had no effect. The sticking (?) pedal kept doing it, so logically I checked the floor mat to make sure it wasn’t interfering and found it was indeed locked and secured into its place. I decided there was something wrong with the car. I pulled over in the break down lane, called the dealership and told them the situation and that they better send a tow truck. The service guy on the other end of the phone told me to remove the floor mat and to put it in the cargo area. I told him I already checked the floor mat and it was locked down and not touching the accelerator, it was a good 2 inches away. He assured me, “just remove the floor mat”. I did as he said and I can’t believe it worked. I am 100% sure and totally convinced the floor mat wasn’t touching the accelerator and had nothing to do with the issue, but when removed the issue was solved. To this day, despite the removed floor mat that, yes, solved the problem, I’m not convinced it was that and I swear there was a ghost in that machine.

    • 0 avatar
      Phil Coconis

      Must have been one of those “Magnetic Floor Mats” I’ve heard about in your urbanLegend!
      Back in the day, I actually worked on a number of the early ’80′s Audi products.
      I can vouch for the fact that the so-called “unintended acceleration” problems with these vehicles were real. I had it happen once to me!
      I had to attribute it to the fact (and I mean a real tangible FACT) that the brake and accelerator pedals were about at the same height, there was fairly little space in between them, and they had very similar resistance qualities.
      Fortunately, I realized that I was actually pressing the accelerator instead of the brake before I integrated my workbench into the hapless Audi’s grille!
      Stay tuned for a column (Memoirs of an Independent Repair Shop Owner, on this site)in which I document some of the highlights of working on vehicles German–especially those from the “Marque of the Interlocking Rings”.

  • avatar
    Jetstar 88

    Mmmm, those seats look nice.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      They sure do. I was going to suggest to Murilee that he should pry them out and keep them for one of his project vehicles. Audi seats of that generation were very good.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    One feature of that era that will probably not be seen again: that car had three ashtrays and lighters (console and rear doors). Highly doubt there are any modern cars nowadays that feature that (and that’s a good thing).

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Actually, some Audis still have this, sort of. Audi Q7s have ashtrays in the rear doors and 12V power points in the back of the console.

      To give this a dose of Panther-love, do modern Town Cars still have an ashtray and lighter in each door?

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Seeing this article so close to the SC300 article I suddenly realize that Lexus was NOT a Japanese ripoff of Mercedes but cheaper. It was a Japanese ripoff of Audi, but reliable.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      IIRC from what I read on the development of the original LS400, it was specifically modeled after and targeted the market of the 560SEL.

    • 0 avatar
      potatobreath

      Yes, I remember reading that the test drivers of a prototype camouflaged LS400 handled an encounter with curious passersby by claiming the car was the next generation Mercedes-Benz S-klasse.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Old auto auction advice…

    “If you see an old odometer with low miles, and the trippy odometer is stuck at all 0′s, that there shows you the odometer is a-broken!”

    Audi, Volvo, Mercedes, Jag-u-ar, and VW from the 1980′s were notorious for having their odometer gears bust. Cheap plastic usually never sees the lighter side of 200k.

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Can anyone find a copy of the 60 Minutes bit? I suppose its not surprising that they’ve been careful to keep it off the Interwebs, but call it a bit of morbid curiosity.

  • avatar
    needsdecaf

    My dad had an 84 5000 S Turbo. He told me that the turbo lag was measured in hours, not seconds. I remember that the car was fast, cool, quiet and dead, dead, dead unreliable.

    The car would often not start, electronics often failed, we went through 3 radios, 2 climate control modules, and not one, not two but THREE turbos.

    But the car was cooler than snot. Trip computer? Auto climate control that worked? Flush glass? Sealed headlights? Check. Very, very cool.

    On the other hand, I am here to tell you that the unintended acceleration issue was 100% NOT USER ERROR. I could count at least 4 times when I was in the car with my dad, the car would just take off. He had his foot clear off the gas (I looked) and the car was going like a bat out of hell. Oh, and the car had no cruise control to stick. No, that was definitely not user error. Given the numerous other issues that the car had, I am sure that the people who ran through the garage wall may have not been mistaking the brake and the gas.

    In the end, he dropped it off at the dealer with 2 lease payments left and told them that if they came after him for the last two lease payments, he’d sue for such a shoddy product (it really was). They never did.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You can’t blame the climate control on the Germans – that was PURE General Motors. The control panel was identical to that in my folk’s ’85 Olds 98. Which also went through a number of CC issues.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        You can blame the Germans for being cheap enough to put a GM HVAC system into their $80,000 snobmobile. Bosch didn’t feel like coming up with one?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Uh, mid 80′s Audi 5000S was nothing like $80,000. More like $16-17K. They actually cost quite a bit less than that loaded ’85 Olds 98 (which was $20K in the Fall of ’84 when the new FWD 98 first came out). Same price as a loaded Buick Century or Ford Taurus roughly. Something of a bargain back in the day for a car that looked like a spaceship, and VERY well equipped too. GM has long been known for very good A/C systems, but these early electronic control heads were pretty much crap.

        As I said, we had these cars in the extended family (and my Mom eventually had an early 90s 5000CSQ)back in the day, and while I agree they were not the most reliable cars ever made, compared to most anything American at the time they were AMAZING to drive and/or ride in. The way a car with such a small engine could go down the highway the way it did with such smoothness and so little noise really was astounding.

      • 0 avatar
        ShoogyBee

        They had GM-sourced power seat controls (and motors?) as well.

  • avatar
    markholli

    Wow. Super nostalgic. My dad had an ’86 5000 S. Here are my top 10 memories of the car:

    10) Solid “thud” when closing the door. Built like a tank. We slide sideways into a solid embankment of ice at 30 MPH once coming down a mountain road, and to our amazement there was not even the slightest dent.
    9) Hissing sound from the [broken] vacuum auto lock system
    8) Leather everywhere. Always smelled amazing.
    7) Battery under the rear seat bench. Seemed very high tech and luxurious to me at the time.
    6) The little hairs that lined the shift gate, permenantly deformed in “P” and “D”.
    5) Very cool red interior backlighting for gauge cluster and electronics.
    4) Teutonic door/ignition chime (watch the video).
    3) The padding under the headliner was some kind of memory foam that would deform temporarily. You could write your name in it. This really pissed dad off.
    2) Nearly every electronic component stopped working. Windows, stereo, sunroof, mirrors, etc.
    1) Legendarily unreliable. I remember times when the car was gone for weeks at a time. I never knew the full extent of the mechanical issues, I just knew it was “in the shop.” Looking back I realize that it wasn’t that the repairs took long to do, but rather that my dad needed to figure out how to pay for them that kept the car away for so long.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    maybe off topic but Iv`e noticed that most of the newer cars you feature have the oil caps off? Does this mean they were ‘cash for clunkers’ and the engine has been ruined?

  • avatar
    waltercat

    Thanks for uncovering this Audi. They’ve just about disappeared from the roads.

    I had two of ‘em – an ’86 5000S and a ’91 100, both front-drive automatics in Tornado Red. The ’86 was my first-ever new car, and I bought it mostly because it was pretty – in ’86, I think it was the best-looking sedan on the market. And it was comfortable and (if you like front-drivers) it handled very well.

    While not the worst Audi horror story, it was not reliable. I spent years suffering through all kinds of failures – minor (AC control modules) and major (transmission). But after a few years, it stabilized, or I got used to it, and had decided to keep it indefinitely. Unfortunately, some 16-year-old kid in an old Chevy had other ideas, as he plowed into me when I was stopped at a red light. The Audi was shortened by about 3 feet (I walked away unscratched), but it was a total at 92K miles.

    I was heartbroken and soon replaced it with a ’91 100, visually identical to the ’86. It felt more luxurious (nice wood trim inside!), and was, I think, marginally better-made. It served me pretty well for 7 years and 120K miles, when I sold it to a friend and discovered Asian cars.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I had an 82 500 Turbo. Forget unintended acceleration, after blowing 2 expensive trannys, I was happy to get intended acceleration. I the car was a great highway cruiser from Santa Fe to Denver via I-25, 90-100 all the way! Great suspensions too, before Audi was so bourgeois.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    No mention of the Audi 5000 fire hazard automatics? My sister had one – an ’82 with a manual, and somebody’s automatic caught fire in a parking garage in Boston. After that, she had to park in the street because all the parking garages she used had “no Audi 5000s” signs. Her husband got rid of it a couple months later because he had a lead foot and the acceleration killed him. He traded it in for a BMW 735i.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    I also had unintended acceleration, or at least when letting off the gas pedal, it wouldn’t always come up. The throttle linkage on the automatics was very long and complicated, but included a pivot point mounted on the side of the tranny. Road dirt or gravel would get in it and block throttle motion.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Back in the day, the joke was that bad luck is defined as waiting in line at a toll booth with a Pinto in front and an Audi behind you.

  • avatar
    audi5000csAvant

    So to all of you who say how unreliable your Audi was, here is ME , i have 1987 Audi 5000 CS Quattro Avant with 242,000 miles on the clock. so far, i’ve replaced Clutch, and heater core. Car Runs smooth and strong, Turbocharged 5 cylinder , 5 speed, AWD. Body still has no rust, interior is pretty much perfect. and is used as everyday car today – 2012. So before leaving a stupid uneducated comment, consider if it isn’t the car’s fault, but perhaps you don’t know how to own an old car? oh and i owned it since 2003


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