Vellum Venom: 1986 Audi 4000 CS Quattro

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 1986 audi 4000 cs quattro

Some designs are perfect in their initial run, others need a mid-cycle rethink to make ’em sing. The 4000 is the latter: cost effectively ushering a new era of modern and luxurious Industrial Design for Audi. I loved the styling, but a classmate at CCS showed me the light: he was an SCCA racer with a similar CS Quattro in the dorm’s parking lot. And while CCS was a total bummer at times, we enjoyed the 4000 in the horrible winter weather around Metro Detroit. Especially at one of our favorite hangouts: Belle Isle. At night. In a 4000 CS Quattro. Oh hell yes.

Belle Isle sans sunlight is a scary place for most Detroiters, but many a CCS student knew this was the place to enjoy your machine. But those days are gone, and I believe the 4000 CS Quattro that I adored found a new owner in Denver about 8 years ago. Perhaps Murilee will see it soon in the junkyard.

Now this particular 4000 belongs to the somewhat-famous Tony Hoffman, a true genius when it comes to anything VAG related. It is his daily driver, and it shows. In a good way, check out those factory looking driving lights in the grille. Problem is, those aren’t factory. But you can still see the new 4000’s nicer bumper, made from fewer offending parts compared to the original 4000. And the Euro-like headlights that finally made it into production! It’s a big change from the last 4000 in this series.

Oops, missing reflectors in the bumper, too. But you can see the Audi 5000’s design DNA in the lights and bumpers, even if this isn’t the clean sheet re-think like the flagship Audi. The execution of Audi’s future design elements to its current platform were done fantastically well.

Okay, maybe those driving lights don’t look factory at all. And maybe they make the Audi logo look like a kid that just bought a certain mouse-like hat at Disneyland. But the smooth bumper finally lets the 4000’s clean lines shine. I love how the fender, hood, signal lights and headlights all share common cut lines. And how the bumper’s curvature matches that of the hood.

Trying to look like the big brother 5000, this 4000 is certainly a serious entry into the mid-luxury Yuppie market of the 1980s. Wrap around lights that match the bumper curve for curve? Check. All front end lines share the same vanishing point? Check. Too bad the lower light/grille trim is missing, but sometimes I must photograph whatever comes my way.

Unlike the previous 4000’s Tupperware trimmings, this upper bumper trim is a small aluminum strip. And while the connection points are a little crude by today’s standards, this is a wonderful upgrade.

And no center trim buckle here! Big step up from the original 4000.

I still feel the front end is too thick, static and stodgy from this angle. If only there was more taper up front so the fender would look “faster” from front to back.

Still an odd mis-mash of seams, but the 4000 was not designed with an Audi 5000 budget in mind.

The front end’s taper looks better from here. Perhaps the hard-line in the fender (by the hood and up against the headlights) is the only static part that “slows” down the package. And the bumper’s side protection finally looks like a proper Yuppiemobile. Integration at its finest, topped with a layer of aluminum icing.

And the superior bumper-age of the redesigned 4000 continues to the upscale side protection. Very clean, very Audi and very 1980s.

Yes Tony’s car is rough around the edges. But the wedgy edges of this fantastic design remain. Compared to the original 4000’s comprised mouldings, these are superior for many reasons. One: fancy Audi emblem, instead of a plastic casting. Two: they cover the lumpy sheetmetal bend and smooth out the lower half of the body, while the older model’s trim was slapped on below the bend. Three: the negative area for the door moulding to clear the fender is almost invisible. Four: more snazzy aluminum trim.

Okay, perhaps the mouldings are a little too shallow: witness the exposed sheet metal on the doors. But this certainly helps remove the negative area’s bulk on the rubber, and this is still a huge improvement over the outgoing 4000.

Yes, these mouldings are a work of art on a rather unappealing bend. All of a sudden, form and function meet, fall in love and get married.

The lower trim panel integrates all of the body’s elements into a nice foundation to hug the earth.

Step back and see what I’m talkin’ about. With the 4000’s redesign, the whole becomes more integrated, focused on the taut lines of the midsection. Smooth bumpers keep you away from the corners and the strong horizontal lines in the midsection (mouldings) accentuate the harmony and cleanliness of the aerodynamic wedge styling that was so common in high-class vehicles of the 1980s.

Yes, 4000’s refinement is present: an executive sedan if you want the finer things in life without trying too hard (Mercedes, BMW), without being stodgy (Cadillac and Lincoln) and without being screwball weird (SAAB, Volvo). All lines are in harmony, all in the right place.

Man, what an amazing piece of work for a mid-cycle refresh.

Now perhaps the moulding is too thick for such a small and tall platform. It does take away from the clean door cutlines and flowing DLO of the Hofmeister Kink-infused greenhouse. But the moulding’s proportioning is respectful to the rest of the package, so it works.

The front doors are vent window free, unlike most of the earlier 4000s (except for the LE model reviewed last time). So the look is far cleaner, thanks to one less static line thrown into the mix.

While I love “quattro” props as much as the other guy, this one gets too close to the edges of the glass. I’d shrink it down a good inch or so. No need to overdo it, we all know that Quattro Audis totally rock.

Such a clean door cut line. Such an open and exciting greenhouse. Exciting? Well, perhaps I’ve been punished by too many Chrysler 300s…and 300 wannabes.

And the rear bumper! Oh my! So clean and so elegant. We gotta do something about Tony’s love of Audi decals, but the redesigned tail lights and that bumper clean up the 4000, taking it to a new level of snobbery.

There’s a strong sense of Audi 5000 here. And it gets better the farther you go ’round back.

This isn’t the only 4000 that cracks the (non-functional) lense in this spot. One of my first H-town junkyard trips after I left CCS was to get a replacement for my buddy’s 4000 back in Detroit. Like most modern/minimalistic art, cars from the 1980s let pure design elements take up a lot of real estate. Clownish license plate chrome mustaches would be laughed out of town, as lighting pods get center stage. Think new Dodge Charger, for example.

While this treatment looked far more elegant on the larger 5000, these lights filled up a lot of undefined space from the old 4000. And that undefined sheet metal clouded the purity of this body’s design. Clear, logical and minimalistic lenses were a great upgrade.

This looks like a far, far more expensive car than the original 4000.

Just because the lights are minimal does NOT mean they are simple. Look at the casting work involved to flush them against the license plate. This couldn’t be cheap back in the days of Atari 2600 technology. Plus, it’s lovely.

And the “quattro” badge reminds all why something this beautiful costs more than a, uh, Honda Accord?

Just like the outgoing 4000, the spoiler is too big in some places. Thin it out so the trunk lock won’t mess up the vibe.

Just like the front, there’s a modest meeting point for the aluminum trim. Safe!

Even from down here, the bumpers are a HUGE improvement. The clean and organized plastic works well to let the lighting pods shine, so to speak. Modern art on wheels, for the win.

“Quattro” lettering in the rear window defogger? Not only is it nicely proportioned with the rest of the glass, it’s a somewhat subtle nod to why Audi’s are different/better than other European marques. If you disagree, fair enough. But I counter with today’s fake fender chrome/vents…and Audi’s lack of bandwagon jumping.

So don’t mess with this guy, he might be crazy enough to know what he’s doing.

When Sajeev the TTAC autojourno turns into the Indian Heritage Wearing Judge in the 24 Hours of LeMons, Tony gives me the keys to this Audi 4000 CS Quattro so I can quickly lay the hurt down on cheaty racers. This car is a joy to behold and drive. Stylistically it’s very crude compared to the Audi 5000, but it promises the same thrills of the honest and entertaining mechanicals underneath.

Happy Thanksgiving from “Indian Judge” Sajeev, and I hope you have a lovely weekend.

Join the conversation
2 of 24 comments
  • Bimmer Bimmer on Nov 23, 2012

    Great follow up from Audi and even better analysis from Sajeev. Happy sexgiven everyone!

  • GiddyHitch GiddyHitch on Nov 24, 2012

    "Just because the lights are minimal does NOT mean they are simple. Look at the casting work involved to flush them against the license plate. This couldn’t be cheap back in the days of Atari 2600 technology. Plus, it’s lovely." Just a small correction: plastic parts are generally injection molded. Casting is a metal forming process, typically. There are exceptions, but not in this case.

  • TheEndlessEnigma In 2022 I put my college (then 21 year old) daughter into a 2022 Mirage SE, this year I put my college age 21 year old son into a 2023 Kia Soul LX. They are both very happy to have and both very happy with their vehicles, both are low cost to run and insure.
  • CEastwood If there are 10 laps or less left after a crash and a red flag only let the first ten cars finish the race . I watched the race from about the halfway point and the crashes caused near the end were caused by drivers who had zero to very little chance to finish in the top five .
  • Alan I blame COVID, the chip shortage, container shortage and the war in Ukraine. This aggression is evident in normal daily driving of late.
  • Alan $10 000 is a bit rich for a vehicle that most likely been flogged all its life, plus it's a VW. Lots of electrical gremlins live in them.
  • Alan Mitsubishi, Hino and Izuzu trucks are quite common in Australia. Another factor that needs to be taken into account are the cheap Chinese trucks and vans that are entering the market in Australia and becoming more popular as reliability improves, with huge warranties. Businesses want the cheapest logistics. Plumbers, concreters, builders buy many of these in their lightest versions, around 2.5 tonne payload. Hino/Toyota could use the cheaper competitor in Mitsubishi as a competitor against the Chinese. You don't see too many of the Japanese/Asian trucks in the rural areas.