By on November 22, 2012

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.


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24 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 1986 Audi 4000 CS Quattro...”

  • avatar

    Happy Thankgiving Indian Heritage Wearing Judge Sa”N”jeev. It is amazing how many different names you have.

  • avatar

    Wow. All those pics, all those paragraphs, to chronicle, what to me, looks like nothing but a POS 25 year old beater! I guess I lack the sophistication, certainly I don’t have a design school degree. Different strokes for different folks.

    I hope everyone gives thanks tomorrow for all the gifts and love in their lives.

  • avatar

    I couldn’t imagine disagreeing much more about one of these articles. The face-lifted 4000CS was an improvement on the original? I heard it here first, even though I was deeply enmeshed in the US Audi scene in the ’80s. Sticking 100 cues on the old 80 was viewed as positively perverse at the time. It completely ruined a car that stood well on its own, with light housings executed in proportion to every other volume of the car replaced by light housings following a fashion fad. It would be like Audi trying to improve an Auto Union grand prix car with LED idiot-lights, not that I wouldn’t put that past them at this point.

    • 0 avatar

      I do agree that the original 80/4000 was a cleaner design overall — but Sajeev has a point with all the details that the facelift tidied up.

      No matter the subject, a new Vellum Venom is the first thing I will read on TTAC.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the beauty of blogging and the subjective nature of design, we all get to share our opinions.

      My only counterpoint/defense is that the details on the redesign are better crafted, even if you don’t like the execution. It looks like an expensive car, finally.

    • 0 avatar

      I have to agree subjectively with CJin SD up to a point – gen one was light and clean – like the Fox it replaced. Very Giugiaro because he designed it. The refresh was towards the popular design ethos of those days – I personally liked it, but it was a big change of character for the car.

      Sad to see a once proud 4000 all neglected and high-schooled out like that, but at least it doesn’t have a fart can and a plywood tail fin – yet. But between those grill lights and the bonus stickers, you know they are only a couple of spliffs and a case of Old Milwaukee away…

      Hopefully it soon goes to an owner who actually knows something about these cars and has the scratch to fix the body and maybe do a 4.2L V8 swap – rather common and great fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        I loved the Fox. My dad had a silver on blue 1978 he purchased new. Coming from American cars, that car, with a stick shift, reclining seats, and an am/fm cassette, the Fox was a revelation. And I was six!

        The 4000 that followed seemed so much more grown up. The blockiness took some getting used to. But I think the look aged well. I’d love to have a well kept example of the 4000. And if I could find a Fox, I’d snatch it up in a heartbeat.

      • 0 avatar

        Hmm, I read this comment and really have to wonder………

        You ever driven one? Ever done an engine swap? Pretty harsh words, hopefully they are coming from a position of knowledge and experience.

        And, It also begs the question, what is your daily driver?

        A 4000Q 4.2L V8 swap sounds great to me. I’ve done a 3.6L V8 into a 90Q, it was fun for sure. But, I have to wonder about “common”. Define that, as I haven’t even seen a 4000 Quattro on the road in years, much less one that’s been engine swapped.

        I have to agree with most of posts on this one, I prefer the earlier design, but the later definately cleaned it up and moved the car up-market before the new type 89 80/90 came into the picture in the US in 1988. Also, the redesign incuded a low liftover trunk, which is a plus for paracticality.

  • avatar

    Sajeev is a theologian. He keeps seeing Intelligent Design where I see only grim utility.

  • avatar

    Ahh memories. This was my parent’s car when I was a kid. 1988 Quattro, five speed. Black with a grey cloth interior. I remember it well because it was my favourite car design growing up – to this day I adore clean cinder-block 80s and early 90s styling. I’ll choose a 4000 Quattro and a Land Rover Disco II (or a 2-door G-Wagen, if available) over this new swoopy, creasy, flame surfaced bullshit ANYDAY. Reliability etc be damned.

  • avatar

    Had an ’88 one of these for six years. It followed an ’82 Audi coupe, because I liked that so much.

    Both cars came complete with thick bad orange peel paint, and body gaps that everyone would laugh at today. I have the original brochures for both these cars and the wide gaps are shown unabashedly. I see orange peel paint is making a comeback on new BMWs and tada! the new Dodge Dart. Ugh.

    The quattro came standard with a wallowing front end courtesy of cheap and nasty OEM shocks, which Bilstein corrected, and it then became a right little handler. Loved it and the manually lockable centre diff.

    There was something elegant to the styling, but I can’t put it into words. Great car, terrible reliability.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s two references to 1988 Audi 4000s. Was this in the US market? I was shopping for a new Audi briefly in February of 1988. We wound up with a BMW instead, but not before test driving 1988 Audi 80 and 90 quattros. In the US anyway, 1987 was the last year for the 4000.

      • 0 avatar

        The new 1988 rounded Audi 80 and 90s were on sale in Europe when I got my 4000 S quattro in May 1988. They were bigger and heavier, and CAR magazine was lukewarm on them, even with more power.

        Just as VW takes at least a year (sometimes two) to bring in a new model Golf in North America after German introduction, in Canada and I had thought the US, the 1988 Audi 4000 line was essentially just flogging the leftovers from 1987. So you are correct, although it was another whole year before the 80s and 90s arrived. They didn’t really sell.

        Three months earlier, I had privately sold my ’82 Audi Coupe with 154,000 km for a decent sum in order to buy my best friend’s 1985 Audi 5000 turbo for a song. Unintended acceleration equity writedowns and awful reliability made him decide to dump the Audi and get an ’88 Mercedes 300. He was rich, I was the lucky beneficiary.

        I hated the 5000 turbo! Couldn’t stand it – too big. The Audi dealer looked at his last old-style 4000 quattro ($33,600 plus delivery), gave me $5000 from Audi for the 5000 as goodwill for the unintended acceleration fiasco plus trade money, and I got the 4000 quattro for $15,400 including our 10% tax at the time. By the time the dust settled, I figure it cost me $23 K altogether.

        The 4000 quattro had the Chapman strut rear suspension just like the real UR quattro. The soon to be available 90 had, I believe, trailing arms or some variation thereof. Anyway, who remembers them anyway? Eminently forgettable.

      • 0 avatar

        Good old unintended acceleration put me in a 35,000 mile 1984 Audi 4000S quattro for $4,350. It had a stereo that cost about that much thanks to an audiophile first owner that had it maintained by the dealer and the book. Unfortunately, I drove it off of a cliff. I replaced it with a 5-speed 1985 5000S for $3,500. I sold the 5000 for $3,000 a year or two later, one of the better ownership experiences I’ve had with Audis.

      • 0 avatar

        New Audi 80/90 was introduced in 1987 in Europe and 1988 in US, there is no “1988 4000CS Quattro” but I imagine they may have been selling the 1987 into 1988 if they were moving slow.

        My family had the 80 Quattro I learned to drive on that car, and a Subaru GL wagon.

        Funny these underpowered overpriced Quattro Audis were usually not comparison test winners. But who cares about that they were great cars, our Audis were fairly reliable.

      • 0 avatar

        The Audi 4000 was available in the US from model year 1980 through 1987. The Audi 80/90 was it’s replacement, and sold in the US model years 1988 through 1995. It went through a substantial mid-cycle refresh in 1992. It was replaced by the “B5” chassis A4 in 1996 in the US marketplace.

        Any 4000’s sold in 1988 were previous market year cars, that were sitting on dealer lots. This was in the midst of the unintended acceleration debacle, so sales had slowed considerably.

  • avatar

    Now all you need is a vellum venom of a 86-88 Pontiac Fiero and the two cars I appreciated as a child will be completed my aunt had a 4000 in the early 90s I loved that car!

  • avatar
    The Dark One

    “Fire up the quattro!”

  • avatar

    Great follow up from Audi and even better analysis from Sajeev.

    Happy sexgiven everyone!

  • avatar

    “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.

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