Buy/Drive/Burn: Checking Out German Strippers From 2002

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

German cars in North America are not immediately associated with base, no-option models or economical motoring. But that didn’t stop Adam Tonge from suggesting today’s trio. Which vehicle gets the Buy when you’re shopping at the bottom of the German luxury barrel in 2002?

Ladies and gentlemen, select your strippers.

Each member of today’s trio was the cheapest vehicles on offer in North America from their respective manufacturers in 2002. The only option we’ve allowed for today is the Quattro one in the Audi, just to level the playing field a bit between competitors. Audi vehicles are supposed to have Quattro.

Audi A4

Audi had a ’90s hit on its hands when it brought the A4 to market as a replacement for aged 80 and 90 models. Following up with a difficult sophomore album for the 2001 model year, the A4 grew just about an inch in all dimensions, while maintaining a familiar shape. Front-drive or Quattro all-wheel drive was available, as expected from the Four Rings. The basic version of the A4 had a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. Most of the 170 available horsepower travel to the front wheels until some slip is detected, then power shifts around as needed. The Quattro cost about $1,700 more than the front-drive version, bringing the A4’s ask to $26,650.

Mercedes-Benz C230

Mercedes introduced the brand new, serious C-Class lineup for the 1994 model year, replacing the even more staid and conservative 190E from the 1980s. The second W203 generation debuted in 2001, just like the A4 above. Mercedes introduced a coupe version to North Americans for 2002. Today’s C230 was the first time customers could purchase a C-Class with two doors, as Mercedes experimented with a new hatchback body style. Though Europe had more engine options on the C-hatch, North America received only the C230 version, in Kompressor guise. Under hood, a 2.3-liter supercharged four delivered 192 horsepower to the rear wheels. Shifting was done via a six-speed manual. The C230 asked $24,950 with no options.

BMW 325i

The elder statesman of our group from a branding perspective, the 3 Series had been going strong as BMW’s global compact offering since 1975. The 3’s fourth generation hit the streets for the 1998 model year, receiving a facelift for 2001 to keep things in step with its new German rivals. The 325 model in particular returned to BMW’s stable for 2001, after being on hiatus since the ’95 model year. BMW offered two more cylinders than its two competitors; a 2.5-liter inline-six produced 184 horsepower. The horses went to the rear tires via a five-speed manual. No options selected meant an asking price of $26,990.

Three sexy German strippers, which one goes home with you? Minds out of the gutter, please.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, VW]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • Gearhead77 Gearhead77 on Aug 17, 2018

    My love for hatchbacks still doesn't buy this MB any love. Burn. This is no 190 or C-class from the late 90's. It's an odd car and looked cheap, even when new. Drive the Audi- I had a 2004 Jetta GLS Wagon with the 1.8T. I drive a '17 Golf with the Gen 3 1.8T and a 5 speed manual. I'm a fan of VW/Audi cars, but I'm wary of the long term, even though my Jetta gave me zero problems ( second-hand from a Ford dealer no less) Buy the BMW- Inline 6, not too bloated, still handsome after all these years ( as is the Audi, but it's more anonymous looking).

  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Aug 18, 2018

    Those C-series Mercedes deteriorate like an old Volare, German quality indeed.

  • Fahrvergnugen Any rollback would be inevitable if Agent Orange were elected anyhow.Next stop would be coal-powered ICE. Good clean American coal. Nice coal. The BEST coal.👿🐂💩
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh 10,000% the fault of deregulation, shareholders and trump.... good job luddites. *fear* progress and don't invest in any infrastructure and just keep taking profits.
  • Paul Pity. I think there's a market for these now that half ton pickups are so immense. A few more fumbles and GM could miss out.
  • Kcflyer So I get to continue to subsidize my neighbors new EV's. Bonus, I get to pay for they kids Gender Studies Diplomas.
  • Wolfwagen The Alpha Numeric model system used to be good and had some consistency either to the size of the vehicle or engine. Now its just gobbly gook that doesn't make any sense. Lincoln was the worst since all their vehicles looked the same and all started with MK.
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