TFLcar’s Five Little Steps to Modern Baby Crossovers heads to #2 with the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon.
A reoccurring theme with small wagons dominates this list. The Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon (1982 – 1991) isn’t exactly small, but it’s known for one big thing – quattro (yes, it’s lowercase all the time – I looked it up). It also represents a completely different take on this emerging segment.
Recently, TFLcar attended a pre-auto show launch of the 2016 Ford Explorer and had an opportunity to talk to automotive experts in 4WD and AWD. One thing gained from the conversations with the best and brightest was an overwhelming need to allow the driver to have control while having the most capable AWD/4WD system out there.
The next year will see baby crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade and Chevrolet Trax, among others. Many of these vehicles owe some tidbit of their drive systems to innovators like Audi. Audi has a baby crossover coming out, but the Audi Q2 is in a more expensive bracket. Still, you can bet on Audi touting the supremacy of quattro when the begin marking the Q2 – which may be as early as the last quarter of 2015.
To be clear, a “Baby Crossover” is a super small SUV/crossover that’s based on a small car platform. For instance: the 2015 Honda HR-V, which is based on the tiny Honda Fit. They are front wheel drive-biased with all-wheel drive (AWD) optional. Very few are capable of any real off road excursions, but most are capable in foul weather and snow.
Is this category reallythat new?
Why is the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon on this list? In a word: quattro. One thing the advent of the first generation quattro equipped vehicles did was give the driver true control of the AWD/4WD system. Unlike the Japanese AWD/4WD vehicles of the day, which made engagement and use of the AWD/4WD system as easy as one button, lever or completely automatic, the early quattro systems gave the driver a myriad of choices.
There were Audi Wagons that were front-wheel drive (FWD), and naturally aspirated – but this is all about the turbocharged quattro wagon.
The Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon was full-time AWD/4WD with a MANUAL locking center AND rear differential. In addition to its outstanding quattro system, the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon had a turbocharged engine. The five cylinder, 2.2-liter engine made 162 @ 5500 RPM and 177 lb-ft @ 3000 RPM. The only transmission available with the early turbocharged quattro wagons was the five-speed manual.
The rest of the Audi 200/5000 CS Wagon was well laid out, comfortable, luxurious and the utility is impressive even by today’s standards. The Audi 200/5000 CS Wagon could hold 38.2 cubic feet of cargo behind the back seats and 76.8 cu-ft with the rear seats folded.
The Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon predated the beefed up, off-road-ish wagons by several years. Volvo and Fuji Heavy, among others, started building their big wagons with a lift, beefier suspensions and a more aggressive look. Still, none of these wagons and/or crossovers would be what they are today without Audi’s contribution.
What the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon did was popularize the notion of a car being superior in difficult traction situations when it was equipped with AWD or 4WD.
Sorry to say, an unscrupulous news show (cough-chough… 60-Minutes… cough-chough) simulated/fabricated unintentional acceleration with the 5000. For a while there, the Audi 5000 was THE car to own. The bad publicity took a heavy toll on Audi. Subsequently, the 5000 fell off the radar and, even when Audi renamed it 200, sales never recovered.
Driving characteristics of the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon: These wagons were fast – very fast. At the time, few people had a real understanding of what an AWD vehicle was capable of. It launched and was about to shift before the FWD or RWD competitor was still laying down rubber at the traffic light. Once that turbocharger spooled up, only a handful of sports cars could keep up.
You could leave the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon alone and its full-time AWD system would get you through most low traction situations. Lock the rear diff up and the wagon becomes a rally car in snowy corners. Lock up the center diff and the only thing that will stop you from climbing over a sizable obstacle is rubber and ride height.
Despite having fairly thin rubber and weighing slightly less than 3,500 lbs, the Audi 200/5000 CS quattro Wagon was very capable in the corners. In fact, with the extra weight of the wagon’s rear-end, some say the wagon out-handled the Audi sedan. Once your hard driving was done, the long wheelbase and forgiving suspension made for a terrific highway cruiser.
All this and it could get about 20 mpg.
Was this the best of all worlds? Nearly. I regret getting rid of mine; and finding one with less than a quarter of a million miles on the ticker is damn-near impossible. It represented the other end of the extreme from the Toyota Tercel SE5 4WD Wagon, AMC Eagle and Honda Civic 4WD Wagon while pointing the way forward for sophisticated AWD/4WD systems.
Speaking of unique AWD systems – here’s one of the pioneers of the baby crossover segment – the 2015 Nissan Juke!