1991 Audi 200

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By 

Orlando Sentinel

You can't tell what the Audi 200 Quattro is all about by looking at it. The Quattro cannot be judged by its looks.

It doesn't have muscular flanks, spoilers, stripes or chrome exhaust pipes. The styling is conservative, and its boxy shape is anything but remarkable.

The real beauty of the Quattro lies under its skin. For some reason Audi doesn't brag about its engineering. Perhaps the German company should.

The Quattro is a wonderfully satisfying car. A list of adjectives a foot long would only begin to convey what it is like to drive the Quattro. Comfortable, quiet, secure, safe, fast, reasonably economical and roomy are a few words that come to mind.

You may bristle at the price, but look at it this way. This car is not one that will have to be replaced in three or four years. If maintained properly, this car should last for a long time. And because the Quattro's shape doesn't follow current styling trends, it won't look any more dated in say, 2004, then it does now.

I suspect Audi buyers probably are attracted more to function than form. If that's the case, the all-wheel-drive Quattro is indeed an attractive car.

ENGINE, PERFORMANCE

The Quattro's engineis unique. It's a 20-valve, in-line turbocharged five cylinder. Honda offers a five cylinder in the new Acura Vigor, but it is not turbocharged.

The Audi engine feels almost as powerful as a V-8.It certainly develops as much or more horsepower - 217 - as many V-8s, yet it delivers the fuel economy of a six cylinder. The Quattro is EPA rated at 18 miles per gallon city and 24 mpg highway.

The test car, with the air conditioner running at full blast, averaged 17.7 mpg in city driving and 25.0 on the highway at a steady 55 mph, according to the car's computer. City mileage could have been slightly higher, but I drove the Quattro hard most of the time. The engine always ran smoothly and quietly.

The engine is a bit flat until it reaches about 2,000 rpm. Then the turbo kicks in and power comes on smoothly all the way to the 7,000 rpm redline. Audi says the 3,627-pound sedan will do 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.

The test car, with the air conditioner running at full blast, averaged 17.7 mpg in city driving and 25.0 mpg on the highway at a steady 55 mph, according to the car's computer. City mileage could have been slightly higher, but I drove the Quattro hard most of the time. The engine always ran smoothly and quietly.

Large luxury cars equipped with manual transmissions usually don't sell well, yet the Audi's manual transmission goes well with the car. Because the engine develops so much power, one need not shift as often as in other cars. The Quattro easily will go 60 mph in second gear.

The clutch pedal is smooth and easy. The shifter moves through the quadrant with precision and without fuss.

STEERING, HANDLING

The Quattro's handling was a major surprise.

You look at the Quattr o and think that it is just another nice sedan. You wouldn't think it could corner at 50 mph without so much as a squealing tire. It can.

Steering is quick, tight and pinpoint-precise thanks to a power-assisted rack and pinion system that varies with the engine's speed. Suspension is soft, but the car isn't bouncy or plagued with body roll in tight maneuvers.

The only complaint I have is that noise on poorly paved roads roars into the interior.

Quattro'sall-wheel-drive delivers quick and responsive handling. In only one instance could I get the Quattro to lose grip, and that was rounding a tight corner on wet pavement in first gear with the throttle nearly fully open.

In heavy, pounding rain the car conveys a wonderfully secure feeling. Brakes are an all-disc setup equipped with ABS. They are powerful and fade-free. The ABS can be disengaged when the rear axle is locked. This is controlled by a button on the console.

FIT, FINISH, CONTROLS

T e Quattro is outfitted with nearly everything you could want in a luxury sedan. A hands-free cellular telephone with voice recognition is built into the center console and is also accessible to rear-seat passengers.

There are electric windows, doors locks, mirrors and seat controls. The air conditioning/heating system is fully automatic, meaning that you set the temperature and forget it. You also get a power sunroof and a terrific AM/FM stereo/cassette.

The seats are leather. They are comfortable on long trips, but they are basically flat with contoured edges. The driver could slide slightly from side to side while cornering.

There is wood trim on the doors and on the dash. It could be improved. The wood, imported from Africa, is called Zebrano because it has Zebra like stripes. It is garish. It's the first thing you notice when you enter the car - but you notice it for all the wrong reasons. Something a little less flashy would suit the car's conservative looks.

The Quattro's switch gear is superb. Four levers behind the steering wheel control the lights, blinkers, cruise control, wipers and trip/information computer. An air bag is standard on the driver's side.

As with some other German cars, the radio remains on after the key is turned off. This is annoying.

The Quattro has ample room for three rear passengers. Trunk space is adequate.

If you are considering an imported luxury car, and if you want something that is practical without being flashy, check out the Quattro. You may be surprised.

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