What a year! Germany is reunited, Russia is on the verge of democracy and we found an Audi we like to drive.

We pause for a moment while the folks from Audi catch their breath.

It has been a while since an Audi caught our fancy. The last time we found an Audi that was a pleasure to drive, Michael Jordan was in grade school and sticking his tongue out resulted in punishment, not endorsements.

Along came the Audi 100CS for 1992, a vehicle that holds promise for the German automaker in that it breaks with what had been a tradition-trying to sell cars built for high-speed travel on the autobahns to drivers locked in rush-hour traffic on the Kennedy Expressway.

Audis have been stiff, harsh and unpredictable. The 5-cylinder engines weren`t all that quiet.

After many decades someone got through to the powers that be at Audi and got them to design a car that can be at home on U.S. roads.

How good is the 100CS? We liked it even though it hada 5-speed manual transmission and no cupholders.

We pause for a moment to give regular readers the chance to run to the medicine cabinet for smelling salts.

We test drove the 100CS, top-of-the-line in the newly revamped 100 series. In keeping with being new, the sheet metal has been made over. In truth, the car now looks like a large Peugeot 405, though now that Peugeot has bit the bullet and abandoned this market, most people won`t notice the similarities. Only the four locked rings in the grille and on the deck lid allow the curious to tell at a glance this is an Audi.

Dimensions have changed fractionally. The 105.6-inch wheelbase was stretched a mite to 105.8 inches and the 192.7-inch overall length was nipped down to 192.6 inches. Height grew by less than half an inch, width shrunk by 1.4 inches. When Audi was done fiddling with the measurements it was left with a roomy, comfortable car. The more noticeable change, other than the 250-pound weightgain, is the increase in track: 1 inch in the rear, 2 inches in front. You don`t see the wider stance, but you`ll feel it behind the wheel when the CS plants to pivot in aggressive maneuvering.

The 2.3-liter, 130-horsepower, 5-cylinder engine has been replaced by a 2.8-liter, 172-h.p. 6-cylinder. The 2.8 feels livelier moving off the line or away from the stop light-the performance desired by most Americans who`ve had to put up with Audi delivering the power burst after you`ve passed cruising speed-the better to play on the autobahn.

You`ll appreciate the change. The only hangup we had was with the clutch. It`s one of those units that doesn`t engage until your left foot has released the pedal by all but about a half inch. It would seem the 100 would be even quicker from a standing start if the clutch caught in that first half inch when you start releasing the pedal from the floor.

Now that we think about it, if the clutch caught sooner someone might s tart making charges about unintended acceleration again, and if there`s anything Audi could do without while it attempts a recovery in this country, it`s that episode in its history.

The 2.8 6 is rated at 19 miles per gallon city/26 m.p.g. highway with 5- speed, 17/25 with optional ($800) automatic transmission.

The suspension system complements the 172-h.p. 6, The body structure was stiffened with a 30 percent increase in torsional rigidity so the suspension is firm and taut without being harsh. As we mentioned above, the front and rear track also were widened and that gives the 100CS a more secure stance on the highway. Rounding out the package are front and rear stabilizer bars, fully independent front suspension, speed sensitive power steering for responsive and precise steering control, and all-season, steel-belted, 15-inch radial tires.

The power front disc brakes were enlarged to increase stopping capability and anti-lock brakes are standard. Adr iver-side air bag also is standard.

The bucket seats are wide and well padded to take the pain out of extended travel. Side bolsters offer good support, too. There`s a four position memory function on those power seats. An infrared unit on the key fob means you can aim the fob at a tiny receiver in the door pillar to lock or unlock the door, turn on interior lights and automatically adjust the memory function so driver`s seat and mirrors motor to a pre-set position while you open the door.

Audi provides you with a second key so that you can have his and her memory seat/mirror functions at the touch of a button. Two added keys are optional for up to four personal driver adjustments of seat and mirrors.

The 100CS takes mirror adjustment a step further. Whenever you shift into reverse in a manual or slip the selector into R with automatic, the right outside mirror tilts downward for a better view of the curb so you can avoid scrapping tires against the concrete. It tilts upward again once you`ve engaged a forward gear.

The power sunroof also has a novel feature. You need only twist the roo f control button to any of several pre-set arrows and the roof will open on its own to the pre-set space. You don`t have to hold your hand on the knob until the roof opening reaches the desired space.

Another nice feature is the duct openings under the front seats to direct warm or cold air to the rear passengers.

Climate control is standard as is a Bose AM-FM stereo. A 10-disc compact disc changer in the trunk is a $790 option. The CS comes pre-wired for a phone, but you have to buy the unit on your own. It`s a voice-activated phone that only requires you say ``office`` or ``home`` and it dials the number. You can program up to 40 voice commands into the phone. When you opt for a phone, you lose the cupholders in the center console. We thought you`d want to know. Tilt and telescoping steering column andpower seats are standard to ensure you`ll find a comfortable position for seeing and reaching controls and pedals. In back, the fold-down center armrest provides access to an expandable ski/storage rack so you needn`t carry them outside the car.

Ashtrays are built into the stowage compartments in the rear doors. The ashtrays are removable for non-smokers and stowage space increased. The trunk lid is on articulated hinges so that the lid lifts high/forward and out of the way for loading or unloading. Up front, once you pop the hood release inside the car, the secondary latch pops forward from the grille so you can easily reach it and pull it to fully open the spring-held hood.

Other standard features include power locks, child safety rear door locks, power mirrors with electric defoggers, electric remote trunk lid release, illuminated driver and passenger visor mirrors, tinted glass, power windows with driver`s express down, rear window defogger and cruise con trol. A cold weather package is standard with the CS that includes heated front seats, heated windshield washer nozzles and door locks, and headlight washers.

In terms of longevity, galvanized sheet metal is used extensively and a stone chip resistance filler coat has been applied to lower body surfaces. Also, all lower body cavities have been flooded with wax to fight corrosion. The car carries a 10-year warranty against corrosion perforation.

Audi even took pains to ensure once the CS has exceeded its life expectancy it still will be useful by using materials that can be recycled, such as plastic parts coded to identify their composition to make it easier to recycle.

The CS carries a 3-year/50,000-mile maintenance protection warranty that covers all cost for manufacturer-required services, including oil changes.

The 100CS has a base price of $32,500.

A new Germany, a new Russia and a very nice new Audi. If that be 1991, Who knows what 1992 will bring, maybe that Stanley Cup for the Blackhawks?


>> 1992 Audi 100CS
Wheelbase: 105.8 inches Length: 192.6 inches Engine: 2.8 liter, 172 h.p. six. Transmission: 5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic optional. Fuel economy: 19 m.p.g. city/26 m.p.g highway manual; 17/25 automatic. Base price: $32,500. Strong point: Host of features that serve useful purpose, from tilt right side mirror to key fob that sets off automatic seat and mirror adjustment. No longer designed strictly for the Autobahn. Weak point: Clutch play in first gear with manual. >>