By 1990 Audi was reeling due to dwindling sales and an aging product line. A bogus sudden acceleration scandal didn’t help the brand’s reputation, and as a result, US sales dropped by half from a high of 74,000 in 1985. At the time, Audi was in danger of folding in North America like Alfa Romeo and Peugeot, but it dug in and doubled down on what it does best.
Unlike Alfa Romeo and Peugeot, Audi had two aces up its sleeve in the form of its turbocharged inline-five-cylinder engine and Quattro all-wheel drive system. Two components it pioneered in the 1980s with the original Ur Quattro and the Sport Quattro S1, a brash terrier of a rally car. By stuffing the turbo five-cylinder and Quattro AWD in the mild-mannered 200, Audi began clawing its way back to prominence.
In stock form, the 1990 Audi 200 Quattro produced 217 horsepower and 228 pound-feet of torque from its inline-five turbo. However, the owner of the metallic brown sedan in this video claims it makes 480 horsepower thanks to some serious modifications. Calling the car a “grandpa on steroids,” it hits the autobahn for a top-speed run.
The five-cylinder engine grumbles to life, settling into its unmistakable idle. Coarser than the velvety smoothness of an inline-six, the inline-five has an unmistakable bear-like growl that seems at once angry and eager to get moving. It wastes no time hitting the autobahn and getting up to speed.
At 5,000 rpm and 180 kph, or about 112 mph, the Audi 200 tracks rock steady as it settles into the left lane. The inline-five has a resonance not unlike a Lamborghini Huracan or even an Audi R8, two vehicles with V10 engines that share the five-cylinder’s uneven pulses. As the boost kicks in, it gathers steam, hurling toward the 7,000 rpm redline while abandoning all caution.
Briefly, the Audi 200 touches 240 kph, almost 150 mph, before traffic and instincts of self-preservation take over. For comparison, a new Audi S6, the modern equivalent of the 200, has a claimed top speed of 155 mph. But while the Audi S6 may be safer and more comfortable to drive, it lacks the visceral thrill of this amped-up 200 when it’s burning up the autobahn.