Helen Georgia in a 1990 Coupe Quattro
Rain + Quattro = Smiles
The roads around Helen Georgia that connect you to the Tail of the Dragon are far and away some of the best ribbons of tarmac in the US. US 129 and route 75 are absolutely stunning and unlike some of the more challenging European counterparts these roads are wide and well surfaced. This year with Eurotripper breathing new life into the former SOWO Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche show, their Alpine VAGfair gave me a reason to dust off the `90 coupe quattro and head once again to this beautiful series of mountain roads.
With 168 hp and about the same amount of torque this car isn’t setting any lap records. The 7A 20v 5 cylinder makes great sounds if not spectacular power and that plus nostalgia is what led me to acquire this particular car. If you have watched the TEG episode you know I had originally thought of turbocharging it. However, after a few years ownership I have become smitten by one of this cars attributes I never would have imagined would charm me. Reliability.
Now that I have begun acquiring more and more MotorVice era young timers I have become strongly drawn to things I used to not really regard as attractive. Namely originality and reliability. I picked up an Audi TT 225 and am throwing parts at that to sort of satiate that need to modify something and leaving this Coupe as I found it, which is to say, the cleanest example of this model I have seen since they were new.
As a huge fan of performance cars that are usually the second pick or the slightly less than in overall feel, I have to agree with reviewers of the era in that this car has WAY over assisted steering, wooden brake and steering feel and lacks the ultimate feel of the eras best cars. I have done this route in some pretty fantastic cars ; Porsche 911, Lotus Esprit, Golf R, Lotus Elan, Audi TT ,and more. This car was no where near that. However, with a quattro there is always some dynamic trait or characteristic that shines bright. With this car it is the CAR itself. You are so connected the heritage, the rally program, the era. Toss it in early and just believe the front end will find bite (it will) , trail brake it and listen to the tires cry out as it bucks understeer to find some level of oversteer. There is no power on tap to provoke power oversteer and no power to gain back speed if you scrub momentum so it forces you to be a better driver. Find a finer line, scrub a little less speed. In many ways it was the opposite experience to any other car I had taken on this road. Usually your forearms and shoulders are crying for mercy. In this case it was more my right ankle as I tried in vein over and over to heel toe with the throttle being recessed and offset to a ridiculous degree. Mentally it was also fatiguing as the car was just so unpredictable. Rain made it oddly more enjoyable and it seemed to find a better cornering attitude in the wet than in the dry. The quattro system hiding much of the understeering and replacing it with oddly tactile tire information as the car struggled to find grip. On the plus side every time I drive this car I am instantly connected with a different time. Transported to the ‘90s if only for a moment. It is glorious. The noises this 7a 5 cylinder makes are rapturous, and intake roar laden in a way the turbo cars sadly lack. I love that.
Alpine VAGfair was a blast. Unquestionably I will be returning again next year.
Will I be taking the CQ? Probably not. When the roads are this good I need something that gives me a few more options. More power. More grip. More chassis balance. I am in the processing of building a car in a fairly special spec built in ’79 and hailing from Stuttgart. I am thinking it might be that car. Or maybe the M Coupe or maybe… Stay tuned. -Tim