When Audi released the 100, its lines, styling and coefficient of drag stunned the motor industry. The car, as a production model, had been designed in complete reverse of accepted practice. Instead of designing a car to meet its carrying and performance parameters, then smoothing out the styling, instead Audi designed it in reverse.
The 100 started out first and foremost as a design exercise in aerodynamics
, and only when they were satisfied with this design did they transform the car into a practical and feasible production exercise. In achieving its remarkable design breakthrough, Audi managed to build a new car that set standards for fuel economy in a vehicle of its size and equipment specification.
The Audi 100's fuel consumption figures were impressive, with German tests indicating the 100 consumed a remarkable 6.1 litres per 100 kilometres (roughly 46.2 miles per gallon) at a steady 90 kilometres per hour, this rising slightly to 7.81 litres per 100 km's (36.1 mpg)
at 120 km/h, and to 12.5 (22.5 mpg) in the urban cycle.
With its 80 litre fuel tank, the Audi had a potential touring range of around 1000 kilometres, enough to allow a Sydney - Melbourne commute without the need to fill up along the way.
Powering the Audi 100 C3 was a 136 bhp five cylinder fuel injected engine that offered excellent performance. It accelerated to 100 km/h in around 10.3 seconds and afforded the 100 with a top speed of just over 200 km/h (125 mph) - not bad for a 2.2 litre engine!
Of course Audi had always been overshadowed by the major German marques, so putting forward a compelling case to switch from the likes of Mercedes or BMW
was always going to be a big ask. Fitting the 100 with plenty of standard kit so that it represented great value by comparison went a long way to closing the gap.
Standard fare included cruise control, power steering
, power windows, AM/FM stereo cassette, air-conditioning, central locking and the choice of five speed manual or three speed automatic transmissions
. The only options to speak of were alloy wheels
, sunroof (manual or electric) and leather trim.
Over the years the Audi 100 had evolved from a good to near great car. The suspension
was revised providing even better ride and handling, while inside the designers increased space. Audi's drag co-efficient even improved to a remarkable 0.30, which compared well with the then average of 0.40. The original 100 weighed in at 100kg in basic form, and even though the car grew by 110mm in length and 46mm in width, the designers were able to keep the weight increase down to a commendable 30kg by using a composite structure of light alloy and steel for the doors, a one-piece floor-pan, and even plastics and special flass helped with the weight reduction.
The Audi 100 C3's rear axle was redesigned, the new version employing a torsion crank axle with two trailing arms and a Panhard rod. It provided a 22mm wider track, longer trailing arms and combined shock absorber spring units mounted at an angle. The benefits were that the boot width was increased, while it improved ride and reduced road noise. The trailing arms, which were rigidly connected with the torsion beam, were lengthened and their pivot points on the body were set higher. These modifications improved the self-steering characteristics of the rear axle, particularly on bad surfaces.
On the McPherson type front suspension
, the upper spring strut mountings were modified to further supress road noise. Another innovation was the high pressure hydraulics system providing servo assistance for both brakes
, the first of its type on a production vehicle. The advantage over conventional systems
was that the central hydraulics absorbed considerably less power, which in turn helped improve fuel economy. The high pressure central system made the response of the power steering
even more immediate and servo assistance for the brakes
reacted more quickly, giving better brake pedal "feel".
Capable, quick and fuel efficient, the Audi 100 went a long way to helping establish the marque as a credible alternative to better known marques - and in many respects only had its success dampened somewhat due to the limited availability.
It managed to beat the popular Ford Sierra in 1983 to take the gong for European Car Of The Year, and had distanced iteslf from the negative US publicity surrounding the original C1, which followed a 60 Minutes expose on a supposed "unintended accelerator" malfunction. Fortunately for Audi, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that the majority of unintended acceleration cases, including all the ones that prompted the 60 Minutes
report, were caused by driver error such as confusion of pedals.