Audi’s growing reputation for technical innovation took a back seat with the launch, in 1986, of the Audi 80 and 90. The company decided to focus on how it was pushing back the frontiers of modern styling, build quality and safety, instead of concentrating on its already established reputation for being the world leader when it came to effective utilization of cutting edge developments in automobiles technology and engineering. The 80 (four cylinder) and 90 (five cylinder) were based on the floorpan of the old square shaped 80 and 90, so it was no real surprise when the handling of the two cars came in some very criticism from certain sectors of the motoring press. Pundits were also quick to point to the lack of luggage space. For both the 80 and 90, the boot was seen as very shallow for cars in their markets. The car’s excellent build quality and production detailing (the flush fit door handles, for instance) were supplemented by a fully galvanized bodyshell, the first production car to be effectively rustproof. The 80 and 90 also led on safety with the Pro-con Ten system, which used steel cables to pull the steering wheel away form the driver and tension the seatbelts in a head on collision. Both the 80 and 90 were available with the Quattro drivetrain, but it wasn’t until this was finally combined with 170 bhp 20V five cylinder engine in the 90 that the car began to gain real credibility as a serious driving machine.
The 80 was substantially redesigned for 1992, gaining a new rear axle and a substantially reworked floorpan. Sensibly, this allowed for a bigger boot, and also featured folding seats. These developments also allowed Audi to launch an estate version of the 80. Unfortunately, the greatly increased weight of the vehicle meant that the 80 was still marked down the road testers.