We celebrate Audi’s performance touring car

90 20V quattro Sport and 90 20V Sport

“Top marks…a classic Audi, one of the best ever”

Volkswagen Audi CAR September 1989

Audi enthusiast and 90 20V Sport owner Tom Gent, reviews the special character of this great but unsung car with the legendary 5 cylinder 20V engine and reveals the direct descendency from Audi’s rally sport heritage

Note: Exports to North America and elsewhere had different specifications; they had reduced power output and modified front bumper configurations to meet US emissions and crash test requirements, were supplied with different dealer options including many with automatic gearboxes to suit the US market which resulted in increased weight and reduced performance. Export models did not have the ‘Sport’ specifications or identity.
This website relates only to the original European factory specification Sport models with manual gearbox, in the quattro and non quattro versions. The non-‘Sport’ 90 20V and other 90 models are referenced for comparison purposes only.

Motorsport pedigree

The first generation Quattro drive systems added significant weight but the traction advantage was such that Audi were Group B world rally champions from the outset in the hands of the Finn Hannu Mikkola and the Frenchwoman Michèle Mouton in the 1981 Monte Carlo Rally and later Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist in 1982 and 1984, dominating the sport until the conclusion of Group B racing in 1986.

The same i5 (in line 5 cylinder) engine used in both the 90 20V’s and the UR quattro’s 20V and 10V engines evolved directly from Audi’s Group B rally car victories culminating in the S1 Sport Quattro with a 598bhp turbocharged 2,110cc unit. In 1987 the S1 won a series of victories at the 12.42 mile long Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Colorado Springs USA, driven by Walter Rohrl.

The 90 20V Sport’s i5 engine was simultaneously used in the final edition of Audi’s turbocharged UR quattro RR (1989-91) with an increased power output from its 2,226cc unit to 217bhp (162kW) at 5,500rpm with a torque of 310Nm from just 1,950rpm. Previous UR models were the first SOHC MB of 1980 (2,144cc, 200PS, 285Nm, 7.1 seconds 0-62mph, 137mph) and WR which were turbocharged 10 valve versions of the i5 cylinder engine. In total 11,452 UR quattro’s were produced since 1980 (RR, MB and WR).

When the 90 20V’s and Ur RR were launched in 1989, the i5 20V engine made another appearance on the world racing stage in the monstrous form of the Audi 90 IMSA GTO. This quattro race car had a short large bore single exhaust exiting through the front side panel and a turbocharged 2.1 litre engine developing an immense 720 bhp (530 kW). This was the ultimate incarnation of the i5 engine and the 90 20v inspired body shape. The tyres were 14 inches wide, the chassis was a tubular space frame and the body panels were carbon fibre, achieving a weight of just 1,206Kg. Despite missing the first two endurance stages of the championship races at Sebring and Daytona, Hans Joachim Stuck took third podium place in the American production race car series IMSA GTO with seven wins, five of which were one-two finishes and the car came second in the manufacturer’s championship of 1989.

Interestingly the S1 and the 90 IMSA GTO had the same unladen weights as the front wheel drive 90 20V Sport.

Audi’s latest i5 engine – 31 years on

2011 saw Audi’s 2.48 litre TFSI engine triumph at the International Engine of the Year Awards and was heralded as “the best turbocharged engine in recent years”. The i5 engine which derives from the original Audi Quattro engine of the 1980’s features in the RS 3 Sportback and the TT RS. The engine produces 340PS between 5,400 and 6,500rpm with peak torque from just 1,600rpm of 450Nm providing an acceleration of 4.6 seconds to 62mph.

Audi’s in line 5 cylinder engine DNA lineage has evolved directly from Audi’s rally sport heritage. From the original 1980 Quattro, the successive Group B rally championships of the mid 1980’s and the 1987 S1 rally cars, to the 1989 90 20V Sport, UR RR quattro, Coupe quattro and 90 IMSA GTO, through to the current 2011 RS 3 Sportback and TT RS models, the distinctive i5 sound and character whether turbocharged or not, is as recognisable and evocative today as it ever was.

We celebrate the original European factory specification 90 20V quattro Sport and non-quattro 90 20V Sport

Technical data references from Audi AG Instruction Manual supplied to European owners and Volkswagen Audi CAR magazine articles of September 1989 (quattro test review) and July 1990 (front wheel drive test review)

  • Years of production: 1989 to 1991
  • Model: 90 20v quattro Sport and non-quattro 90 20v Sport. Model type code 8A, engine code 7A. Series 3, B3 chassis, four door. The 90 20V models had the lightest of all the B3 chassis.
  • Factory fitted options as standard: tilt/slide metal sunroof, ski bag (requiring special shape fuel tank), continuous light strip between rear lights, heated electrically adjustable blue tint wing mirrors painted in matching body colour. Electric front windows, Audi Entertainment sound system – Blaupunkt radio cassette player with head phone and plug-in point behind the rear seats. Three circular dials in centre console (oil pressure, oil temperature and alternator), aerial set in heated rear window, Sports seats. Selectable ABS switch. All glass blue tinted with green tint band across top of windscreen.
  • Finishes: Interior – all black finishes with 45 degree stripes to jacquard satin seat trim including ‘quattro’ logo (no logo on front wheel drive option), leather gear shift gaiter and stitched leather steering wheel. Exterior – all black trims (full de-chrome) including side strips. Colour matched bumpers with split finish ‘orange peel’ and smooth finish. Speedline 15” 7J alloys with split rim effect. Hydro-forged hollow aluminium rear aerofoil painted in matching body colour. Body paint colour options; red, white or black.
  • Power Output: 125kw (170bhp) @ 6,000rpm with 220Nm torque @ 4,500rpm. Specific output 74 bhp/litre; specific torque: 95.28 Nm/litre. Power to weight ratios: 129 bhp/tonne (quattro option) and 142 bhp/tonne (non quattro option). The use of a metal mesh air filter will add about at least 10bhp and is not classed as a modification.
  • Engine: 20 valve 5 cylinders in line with light alloy cylinder head and double overhead camshaft valve train layout (DOHC), 2309cc fuel injected engine. Compression ratio 10.3:1. Tubular manifold (1989-90 only, cast manifold 1991). Catalytic converter, electronic ignition. 5 forward gears. Automatic transmission was not offered on the Sport model in the UK or Europe. Fuel efficiency overall average is 30/33mpg quattro/non quattro, or about +10% for the front wheel drive when tested by Volkswagen Audi CAR magazine, although Audi claimed only +4%.
  • Performance: At 1,320kg the quattro model is 120kg heavier than the front wheel drive option with a corresponding 10% lower power to weight ratio. Gear ratios less well matched to the engine required a change to third gear to reach 60mph, which combined its heavier weight reduced acceleration performance and agility. Top speed almost 140mph.
  • Aerodynamics: The Audi 80 and 90 had a drag coefficient of 0.29 which made these models ‘best in class’ of any car in the world at the time. There are no figures for the 90 20V Sport, but sitting 25mm lower it must be as good – or better than 0.29.

Acceleration for the quattro model was claimed by Audi as 8.4 seconds to 100 kph (62mph). When the quattro was tested by Volkswagen Audi CAR magazine in July 1990 they recorded an acceleration time of 8.9 seconds to 62mph – half a second slower than Audi’s claimed figure, and a top speed of 135mph, just 2mph slower than Audi’s claimed top speed of 137mph.

The acceleration test figure for the 120kg lighter front wheel drive model recorded at the same time by the magazine was 7.6 seconds – a hugely more impressive performance of 1.3 seconds quicker than the heavier quattro. Interesting to note that Audi claimed the non-quattro’s acceleration was 0.2 seconds slower than the quattro – maybe in slippery conditions, but this wasn’t mentioned. An intervention by the Audi marketing team?

The lighter weight resulted in a 10% better power to weight ratio enabling greater agility. 0-62mph can be reached in second gear with a better matched gearbox ratio whereas the quattro gear ratios required a change to third. Also more rapid acceleration through the gears than the quattro was recorded as 0.7 seconds quicker between 30-50mph in third and fourth gears, 0.3 seconds for 50-70mph in fourth gear and 1.1 second quicker for 50-70mph in fifth gear.

  • Tyres and Wheels: 205/50 R15 85V. Rims 7J Speedline six spoke 15” split rim effect alloy wheels with painted spokes and polished rims. Non-‘Sport’ 90 20V’s had 6×15 Ronals fitted as the original factory specification.
  • Brakes: 276mm ventilated front discs (20mm larger than the standard 90’s front discs), 245mm rear solid discs, circuits split diagonally on non quattro and front to rear on quattro, manually selectable ABS on/off.
  • Suspension: Independent McPherson struts with forged triangular wishbones and stabilisers (front and rear on quattro, front only on non quattro), non quattro rear suspension is torsion beam axle with trailing arms and struts with transverse suspension rods. Audi 90 models without the 7A 20V engine and ‘sport’ specification and surprisingly the 20V coupe’s did not have the forged triangular wishbones until after 1992; instead the wishbones were fabricated from sheet steel and these models also had 3mm thinner anti-roll bars at 21mm diameter, rather than the 24mm roll bars of the 90 20V’s.
  • The Sport has 25mm lower suspension with more substantial, firmer Boge gas dampers with a more sophisticated and far superior geometry setup, and combined with wider 7 inch rims fitted with the original Dunlop or BF Goodrich tyres enabled outstanding and beautifully balanced handling at all speeds.
  • Weight: Unladen 1,320Kg (quattro) and 1,200kg (front wheel drive option). The quattro’s weight distribution is 50/50 front/rear compared to 55/45 front/rear for the non-quattro due to omission of 120Kg rear axle weight.
  • Badging: All the quattro Sport 90 20V’s were specified and generally badged as ‘Sport’. The non-quattro 90 20V Sport was specified but not always badged as ‘Sport’.
  • Price: In July 1990 according to Volkswagen Audi CAR magazine the 90 20V quattro Sport’s sales price in the UK was just under £21.4k (similar to the Coupe 20V but the Coupe quattro was £23.5k) and the non-quattro 90 20V Sport was £20k. For comparison purposes the lower specified 90 20V (non-‘Sport’) was £19k, and the 10V 90 quattro and 90 2.3E SE models were £18.6k and £17k respectively.

The quattro and non-quattro models do have a few other differences
- the quattro model has a raised central section in the boot due to the quattro mechanicals below. The 2WD model has a deeper, flatter floor providing better luggage space
- the quattro model has a longer rear overhang by 10mm
- the quattro model has a shorter wheelbase by 10mm
- the quattro model has a narrower rear track by 5mm
- the quattro model has 2 litres of extra fuel tank capacity
- the quattro model’s seat cloth stripes include the ‘quattro’ logo (the front wheel drive option has the stripes with no logo)

Production figures
Audi AG International Customer Services record that all Audi 90 models fitted with the 20V 7A engine were a limited production run of 6,212 in total, of which only 1,642 were in the front wheel drive option and 4,750 in quattro option. The majority were the non-‘Sport’ lower specification models. An unrecorded number were in the enhanced ‘Sport’ specification, estimated at 1000 manufactured in total. It is thought that about 184 (about 20%) of these were imported into the UK in equal numbers of about 92 each, between the quattro and non-quattro cars, the rest being sold in continental Europe. Current UK numbers according to www.howmanyleft.co.uk at 2013 Q2 are:

Audi 90 20V quattro Sport – 10 licensed (on the road), 12 SORN
Audi 90 20V Sport – 6 licensed (on the road), 10 SORN

Based on an estimated figure of 20% imported to the UK, this would give figures of 50 on the road in total across Europe and the UK for the quattro, and 30 for the non-quattro.

These figures reduce every year and it’s unlikely that any of the SORN vehicles will ever make it back on the road as values are currently very low and parts are increasingly difficult to get hold of. When consideration is given to the generally low quality of the cars still on the road, the majority will have had a hard life, been heavily modified or with accident damage unrepaired, there are likely to be only a handful in original factory specification and in top condition.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing
The front wheel drive model is significantly quicker in most ‘non-slippery’ driving conditions due to being 120Kg lighter which enabled a 10% greater power to weight ratio, and with a gear box ratio better matched to the character of the engine and less power transmission loss its handling is very responsive, precise and more agile with significantly quicker 0-62mph acceleration and through-gears acceleration at all speeds.

It’s been criticised compared to the quattro for a tendency to over-steer, but if it was rear wheel drive that would present its own issues. With the weight of the engine over the driving wheels and a 55/45 weight distribution front to rear it’s pretty well balanced and the rest is down to driving technique and experience to work with the character of the car. On virtually all road conditions other than the most slippery, the non-quattro feels like it’s on ‘rails’ and can be thrown around what look like impossible corners to emerge straight and level thanks to the 20V Sport’s suspension and overall Audi engineering being so well resolved. Once mastered, power slides on long wet corners can be immensely enjoyable – only on track days of course.

In the late 1980’s Audi wanted to focus their marketing strategy on the quattro brand and did not advertise the front wheel drive option or publish performance figures but Volkswagen Audi CAR magazine’s article in July 1990 let the cat out of the bag. Due to its perfectly matched gear ratios and 120Kg lighter weight, Audi inadvertently created a contender for the performance and handling of their quattro Sport model.

The last one?
H523 XBD is thought to be the only original condition and original factory specification 90 20V Sport remaining on the road today – anywhere. This car was first owned by VAG UK in Milton Keynes, still has the original VAG plates and is thought to be one of Audi UK’s ‘Press Cars’ used for marketing and test drives.


And finally

Could there have been any improvements in the original specification of the 90 20V quattro Sport and 90 20V Sport?

How could Audi have improved on such a great design with superb handling and character in the early 1990’s without compromising its performance touring car credentials?

Comments on the quattro

  • A sixth gear would have been an advantage for more economical and relaxed long distance high speed motorway driving. The quattro’s traction gets it off the mark very quickly but the gear ratios are less well matched to the engine, with a shorter second gear requiring a change to third to reach 62mph making it significantly slower than the non-quattro. See the ‘Performance’ section.
  • The quattro mechanicals in the late 80’s were still quite heavy, adding 120Kg which reduced the power to weight ratio by 10% compared to the non-quattro, making the quattro less agile, slower to accelerate through the gears and less fuel efficient. See the ‘Engine’ and ‘Weight’ sections.

Comments on the non-quattro

  • A sixth gear would have been an advantage for more economical and relaxed long distance motorway driving – but I would not change the 1st to 5th gear ratios which are perfectly matched to the engine’s character, torque and power delivery. The 7A is a high revving engine with 4,000 rpm in fifth gear at 88.86 mph – part of its character, sound and performance mix, but wonderfully free-revving, and unstressed without the turbochargers of the UR quattro’s. Torque peaks at 4,500 rpm so even at 90 mph in top gear there are huge reserves of acceleration without changing down, to propel the car towards 140mph. Above 120mph the engine takes on the sound of a lion‘s roar.
  • The non-quattro would have benefitted from limited slip differential, as getting the power onto slippery roads even in second and third gears requires careful control to avoid wheel spin.

These are mild criticisms, but a limited slip differential for the 120Kg lighter non-quattro Sport would have made it even more awesome and closed the gap on the quattro’s traction in slippery conditions. Is this why Audi didn’t offer limited slip differential? Would it be the same reason for claiming a slower acceleration – when in normal road conditions it’s significantly quicker, and for downplaying the much better fuel efficiency? Maybe the marketing people felt they had to protect the quattro brand…but thankfully the review in Volkswagen Audi CAR magazine in July 1990 put the record straight and reported the actual figures.

The 90 20V Sport – a light and agile performance touring car

This car, described as a ‘Tiger Cat’ by Volkswagen Audi Car magazine in July 1990 should receive far more credit than it has to date as a race proven thoroughbred, light and agile performance touring car with the legendary i5 20V engine, always overshadowed by its contemporaries – the turbocharged UR quattro road versions of the Group B rally cars.


The 90 20V Sport – a classic car with a classic engine, evolved through continuous technological design and engineering advancement of race proven experience since 1980 and continuing to this day 33 years later in the form of the RS 3 Sportback and the TT RS.


Audi 90 20v pictures




last updated June 2013




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26 Responses to

  1. pete evans (tc garage employee) says:

    I work at an Audi specialist garage and have seen this car in the flesh. I would say it is by far the best presented example of a non modified car I have ever seen. Immaculate in every way, it shows up most cars that are quarter of its age!

  2. iain stuart says:

    Lovely writeup, and I agree and quite enjoy the unsung status of these cars. I have H92FNB which is a quattro sport variant, I have had for 3 years and have utterly no intention of selling it ever. Great to see it in wonderful condition, I know how hard it is to find spares.

    • chris slack says:

      fantastic looking 90! ,one of the nicest i’ve seen, i’m fortunate to have one but its only the 10v quattro F732BOJ,
      still very enjoyable.

  3. Chris says:

    I have a white H plate 90 20v Sport, and have to agree with this site- it goes ever so well! The galvanising has ensured it is still in excellent condition, as well as the religious servicing by the previous owner. It gets used daily and never fails to put a smile on my face.

  4. James M says:

    I used to have a black 90 20V, I think the reg was H501 WMV.

    Had in 1997, was a lovely car.

  5. kelvin chapman says:

    I have a 1990 audi 90 quattro sport of which i have had for ten years and has been sat in my garage for the last 8 years but due to be brought back on the road this year . totaly amazing car

  6. Timo Sav says:

    I currently reside in USA and own a 1991 90 20v in Pearl White that is in immaculate condition due to its galvanization option. I love love love love that car, I have driven a few cars in my years and NOTHING feels like these 5cyl Audi’s. I am currently completely restoring this car with an addition of 034motorsport turbo. So far everything is common sense and is a pleasure to work on. Looking forward to many more years of driving this rare and wonderful automobile.

  7. chris rutter says:

    I have H985 DTY which looks exactly like the red one above but is a quatrro sport, i have owned the car for about seven year, but I have known the car since it was nearly new, two of my friends owned it before me.I put it back on road in october and haven`t stopped smiling since.Just a fantastic car

  8. Mike Drayton says:

    I used to own a 90 Quattro 20 valve, a pearl white one with grey interior, G925PCX. I bought it when it was five yesrs old with 32000 miles for £8500 from the local Audi dealer which considering its cost when new was a bargain. I kept it for five more years & it was the best Audi I have ever owned. Had I known at the time there were only 92 registered in the UK I would never have sold it even though it was wallet bustingly expensive to own.

  9. Royston Hallows says:

    I have H133 VSU which is a Alpine white 20v quattro sport, I use it daily and never intend to sell it is truly a fantastic car!

  10. Kenny Lunt says:

    I owned H751 FBD, a Tornado Red 90 Sport 20V a long time ago. I have also owned J73 GNH, a Panther 90 quattro Sport 20V, and H134 ENH, a Tornado Red 90 quattro Sport 20V. All originally VAG UK Press cars when new. I agree that the 2wd version has the edge performance wise. They do do feel quicker. The gearing does help somewhat. Great cars.

  11. Nick Linton says:

    My younger son was given (no cost !) a 1990 Audi 90 quattro 20v by the second owner, who parked it in 2004 shortly after a service (‘it was burning a little oil’). Given the cycle of hot sun & cold winters here in Canada, it is in good condition. Addding a battery & replacing a few bulbs & fuses – everything worked ! We replaced the fuel lines / Bosch fuel pump & filter & the engine ran. Now, 1+ year later, we are completing the cosmetics (new headliner material) & body (sanded down clearcoat) and replacing both radiators to get on the road. The engine sounds awesome ! It is quite captivating to drive such a rare car with a heritage.

  12. Sean Spencer says:

    I own H411 00E, a Tornado Red 90 Sport 20V. Admittedly not in as good condition as the one featured on this page, but I believe it to be in original condition and to the original factory specification. Amazing car.

  13. Rad says:

    Hi I live in Melbourne and I have a white 90 20 7a Quattro. I simply love this car and I will keep it forever. These days I only drive it for fun and have plans to preserve its condition.

  14. Roger Chandler says:

    I am the proud owner of a 1990 Audi 90 20v Quattro in Tornado Red, I bought this in 1990, it still looks beautiful and is admired everywhere I take it. I would love to be able to send you a picture for you to compare.

  15. Nemanja says:

    I haved black Audi 90 2.3 20v. Best car in the World!

  16. Ben Williamson says:

    Great site! I have a 90 20v quattro sport of 1991 (J reg’) vintage. Mine has been sorn for 2 years but she’s now nearly ready for the road again so this one’s not dying!

  17. Peter Carhart says:

    Hi, I bought a 90 quattro 20v sport last year down here in Cornwall, I bought because I liked the shape etc and it was no money for what it was, it looks rough but its only cosmetic as its been stood for a long time,its done 134k, the engine turns over on the key and its totally unmolested and undamaged factory spec. everything is there and everything works, it will be recomissioned and used dreckly.

  18. Olga says:

    My boyfriend and I just purchased an Audi 90 Quattro 20V, for $2K not really knowing what we were getting our selves into. We purchased it because it ran great, and we needed a cheap second car. Now doing a bit of research. We realize what a great car it is. It is in perfect condition, and everything is original. Just needed to replace tires, breaks, and power steering pump. I am extremely excited to drive this car.

  19. Ryan Mountford says:

    I owned a 90 Sport 2.3l 20 valve H620CUT I stupidly sold mine a few years back and have regretted it ever since. I would love to know if it is still on the road. It has in black with blacked out rear lights, and OZ racing alloys on it looked perfect. It was a sad day when I heard the buyer roar off down the road in it. The engine sound is amazing…. A true great!!

  20. Rob says:

    My Dad bought J535HRN brand new back in the day. It was a black 20v sport fwd, with those lovely alloys. I’d love to know if it’s still knocking about.

  21. Michael A. Harris says:

    I just purchased my 1990 Audi 90 Quattro sedan. It runs very well, needs some work but I expect that for $250. It comes with a set of winter tires and I look forward to the winter with my galvanized quattro!

  22. Mateusz says:

    I have the front wheel version and it is really fast – at 3rd gear:170km/h; vmax is over 250.
    The car is great but I do not have enough money to bring it to perfection. If you want to give him a second life to write on e-mail: mateusz.rzepa@gmail.com

  23. Angus says:

    Glad to find this site and an informative read. I recently took ownership of H92 FNB, an alpine white 1991 90 20v quattro Sport which was mentioned here previously.
    The car has been stood on SORN for a couple years at least.
    After a bit of fettling ( happily having spares including distributor and spare engines from a previous 90 20v q), she came to life and sounds great with a burst exhaust haha.
    Seems a shame to take this car away from original with so few left but I have an ABY engine which I will uprate with forged internals etc and matching 6 speed box to go into it.
    The car is getting a makeover cosmetically and mechanically. Hoping to have it on the road for summer 2017. Look out for it and I am sure I will be looking for advice and parts at some point :)

  24. Daniel says:

    Great car, I just bought a black quattro 2.3 10V Exclusive Sport Edition – rare to find meanwhile. I bought it because of the 5 cylinder sound. I own an air cooled 911 as well and the Audi sound is as good – certainly not the speed and acceleration but that isn’t everything what makes a good classic.

  25. Pedro says:

    I bought a 90 20V quattro last year with just 50.000miles and after a big service is such a big pleasure to ear the n/a I5 chasing the red line that I missed so much since I sold my CQ 20V some years back!
    Mine is the NM engine, 2000cc 160HP/6200 RPM and 200NM/4500RPM.

    Great car, very well balanced and although it seats on 195/60 R14 tyres and non sport suspension goes round corners as fast as my ABY Avant, probably because its lighter and has better wheight distribution, it leans more but it´s also much more comfortable.

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