The Audi 100, introduced in the States as the 5000, will go down in history as the car that made unintended acceleration famous. Yet this wrongly maligned automobile did at least as much for design as it did for the bank balances of the nation’s attorneys.
Back when the 100 was unveiled, the world had adjusted just enough to Ayatollah-era reality to want some speed and style along with its fuel efficiency. The new 100 arrived at precisely the right moment, blessed with a magnificent shape, a limousine-sized interior, and a drag coefficient so low (0.33 in U.S. trim) that it puny 2.1-liter, 100-hp, five-cylinder engine could push it to 107 mph and still deliver 23 mpg in hard driving.
And there’s more. The 100 was the first sedan to popularize flush side glass. It wasn’t the first to have it – that honor goes to the Giugiaro-designed Isuzu Impulse, introduced in Japan in mid 1981 – but the 100 was the car that suddenly made everything else on the road look old.
The 100 had barely reached the showrooms when other manufacturers began scrambling to push their cars’ door glass as far outward as the limits of technology would allow. Even now, eight years later, surprisingly few makers have managed to achieve that goal with as much finesse as Audi. Nevertheless, flush glass is now de rigueur on everything but econoboxes: if you don’t have it, you don’t have style. And there’s nothing the lawyers can do about that.
One Hour Winnipeg