Audi 5000

An Audi 5000 Quattro (C3) from 1986
Model NameAudi 5000 (C2 & C3)
ManufacturerAudi AG
Production Period1978 - 1991
Specifications2.1 L I5, 103 hp fuel injection 5-speed manual & 3-speed automatic
Acceleration 0–100 kilometres per hour (62 mph): 11,7 seconds
Units producedapprox. 135,000
Original Retail Price (1978)$8,995
Seen inMagnum, P.I. (1980-1988), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Lethal Weapon (1987)

The Audi 5000 was an automobile manufactured by Audi, a division of the Volkswagen Group.  The Audi 5000 was a model specially designed and manufactured for the North American market and was based on the European versions Audi 100 and Audi 200.

The Audi 5000 was launched on the American market in 1978.It came with a 2.1 L I5, 103 hp fuel injection engine and was only available as a 4-door sedan with a  5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic. The fuel-injection type accelerated from 0 – 60mph in 11.7 seconds.

The Diesel version dashes against Californian emission standards

In 1979 the 5000 equipped with a diesel engine followed. The diesel was originally not available in California. Porsche-Audi was unable to fulfill the strict emissions standards set by Californian authorities.  Beyond that the equipment of the Audi 5000 was quite scanty compared to the American standards at the time. The 5000 s model however was delivered with more features such as an air-conditioning system.

The interior of an Audi 5000 C2 as seen in a 1980s catalogue describing the features of the car

Audi 5000: Nationwide gas-pedal scandal

Audi was encountered with a nation-wide scandal in the mid 80s when a row of callbacks of Audi 5000 models were made. The Audi 5000s were associated with reported incidents of sudden unintended acceleration. In 1986 CBS’ 60 Minutes news program aired a report titled Out of Control which showed interviews with six people who had sued Audi due to unintended acceleration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) however later stated that most cases of “sudden acceleration” were caused by a confusion of pedals. As a result of the alleged scandal Audi adjusted the distance between the brake and accelerator pedal on automatic-transmission models. 

Tumbling sales and Audi 5000 in urban vocabulary

Winking at the gas-pedal scandal sales still performed well in the US with 133.512 units of the Audi 5000 being sold until 1991. The overall sales of Audi nevertheless tumbled to an all-time low until 1991. Only as recently as the year 2000 Audi was able to achieve equal sales as in 1985.

In modern urban vocabulary the term Audi 5000 often describes the act of “leaving a place quickly” – an ironic reference to the gas-pedal scandal during which the Audi brand almost vanished completely off of American roads within a few years.

In the TV-series Magnum, P.I. Robin Masters owned a silver metallic Audi 5000 model which appeared in many episodes throughout the years.

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