1987 Audi 5000 drives circles around BMW and Mercedes

When it came time to advertise the struggling 5000 model for 1987, Audi decided to take the road less traveled. That road wound itself around a Mercedes and BMW in a circular fashion, creating a vintage advertisement that hasn't aged any better than most Audi 5000s.

Long before anyone had ever heard of a runaway Prius, the Audi 5000 was the first vehicle to be widely accused of unintended acceleration problems. A one sided "60 Minutes" segment featuring unintended acceleration victims and staged video footage of an "out of control" Audi sent America into a frenzy in 1986. Even though the NHTSA eventually would eventually find the unintended acceleration to be the result of driver error, after the 60 Minutes segment aired, Audi 5000s went from hot yuppie status symbol to undesirable out of control death machine overnight.

It was in 1987 when the majority of the fallout from the 60 Minutes report occurred. Audi experienced a massive sales drop following the 60 Minutes segment. A class action lawsuit over the car's significantly impacted resale values was launched in 1987 by angry Audi owners. The blow to the company's reputation nearly forced Audi to permanently withdraw from the North American markets. In light of these facts, this advertisement, released in 1987, seems rather ridiculous.


Beyond the fact that most German luxury sedan buyers opted for the models that had not been accused of killing anyone that year, we would argue the Audi 5000 wasn't running in the same circles as the other two cars in this commercial to begin with. The BMW E28 and the Mercedes W124 platforms remain two of the most revered mid size German sedans ever made for their styling, dependability and performance. While the first qualification is certainly subjective, we imagine few would applaud the 5000 for its dependability or performance, especially 25 years later. These factors and the stigma created by the unintended acceleration fiasco resulted in a very low survival rate for the Audi 5000s. While it still isn't too hard to find a comparable Mercedes or (non euro spec) BMW to the ones shown here, anyone ready for an Audi 5000 these days has quite a search ahead of them.

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Patrick George

I still get pretty surprised when I see older Audis like this 5000 on the road. I can't imagine it's easy to keep them running. They seem to be a lot more rare than the BMWs and Benzes of that era.