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Wednesday Wheels Roundup

Even though it’s the best part of 70 degrees today in balmy New England, the forecast is unavoidable; in some areas of even Massachusetts, they are predicting snowflakes will be falling as soon as this weekend and temperatures will plummet into the 30s. Even while we’ve been enjoying this “Indian Summer”, I’ve been thinking about getting the snow tires ready to roll – and just because it snows doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun and be an enthusiast. I’ve taken this Wednesday Wheels post to round up some of the winter wheel/tire packages I found on eBay; all of them look like pretty reasonable deals, and some of them are pretty extraordinary! Those M3 wheels, for example, make me wish I had an M3 handy….but even if I bought them, I probably still wouldn’t drive it in the snow!

Happy Motoring, even in the white stuff!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: Audi A3 17″ Wheels/Snow Tires on eBay

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Wagon Week Leftovers: 1995 Audi S6 Avant

Let’s get right to the elephant in the room; this is not a perfect S6 Avant. It has high miles, the description is rather nondescript, the leather has some heavy wear, underhood looks tired and oily and the expensive front bumper has been smashed. What we do learn from the description is that the brakes are probably warped, the fan squeaks, some of the trim is falling off and if your knee what’s to know the current boost reading you’re in luck. Yet, to me this Avant is more appealing than all three of the decade and a half newer models in my “End of an Era” post. Why? It’s the platform that helped to make Audi what it is today – turbocharged, manual, mechanical quattro, with plenty of space and luxury outside and classic looks outside.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

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Wagon Week Avant End Of An Era: ’08 S4, A4 and A6 Avants

At the risk of sounding a bit like a grumpy old man, I really miss the days of Audi yore. Audi did things differently for such a long time that it’s a bit disappointing to see more designs that mimic their contemporaries. I realize part of that has resulted from a realization that the market dictates what is popular, and Audi’s huge sales successes in recent years are no doubt the product of producing more mainstream vehicles that sell. But the result of that is that Audi has stepped away from part of what made them such a fan favorite; starting in 1986, Audi began offering fast wagons. At the time, that was unique to the market – BMW didn’t even offer a wagon stateside until the E34 Touring, and most of the Mercedes-Benz models didn’t really fit in with the fast motorsport enthusiast crowd. Audi furthered its reputation in the early 1990s, expanding the fast wagon lineup from just the large wagons with the introduction of the 20V Turbo version of the B4, the S2 and later RS2. Refining the 200 20V into the S4 Avant in C4 form, Audi broadened the engine range to V8 and turbo 5 offerings – continued in the C4 S6 Avant. There was a brief lull in sport between the death of the C4 and the introduction of the B5 S4, but Audi rebounded in style; the B5 A4 was a popular sporty small wagon and the S4 Avant turned that package up a notch. Then Audi simulatenously offered 4 versions of the C5 platform wagon; regular A6, A6 Allroad (with both twin-turbo and V8 options), S6 and RS6 Avant. The RS package revisited the small wagon in the RS4, and suddenly Audi had no less than 8 different sporting versions of wagons in the early 2000s – the height of their power, they were the undeniable fast wagon kings. While we didn’t get all of those cars, we still got a respectably large amount of fast 5-doors; but slowly, over time, Audi killed off its offerings one by one. First to go was the S6 Avant – slow on sales and not as much of a favorite as the C4 had been, that made sense – the similar sized B6 S4 4.2 Avant was, after all, available with a 6-speed and it was silly to offer both. So we soldiered on with a new C6 platform, and I was glad to see the Avant continue on. The C6 was larger and sleeker and certainly a looker; but no S6 Avant made it to the U.S. any more. Audi also killed off the Allroad soon after; a huge sales success, it nevertheless decided to pursue the SUV market instead of bringing the larger C6 Allroad over here. But we still had three different engine choices in the B6 and B7 platform Avants, right? Well, then Audi started killing them off – with the end of the B7, the S4 Avant was pulled from these shores, along with the larger engine A4 Avant. That left us with only the 2.0T A4 and 3.0T A6 Avants – Audi added the A4 Allroad recently, but in exchange we lost both of the last normal Avant holdouts, too. Drive down to your local Audi dealer, and you can no longer buy a normal wagon. They’ve got 15 different “SUV” options, but wagon fans are limited just to the 2.0T automatic Allroad. It’s a shame.

So, for the swan song to Wagon Week, I’ve selected not the best year or best models for our sendoff – but it’s the last stand of when we were offered three sporting options; 2009 would see that number down to two and then one shortly thereafter. Don’t shed a tear, but remember the good times:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

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Feature Listing: 2001 Audi A8L

Earlier today I wrote up a brace of Audi S4s – undoubtedly, one of the best performance values going in classic German motoring today. However, if you move forward a generation, there’s a similar stunning value in the S4’s big brother – the Audi A8. Available in three configurations, the D2 chassis pioneered some new technology for Audi – the Aluminum Space Frame which stiffened the structure and kept weight down. The A8 was also completely new outside; while it’s easy to point towards it as looking like a big A4, the reality is the opposite – the Audi space frame concept car actually predated the B5 A4 chassis and the first iterations of the D2 were near exact copies of the show car. First available in front drive 3.7 V8 configuration and 4.2 quattro, the D2 A8 was initially offered only in short wheel base before 2000. Styling was revised in 2000, which also saw the U.S. introduction of both the sport-oriented S8 model (2001) and ultra-luxury oriented A8L. Equipped with special wheels and fully optioned out, these cars were anything but subtle – commanding serious presence on the road. But that weighty look didn’t necessarily translate to physical weight; despite the long wheel base and luxury bias, the A8L hit the scales only around a hundred pounds heavier than the C4 S4/S6. There were a few other minor details that separated the L from the regular A8 outside of the longer wheel base, too – a larger gas tank and upgraded brakes kept the performance in line with the normal A8. Coupled with the 40 valve V8 4.2 engine pumping 310 horsepower, this meant that the A8L was no slouch even though only equipped with the ZF-made 5-speed tiptronic. In a straight drag race, the A8L would actually give a stock C4 S4/S6 a run for its money. But a drag car the A8L was not; it’s about luxury motoring, and the A8L excels there in droves as well. Despite the impressive package, these cars are available for very little money today – and when they’re presented like this example, it’s a compelling opportunity to get into one of the prettiest German luxury cars ever made for only a fraction of the original purchase price:

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10K Friday – Still the Best Deal Going: 1992-1994 Audi S4

While the Type 44 turbo quattro paved the way for the C4 platform, the brand new 100 and S4 were a real revolution for Audi. It needed it, too – Audi was in dire straights in the early 1990s and was nearly pulled from the American market all together. Audi needed a major update to its top of the line-ranging 100, which in 1991 effectively was still the same car with minor updates from 1984. Of course, Audi wasn’t going to completely walk away from the Type 44 and the crown jewel of performance, the 200 20V turbo quattro. So, in 1992 the “brand new” S4 was launched. Underneath it shared many parts with its sibling V8 quattro and the earlier 200 20V. Even inside it didn’t look much different from the concurrent V8 model. But step outside and an entirely new aerodynamic body cloaked the extremely capable motor and drivetrain. That motor – now with some minor updates that allowed for slightly more power than the 200 had enjoyed – would quickly become legendary for not only reliability but for specific power output; 400 horsepower is almost commonplace amongst modified versions; 500 horsepower isn’t unusual and above 1,000 isn’t unheard of. Despite the extreme tuning potential, go anywhere chassis and incredibly good build quality, these sedans are still a remarkable bargain in the classic German motoring market. While normally in a 10K Friday post I’d compare different models, today I’ve got four different examples of the same car to take a look at – which is the best bargain?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Audi S4 on eBay

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