1995 Audi S6 Avant

After two clean 90s, it’s time to look at the much greater appeal of the turbocharged S6 Avant. Imported in even more limited quantities than the 90 quattro 20V, the wagon form of the C4 with AAN turbo power has been legendary since its inception. But with a very limited stock and a chassis known to pile on mileage with aplomb, clean and low mileage examples are few and far between.

So I’ll start off with admitting that this S6 Avant is not perfect; if anything it’s probably far from perfect by most standards. There’s body damage, a replaced hatch, the wrong wheels, a fair chunks of missing paint. It’s got 179,000 miles and is in need of a suspension refresh. It’s 22 years old, too, so you can bet it’s got some Audi idiosyncrasies. And with that, most of the 911 crew just tuned out.

But, and it’s a big but, it’s a S6 Avant. As such, it’s automatically worth investigating if it runs at all. And dig beneath the (admittedly somewhat ruined) exterior, and there’s a fair amount to like here:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

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Feature Listing: 1991 Audi 200 20V quattro Avant

1991 was a great year for Audi and Volkswagen enthusiasts in America, robust with performance options all around. Fans of normally aspirated motors had multiple double-cam choices; the 16V twins from Volkswagen with the GTI/GLIs, each with heavily bolstered Recaros and awesome BBS wheels. Going slightly less boy racer and more upscale yielded the equally impressive 20V inline-5 duo from Audi, with the Coupe Quattro and 90 20V quattro. They weren’t as quick off the line, but they were certainly well built, solid performing luxury vehicles. Of course, the big daddy of normal aspiration in the lineup was the V8 quattro. Still at 3.6 liters and 240 horsepower for 1991, it was also available with a manual transmission and was in the midst of a winning streak in the DTM series, usurping power from the E30 M3 and 190E 2.5-16 in monumental style.

If forced induction was more your choice for speed, there were plenty of options there, as well. 1991 featured a slightly revised Corrado, now also with BBS wheels and the 1.8 liter G-lader supercharged motor. Audi offered you a luxury cruiser still in the 200 Turbo, as well. But the big news was finally the release of the 20V Turbo motor into the lineup. Long featured in the Sport Quattro, then RR Quattro in Europe and later S2, in America Audi brought the 3B turbocharged inline-5 package in the 200. As an added bonus, it was available in both sedan form and the innovative Avant wagon. Producing 217 horsepower and a bit more torque, the Audi was capable of 0-60 runs in the mid-6 second range if you were quick with your shifts. But this wasn’t a bracket racer – the 200 was a luxury car through and through, with a well-appointed cabin full of the things you’d expect – Zebrano wood trim, electric powered and heated leather seats front and rear, and a high-quality Bose stereo. Unusual for a luxury car of the time, but underscoring the German’s feelings towards driving, were the number of driver-oriented items. The dash was full of gauges, and unlike the V8 and 200 Turbo, the 20V was manual-only. Next to the shift lever was the manual rear differential lock, though as with all the second generation quattro drivetrains, the electronic lock disengaged at 15 m.p.h. automatically. The center differential was a Torsen unit capable of varying power as well. And the brakes were unconventional floating-rotor designs, intended to help haul the heavy 200 down from triple-digit Autobahn speed with ease. Unlike the normal 200, the fenders on the 20V were flared slightly to accommodate BBS forged wheels, 15×7.5″ all around and shared with the V8 quattro. It sounded like a recipe for success, and was a well regarded car when new even if the unconventional manual/turbo-5 setup lacked some grunt compared to the V8s of the day.

Yet this was still the fallout period of both the recession of the 1990s and Audi’s fall from grace in the U.S. market, so the 200 was a slow seller. On top of that, the C3 was at the very end of its life cycle, replaced mid-1991 with the C4 chassis. As a result, very few of the 200 20V quattros were built; Audi claims 4,767 sedans and a scant 1,616 Avants were produced with the 3B motor. Of those, only about 900 sedans made it to America. But the number you care about? Well, this 1991 200 20V quattro Avant is one of the 149 originally imported here.

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1985 Audi 5000S Avant

It’s hard to believe that only eleven years separate the genesis of the inline-5 Avant wagon design and its culmination with the 1995 Audi S6. Audi’s groundbreaking aerodynamic design for the C3/Type 44 looked from the start as if it were intended to be a wagon; a sleek, modern design with flush windows and a sweeping D-pillar. It would be two years until Audi’s quattro drivetrain would debut in the large package, which left you with the sole option of front-wheel drive for 1984 and 1985. Audi also opted to leave the KKK turbocharger out of the package until all four wheels could deal with it, as well – so basically this car was a luxurious 4-door Coupe GT for the first two model years. Thankfully, though you were only allowed about 110 horsepower, Audi allowed drivers to opt for a manual transmission even in front-wheel drive form:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1985 Audi 5000S Avant on eBay

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1995 Audi S6 Avant

Okay, enough dangling carrots and arguments over what’s the best Audi of all time. If there was a do-anything, do-everything, you only have one car for the rest of your life type of car, it’s the S6 Avant.

Today it’s not abnormal to have a car that can out-drag sports cars, carry a family of five dependably and their gear, go through any weather and be a luxurious car that even returned reasonable mileage. In the early 1990s, though, what were your options in that category, exactly? That was a time where Audi had the market cornered with its S4 and later S6 Avants. Though they were available in Europe earlier, it took until the 1995 model year for Audi to introduce the concept to Americans. And just like that, it was gone again, with only a few hundred imported. Nearly every single one is unique as a result of mid-model year changes. Yet all are equally legendary among U.S. Audi fans:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

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2002 Audi S6 Avant

Perspective is an interesting thing. Just a few days ago, I looked at an S6 4.2 Avant – a car that never came to the U.S.. It was certainly potent, with 285 stomping V8 horsepower. Even more potent was the Plus version linked in the article, with enough power to match rivals from Mercedes-Benz and BMW. But here in America, we bemoaned the lack of importation of these models; worse still, Audi’s U.S. lineup went decidedly soft following the discontinuation of the 20V turbocharged inline-5 S6 in 1995. Indeed, another S model wouldn’t appear here until 2000.

But only a half decade after the most potent S-car had launched out of quattro GmbH, Audi gave us a reason to celebrate. The S6 Avant returned to U.S. shores, and it was even more powerful than the Plus model had been. Now with 5V technology, the BBD 4.2 V8 cranked out 340 horsepower. Like the 4.2 sedan we just looked at, the flares were widened and door blades made the stance more aggressive. Special interior details abounded; sport seats and steering wheel (comfort seats were a no-cost option), Alcantara headliner, and carbon fiber trim let the driver know they were at the wheel of a special model. Audi’s signature Avus wheel design appeared in 17″, but uniquely 8″ wide and in lower offset than either the S8 or S4 models’ wheels. The 1BE sport suspension was 20mm lower and 30% stiffer than the standard models. And though it looked like the rest of the subdued, understated early 2000s lineup, the Avant scooted; 0-60 was gone in 6.5 seconds, the standing quarter mile in 14.5, and the S6 could pretty effortlessly brush against its electronically limited 155 mph top speed. Reviews and owners alike chime in with the same song: like the E39 M5, this is a car that does everything, and does everything well.

So why the hell didn’t we buy them?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

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Brilliant Yellow 1997 Audi S6 4.2 Avant

Ah, the used car market in Europe. It’s the stuff of dreams for U.S. fans. First off, you get cars that were never available to our market. Often, those cars come with colors or options that weren’t offered here. They are usually closer to original specification. Europeans seem to drive less and value their expensive cars more, too – so they turn up with lower than normal mileage and in better than average condition. And, as if to top it off, they’re dangled in front of us at cut-rate pricing. Because of the cost of keeping these cars down stream in Europe with taxes, insurance, and – most importantly for most – the space to keep multiple cars, older cars are often offered at prices that would immediately have several fans on U.S. shores throwing money at the sellers.

Today’s S6 4.2 Avant combines all of those things into one package:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Audi S6 4.2 Avant on Mobile.de

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2002 Audi S6 Avant 6-speed

Seriously, what’s the deal? Almost immediately after completing expensive 6-speed manual swaps, both S6 and S8s come up for sale. Today’s example, having covered about 9,000 miles since its swap, might be one of the most traveled examples with a manual swap that I’ve seen. Are the results not what people were expecting? That the manual was combined with the S4’s similar V8 in a package that many enthusiasts love would tend to be an indication that the output of this equation should be quite good. Yet, it’s frankly not all that uncommon to run across a manual swapped C5 or D2 that, after several thousand dollars worth of work and programming, is now up for sale. There’s even one near me for under $4,000 – complete!

So what do you think the deal is?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2002 Audi S6 Avant 6-speed on Denver Craigslist

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Signature Color Face-Off: 2004 v. 2007 Audi S4 Avants

The S4 Avant is no stranger to these pages, offering enthusiasts a “have-your-cake-and-throw-it-squarely-at-that-M3-owner’s-face-too” package which combined functionality and sport in a very discrete wrapper. Well, for the most part they were discrete; most were ordered in shades of gray because a fair amount of people ponying up new were conservative with everything but the money they were paying for this small executive wagon. Lightly optioned, an S4 Avant was north of $50,000 in 2004, a price today that would having you knocking on the A7 and S6’s base price. That sticker shock masks that the B6 and B7 represented a huge price increase over the B5 generation; out the door, the cost on average about 20% – 30% more only 3 years later – but then, they offered a full 90 horsepower advantage over the twin-turbocharged V6 with that awesome 4.2 V8, which of course could still be combined with a 6-speed manual gearbox. Subtle though the exterior colors may be, the performance on tap was anything but.

But some enterprising individuals chose the vivid colors which had become the signature of the model in B5 form. Nogaro Blue Pearl Effect was, of course, the go-to for all things fast Audi since it was originally called RS Blue on the original super Avant RS2. But a nearly equal amount were requested in Imola Yellow, a staggering, retina-burning banana-toned shade that seems initially out of character with a family wagon, yet raises the cool-bus level to 11. Though Nogaro was replaced in the B7 chassis refresh with Sprint Blue Pearl Effect, Imola carried over for the end of the V8s.

Today, I have one of each – so which is your style?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

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2001 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant

Time does funny things to how you view cars. In 2001, I couldn’t have been less excited to see an A4 1.8T, especially in Tiptronic form. It was the car that finally made Audi solvent, granted – and as an Audi enthusiast, that should have made me happy. But it also brought a group of Johnny-come-latelys to the brand, steering BMW 3-Series buyers away from their tried and trusted steeds. I don’t know why this should have bothered me, but it did.

As a result, I sort of swore off the A4 for a long time. It was too heavy, too underpowered, too round. The 1.8T, even rated at an upgraded 170 horsepower later in the run, felt pretty underwhelming to drive even compared to the glacier-slow inline-5s I grew up with. The seats and interior felt cheap even though they looked more modern than the E36 and certainly more so than the B4 and B3 generation. In short, the A4 felt like a gimmick, and while the market bought it, I didn’t.

Fast forward now 21 years since the launch of the B5, and I have a much greater appreciation for the model. It’s on the verge of being vintage in some states (or already may be, depending on your local laws) which is about as boggling to the mind as considering a billionaire a “populist”. The popularity of the A4 led it to be the first “disposable” Audi, so finding a clean and lower mile A4 has become difficult. But they’re out there if you look, and even the ‘lowly’ 1.8T model has its appeal:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant on eBay

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As Good As They Get? 1995 Audi S6 Avant

We’ve gone through a kick of Pearlescent White Metallic Audis over the past few days. And while they’ve all been lovely examples that are well built, well maintained and well presented, they’ve all been missing one thing: a turbo.

You could argue that the value of a $5,000 Audi in pristine condition but without a turbo is still relatively good compared to some other contemporaries. But the immediate counterpoint is the turbocharged variant of the C4; the S4/S6. Even if you accept one in worse condition, the possible longevity of the package coupled with the performance potential on tap simply outweighs other considerations. Sure, these Audis have faults – they all do. The inline-5 models have the same problems as the non-turbo models, but they have no real further drawbacks. And since you can get a pretty decent S4/S6 for about the same asking price as some of the other Audis we look at, those cars are effectively viewed immediately as overpriced in the eyes of the market (rightly, or wrongly).

But what about a really nice S4 or S6? It would have to be in good condition, and pretty close to stock. If it was modified, the add-ons would have to be good quality or ideally factory items. Miles would need to be in check, condition would need to be great, and maintenance up to date. If we’re getting picky, an Avant would be preferable, and if really pedantic, the early ’95s that kept the locking rear differential rather than the later EDL.

Checkmate:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1995 Audi S6 Avant on eBay

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