For a few reasons, I found yesterday’s S4 Avant a bit lacking. The B7 S4 Avant isn’t my favorite of the S Avants to begin with, and truth told I think I’d take a S-Line 2.0T Titanium before I jumped into a S4. The high price these have retained also is a bit of a turnoff; you can get the same car, for nearly all intents and purposes, in the B6 for a lot less. But the killer, at least for me, was the color. I just find newer silver and gray Audis predictable, cliche, and boring in general. They lack imagination. And when Audi had such brilliant colors available in the color pallet, I don’t look upon the more conservative and prevalent with envy.
But what about something wild, like LZ5F Sprint Blue Pearl Effect? Yeah, that gets the blood boiling and draws the eyes in pretty much every situation. But today I didn’t have a SBPE Avant; instead, to make up for that, I’ve got two examples of the color on S sedans from the same dealer. Strange? Even more strange is that this is the same dealer that I previously looked at a special order Sprint Blue A4. Does this dealer have some special source of smurf blue Audis?
I’ve previously made fun to the term “Unicorn” as it relates to selling…well, pretty much any of the cars we feature on these pages. Truth told, as special as you think your car is, it’s really just one of probably a fairly large number of cars just like it out in the wild. Yet that doesn’t stop the P.T. Barnum’s of the used-car market from touting how unusual it is to see their particular circus attraction. In fact, many times it seems to be considered the main selling point:
Salesman: Now that you’ve selected all your other options, I’m going to tell you about one final “dealer special” option we can offer you – but it’s only for select, and discerning customers!
Rich Plebian: Uh, okay, what is it?
S: It’s the not offered to public “Unicorn” option
RP: “Unicorn”? Like, horned mythological beast?
S: Yes, exactly. The Unicorn Package is option code 785.
RP: Okay, what does it get me?
S: You get to tell everyone how unique your mass-produced car is.
RP: Wait, it gives me special powers?
S: No, you just get to say that your car is more special than the other cars that are exactly like it.
RP: Well, people have always told me how special I am, so sign me up!
So here we are again. In the sales pitch for this 2006 Audi S4 Avant, “Unicorns are real” appears. The question is – is this really something you never see, and is it the horned mythological beast you’ve been looking for?
Continuing on today’s green theme and moving up the pecking order a few notches from the E12 duo from the other day, here we have something of a monster. Alpina offered E24 fans a special treat with a turned up turbocharged variant of the 635CSi that was good enough not only to rival BMW’s own M6/M635CSi, but indeed to better it.
The M88 was already a bit of legend before BMW offered derivatives in the /3 and catalyst-equipped S38. With 256-286 horsepower depending on tune, it was about as good as non-exotic normally aspirated motors got in the 1980s. But Alpina had always had a knack for outdoing the cars their creations were based upon, so in went the turbocharger. The result was impressive in any form; the Turbo Coupe/1 was good for 300 horsepower and could match the acceleration of the M cars. But matching wasn’t enough, so Alpina upped the power with the B7S. Now up to 3.4 liters and good for 320 plus horsepower and nearly 400 lb.ft of torque, it was a car which could rip your face off anytime, anywhere. Like all Alpinas, they were lovingly crafted and full of exquisite detail work and limited to only 30 examples:
While ostensibly the S4 Avant was the top-trump in the A4 lineup for both the B6 and B7 series, there were two limited models which each have found a niche in the marketplace of people who might desire them even more than the bellowing V8 beast. While performance on the turbocharged models was much more sedate than the S4 out of the box, the ability to tune these cars up without the impending doom threat of the chain-failure-prone BBK 4.2 means there are a bunch of individuals specifically seeking out the early Ultra Sport or later S-Line Titanium Package models. Today we’ve got one of each – which would you choose?
While pristine, all-original examples of classic and collector cars certainly have a cadre of devotees, there’s a slightly smaller and equally evangelical group of “period correct” piece lovers. From aftermarket wheels, body bits, seats and gauges right through to stickers, even if the car isn’t the most desirable model it can be brought up to snuff with some appropriate modifications. Today’s duo of E12s are good examples. Both start as 528i models; by themselves, certainly not the prettiest or most desirable BMW even within the period of the late 1970s. But both have gone through some modifications which make them desirable, though they take very different paths. Which one would you like?
Okay, enough obscure Audi crap, Carter. You want the real deal. You want what Audi fans look towards der Vaterland for.
You want RS Audis.
Can I blame you? Since 1994, Audi’s RS moniker has stood for performance in all weather, and is usually paired with their signature Avant model for best consumer consumption. While this conversation and most of the internet would immediately turn towards the RS2 as the defacto signature, a model still unsurpassed in its execution, that’s not where I’ll start. There are reasons for this, but for both the RS2 and B5 RS4, Audi had to utilize outside help to make the car they wanted to between Porsche and Cosworth. So, in some ways, today’s model is the first real all-Audi effort.
Instead of the icon we’re going to look at Audi’s mega-impressive B7 RS4. Audi went to great lengths to revise the all-wheel drive system in this car to make it a better competitor to the M3. With a naturally-aspirated Fuel Stratified Injection 4.2-liter V8 chucking out 414 horsepower, it had the motivation to move it around quite a bit too. And the best part? For U.S. fans, it actually was sold over here and remains a great performance value (if you can afford the repairs). So why look to Europe to get one?
Well, there are a few reasons. First, Avant. We only got the sedan version of the RS4 here, so if you really want street cred, importation of one of these bad boys will certainly gain you that, though nearly every conversation will include a “Yes, it’s real…” exchange. But perhaps an even better reason to consider Europe for your RS experience? The price. These cars haven’t hit the collector market yet, but they’re moving outside of normal consumption for daily drivers. So while an 85,000 mile RS4 sedan hits eBay in the $27,000 – $30,000 range, this clean Avant can be yours for a discount:
“If you’re looking at this ad, you know what it is. Yes, this is the real deal.”
It was a simple, straightforward solution – but its effect was profound. By adding a KKK K27 turbocharger to BMW’s M30 inline-6, Alpina made quite a splash and firmly cemented its name in the hallowed halls of the ‘World’s Best Tuners’. The result of that marriage coupled with adjustable boost, an intercooler and special injection was 300 horsepower and 340 lb.ft of torque – in 1978! Even the much lauded and celebrated Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera had less power from more displacement; the 3.3 turbo flat-6 produced 265 horsepower and 291 lb.ft of torque. If the Porsche 911 Turbo was a supercar killer, the B7 Turbo was a 4-door 911 assassin. The Alpina was the real deal, and ever since then they’ve been at the sharp end of the world’s fastest sedans.
Beyond just looks, the Buchloe firm of course added signature deep chin and pronounced trunk spoilers. Large (for the period) 16″ alloy wheels wore 225 section tires in the rear to help transfer that power, while specially specified Bilstein shocks were mated with stiffened and lowered Alpina-spec springs and sway bars. Inside, Sheel seats were outfit with Alpina’s beautiful striping, while extra gauge pods read out critical engine performance measures.
A total of 149 of these sedans were produced, each in a slightly different and unique specification with numbered dash plaques. This example, #209, was specified in Sapphire Blue Metallic with Alpina’s bespoke cloth:
Okay, let me get this off my chest first: I don’t like the A4. My reasoning is most likely completely irrational from the standpoint of being an Audi fan. Quite simply, the A4 made Audi popular, and I didn’t like that. Each successive generation made it more popular, too, to the point where my neighbor “Tiffy” (no joke) bought (of course) a 2007 Dolphin Gray Metallic sedan brand new. Predictably, it was Tiptronic. Tiffy represented to me the sale of the soul of Audi to the heartless masses of New Jersey housewives that replaced their Honda Accords, Acura TL, Lexus ES, or BMW E36 with the new flavor du Jour. Seeing gray A4s actually causes me physical discomfort to this day. The only point of solace in the situation was that I knew, at some point, these A4s would go “all Audi” on Tiffy and her cohort of hair-flipping, bleached and over-makeup’d friends in heels that fit them ten years ago, and they’d be left with a dash full of warning lights and a laughing AAA driver transporting them to the local dealership. There, their knock-off Louis Vuitton purses would be emptied, as their local authority on all-things-Audi-repair would literally take the Armani Exchange shirt off their backs.
Then there’s the group of 2nd/3rd/4th-owner bros with flat-rimmed hats and a long line of credit with APR that have modded these A4s to the hilt. They’re a whole other level of discomfort for me.
I recognize it’s a problem, and at some point I’ll probably seek therapy over it. Needless to say, I won’t be owning an A4 at any point soon. Or ever, likely.
With some disdain, then, I consider an A4 2.0T quattro sedan. To me, there’s but one reason to consider an A4, and that was that (until recently) you could get an Avant.…
For me, the perfect counterpoint to the questionably presented C2 from a few days ago is today’s B7 Turbo. Just about everything in the B7 was taken up a few notches over a standard E28 (or even an M5), and this example exemplifies that perfectly in comparison to that E30.
The B7 Turbo models were, quite simply, some of the fastest BMWs made to that point. More to the point, they were some of the fastest cars in the world in the 1980s; Alpina claimed the E12 B7 Turbo was the fastest sedan in the world, for example. The B7S had bumped up to the 3.5 liter M30. Strapping their special injection system along with a KKK turbocharger and a host of internal modifications, the B7S produced 911 Turbo levels of power which made it (unsurprisingly) 911 Turbo fast. The model continued after the changeover to E28 model, but with some differences. Instead of the bespoke injection on the early model, Alpina instead reprogrammed the Motronic in the E28 to work with the turbocharged M30. The B7 was available in both catalyst (/3) and non-catalyst (/1), both producing 300 or more horsepower. Alpina claims they ultimately made 236 of these beasts by the end of production, but the catalyst version – a large chuck of which ended up in Japan – was the more rare of the two. Today, one of these mega sedans is available, and while a high percentage of the Japanese-destined B7s ended up with automatics, this one has a manual:
On its way out of production, Audi graced the ageing B7 with one last parting piece of performance. The RS4 Cabriolet was announced in late 2007 as a 2008-only model and ripped the top of of Ingolstadt’s signature small super sedan. Like the rest of the A4 Cabriolet production, it was soft-top only, 2-door only configuration, and like the RS4, it was 6-speed manual only. Under the hood lay the same BNS 4.2 32 valve V8; Audi dropped the 5 valve technology for the RS4 application, but gained quite a bit of horsepower in the process. Though the engine shared basic construction with the normal S4 V8, it had a unique crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons, cylinder heads and valvetrain, oil and cooling system, intake and exhaust system, and engine management system. Audi also introduced their Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) system. The result was 420 high-revving horsepower and enough noise to make Pavarotti jealous.
Although the RS4 Cabriolet shared the revised T3 Torsen setup, Dynamic Ride Control and huge 14″ front brakes as the sedan, Audi’s focus for the model was exclusivity rather than sport. The model was fully loaded with only one option – color – and came to market at a substantial $15,000 premium over the 4-door. Only 300 were sold with a sticker price of about $84,500: