So on to the C4 chassis. Though it was instantly recognizable as an Audi, the all-new C4 bore little resemblance to the boxy C3 it replaced. Fluid lines and curves dominated the design, while new running gear and motors made a splash in performance. The C4 continued to stress Audi’s pioneering aerodynamic tradition, but the result this time was a car which seemed far less top-heavy than the chassis it replaced. It looked more trim even if it was a big bigger than the outgoing model.
On the fly, the 100’s new motivation was a revelation. The 2.8 liter V6 replaced the 2.3 liter inline-5, and though horsepower was only 172 and torque 184, both figures represented a nearly 30% gain over the 5-pot. New, too, was a 4-speed automatic transmission. And while the inside looked little different from the last of the C3, only switch gear was shared and the C4 brought a host of new safety and convienence features to the large-chassis Audi.
Strange, though, was the re-appearance of Audi’s earlier naming convention in the U.S.. Back in the early days of the 5000, Audi had used the “S” and “CS” monikers to denote turbo and quattro models at times (but, again being Audi, inconsistently). Well, the S and CS were back after a four-year hiatus. Base model 100 came with steel wheels, while the “S” model stepped you up in options and gave you alloys. But outside of the 20V turbo S4 model, the 100 to get was still the 100CS, which was the most loaded and gave you the option for Audi’s quattro drivetrain. Fully loaded, they were around $35,000 – not cheap, but also not the most expensive in class, and were still unique in offering all-wheel drive.
However, like the C3, the front-drive 100/100S/100CS outsold the quattro model by a fair margin. Audi claims they traded 2,230 of the new 100CS quattro in 1992, and here’s the nicest one out there:
Update 2/12/18: A year after we originally featured it, this ultra-rare S6 Plus is back with 1,000 more miles for $500 less. It’s still a steep price for one of these super-S models, but it’s pretty hard to find them at all, never mind like this.
Audi’s sleeper sedan squared up against some seriously stiff competition in the early 1990s, and to be frank, though it was innovative it came up a bit short in the power department. In turbocharged 20 valve form, the 2.2 liter inline-5 cranked out 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque. That was impressive by 1980s standards, but in the early 90s you needed to carry a bigger stick. BMW’s E34 M5 brought nearly 100 horsepower more to the party at 311 with the revised 3.6 (and yes, it had more torque than the AAN, too), but Mercedes-Benz really crashed the party with the E500, whose M119 held a full 100 horsepower and 100 lb.ft of torque advantage over the Audi. You could be as clever as you wanted, but a 50% power disadvantage was a bridge too far to cross for the legendary 5 pot no matter how many wheels were driven.
The writing was on the wall, and Audi decided to offer an upgraded V8 model alongside the S4 in the rest of the world. Starting in October 1992, you could select the same ABH 276 horsepower 32V 4.2 liter all-aluminum V8 in the S4. The switch to S6 saw the introduction of the revised AEC, which gained 10 horsepower for the 1995 model year and would continue to be the standard V8 in the S6 until production ended. But the big new was the 1996 introduction from Audi’s skunkworks quattro GmbH of the Plus model.
The Plus upped the ante quite a bit with the reworked AHK V8. Though it displaced the same 4.2 liters and had the same 32 valves, the breathed on motor had 322 horsepower and 302 lb.ft of torque. Power was matched with upgraded suspension, brakes, wheels and some small “Plus” badge details – this was still the decade of stealthy performance, after all. Few who look at this model would see anything other than a C4 sitting on slightly larger wheels. But for those in the know, this was one of the most potent super sedans (and wagons!) of the 1990s:
It’s often difficult for a second act to follow a legend, and that’s just what the C4 S4 had to do when it launched for U.S. customers in 1992. The Type 44 was already a fan favorite before the 20V version appeared here briefly for the 1991 model year, with wider flared track, bigger brakes, and more power. To answer fans, Audi introduced an even more potent version with the S4; even bigger wheels, lower suspension, and a few more horses were encased in a thoroughly modern shape, yet one that was easily recognizable to fans of the brand. With a reputation for smooth power delivery and still the market cornered on all-wheel drive performance luxury vehicles, Audi’s new S4 sold out almost immediately in a period when the European makes had difficulty moving their expensive wares.
But the Type 44 still held one advantage over its replacement; an optional fifth door. While the Avant version of the new 100 was available immediately, there was no range-topping S4 wagon brought here. That was finally remedied with the relaunch of the now renamed S6 Avant for 1995. With smoothed out bumpers, revised passenger mirror, rolling changes such as new Speedline Avus 6-spoke wheels replaced the Fuchs that the S4 wore, and headrests became closed. There were more changes with the ‘95.5’ model; the infrared remote locking became radio frequency and the B-pillar receiver disappeared; so, too, did the option to lock the rear differential yourself, as Audi opted to work in an electronic differential lock utilizing the ABS speed sensors rather than a physically locking rear end.
These were really only minor changes to the recipe, which at its roots remained a fan fantasy. The traditional inline-5 that had hung out of the nose of the high-end Audis was still there, with its dual-cam head augmented by electronic fuel injection and electronic boost control. The turbo spun up quickly and had an overboost function, giving drivers 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque to be mastered solely by a manual transmission with Torsen center differential. Form-fitting electric sport seats kept front passengers firmly planted in place through the prodigious grip generated by the meaty 225 section tires. Combined with the prodigious space the Avant offered families and the ability of these cars to eat up highway miles with aplomb regardless of weather, not to mention the incredible tuning potential of the AAN 20V turbo, they’ve become highly sought steeds with a very limited pool of around 300 originally imported:
While usually our ‘Double Take’ features look at one model, today I’m going to look at two cars that share a brand, and idea, and a price point. Both of these Audis represent a huge leap forward from their predecessors; versus the front-drive Type 81, the Type 85 B2 was much more modern-feeling, refined and introduced all-wheel drive to the mass market (excusing its bigger brother, and twice as expensive and exotically flared Quattro brethren, of which only 664 sold here) and the C4 S4 introduced the U.S. market to S-cars and merged the 200 20V’s setup with a modern body and more sporty interior along with even a bit more power. Both are legendary in the 4-ringed circles for their longevity. Both have cadres of fans who seek each model out. And both are hard to find in good condition.
So here we go, Alice – red or green pill? For your $6,000 investment, which of these inline-5 all-wheel drive legends would be your choice?
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:
Watching the Goodwood Festival of Speed feed live this weekend yielded a bit of aural and visual treat for Audi fans as the quite rare S4 GTO took to the famous hill. As esoteric Audi racers go, it’s pretty high on the list – especially given the performance on tap. Basically, the defunct 90 IMSA GTO was selected to head to South Africa to race and replace some also defunct 200 quattros. But since the 80/90 weren’t sold in South Africa, instead of the B4 Audi utilized a C4 chassis. Prepared by Voldi and raced in the hands of Hans Stuck, the 700 horsepower all-wheel drive monsters were immediately successful and were run for several years. Although the car running at Goodwood was in the later Rothmans livery (it’s worth watching the clip here!), the original model was in Audi’s adopted racing silver of the early 1990s. This S6 immediately reminded me of it:
In my last C4 S6 post, I mentioned how the mid-year changes of the short run for the re-badged C4 made each one feel a little bit bespoke given that so few were sold. That’s certainly the case here, as the running changes manifest themselves in interesting ways on this particular 1995.
The most obvious of the items that can be seen is that this car wears the earlier 16″ Fuchs-made forged wheels more traditionally associated with the S4. These were replaced later in the run by the Avus design Speedline wheels the S6 (and most S models for the next few generations) wore, but early production S6s were delivered with the leftover Fuchs wheels. Which is more desirable varies by preference, but in this case I think the Fuchs work really well. Early cars also retained the infrared locking system (denoted by a receiver at the base of the B pillar) and the manual locking rear differential button in the center console. These were replaced later by a radio locking system and electronic rear differential, respectively, in the 1995.5 S6 refresh. But what also is interesting to me, and perhaps one other Audiphile, is that this car has the later closed headrests, unlike the S6 we saw last week.
At the end of the day, these minor differences matter little in what was otherwise a very desirable package no matter what parts Hans grabbed to install that groggy Monday morgen. Presented in semi-ignominious yet signature Emerald Green Mica with Ecru leather, this one nonetheless looks like a keeper:
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:
If Sunday’s A4 represented the new wave of Audi products, the C4 S6 was the end of the decade and a half dominance of the turbocharged inline-5 in the brand’s marketing. True, it continued on in other parts of the world a bit longer, but the writing was on the wall and the 1995 model year was the last in the American market. There’d be a big gap until the next S model launched in the U.S., which helped to solidify the legendary status of these stealthy super-sedans. Since there was no immediate replacement for half a decade, the S6 maintained its top-trump status among four-ring fans for longer than it probably would have been expected to.
The result of that was that they retained a strong fan base of owners and many more who wished, but could not afford, to grab one. As soon as they were out of warranty (if not before, in some cases), the wick began to be turned up – and those that know the AAN know that there’s a lot of wick there to burn. In recent years, the wave of electronic fuel injection tuning and aftermarket support has not waned but grown for these cars; like German Supra Turbos, they’re the evergreen forced-induction chassis you just never tire of seeing. Today’s example is no exception to the rule, and with 500 horsepower and a host of high-dollar upgrades, it’s ready to embarrass much newer metal.
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: