This year marks the tenth anniversary of the introduction of Audi’s supercar-scaring R8. It really was a bit of a leap for the company which typically mastered unsteer-laden sedans to jump into a mid-engine, rear-biased all out sports car, but when they put their mind to it they sure did an impressive job. The design built off existing themes in Audi’s show car history such as the Spyder and Avus concepts of the 90s, but the real foundation work was laid with the twin-turbo Lamborghini V10-powered LeMans quattro show car in 2003. Of course, such a crazy concept would never come to fruition, right?
Fast forward only three years later and the road-ready and newly coined “R8” was brought to the market. Architecture was heavily borrowed from existing models within the company’s umbrella; the basic platform was shared with the Audi-owned Lamborghini Gallardo, while the initial engine came from the RS4 in the form of the 4.2 liter, all-aluminum FSI V8. At 414 horsepower, it might not have given a 599GTB driver much concern, but it surely gave the crew heading into Porsche dealers pause.
From the get-go, journalists swooned over the performance and dynamics of the R8. It was lauded as one of the best packages you could buy – even Clarkson liked it! Even before the mega-V10 model rolled out for 2009’s model year, the 4.2 offered blistering performance in a budget (for the market) package. 0-60 was gone in 4.6 second, the standing quarter in 12.5 and it’d do nearly 190 mph flat-out – at least, that’s what Audi claimed. Car and Driver eclipsed the 60 mark in 4.0 seconds in theirs. At around $120,000 new with some options, the R8 was more dear than any Audi had ever hit market.
But there was something even more odd and unique that this car did, or rather, didn’t do, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t often write them up. It didn’t fall in value. If you bought a well equipped, V10-engined S8 in 2007, you’d shell out about the same money – $110,000. Today? Less than 20 grand. But the R8 was the first modern Audi not to fall victim to depreciation. Lower mile examples of the early models are still asking over $70,000 – sometimes well over $80,000. So something struck me when I spotted this ’08 – it was cheap. In fact, it was the cheapest R8 I could find on the market. Does that make it a good buy?
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:
Many enthusiasts – this author and, in general, all of the writers at GCFSB included – complain that cars have gotten too complex, too heavy, too isolating. An increasing reliance on computer controls to save poor driving skills and reign in huge horsepower certainly produces impressive numbers on the track. But, somehow the charts of ‘Ring lap times, superbike-embarassing 0-60 times and dyno numbers has taken an important aspect out of driving – the driver. However, at the same time that there has been an explosion of horsepower numbers and proliferation of computer controls, there has been a backlash of simple, enjoyable cars to drive. Models like the Elise proved you didn’t need a 10 cam, quad turbocharged V20 to go fast. Utilizing a relatively cheap and reliable inline-4 and adding lightness, the Elise takes the electronics out and relies on you paying attention to everything that is going on in the car to go fast – yet, fast it goes. Similar cars like the Ariel Atom, Opel Speedster/VX220, BAC Mono and, yes, even the Mazda Miata have followed the same recipe. But we’ve got one today I’m betting you probably have never heard of in the YES! Roadster Turbo. As the engineers from Lotus did, the team of Funke and Will from YES! took some proven parts from the Volkswagen and Audi catalogue and dropped them into the middle of an aluminum frame, added some spice and styling that channeled the Audi TT, Opel Speedster, Lotus Elise, the Spyker C8 and a little Lamborghini inspiration and produced one cool little package:
In 2007, Audi fans had a giant reason to celebrate. No, they weren’t jumping for joy because their insurance company finally sent them their check for their B5 S4 that was stolen for the fourth time. Audi was bringing back the RS4. Even better, it was coming to North America. After taking a sabbatical in the B6 generation, the legendary RS4 was coming. 6-speed manual. 420-hp direct-injection V8. 8000 rpm redline. 58/42-percent front-to-rear weight distribution. Flared fenders. Honeycomb grille. This was it. Carbon-buildup be damned and yeah, it wasn’t the avant. This was it. Finally the AWD super-sedan was coming. Nine years later if you are still dreaming about the RS4 without the nearly $70,000 price tag, this example in Michigan might be right up your alley.
When it comes to sporty wagons in the mid 2000s, your only options were really Audis and BMWs, right? Well, wrong – because Volkswagen dropped one pretty hot sleeper on our shores before elimination of the Passat wagon from the lineup. Granted, Volkswagen’s hottest entrant into the sport wagon market – the R36 – wouldn’t come here, but the normal 3.6 4Motion was darn close. With 280 horsepower on tap from the enlarged narrow-angle VR6 channeled through all four wheels, the unassuming Passat was the second most powerful wagon offered on these shores from VAG. Unless you spent another 50% to opt for the Audi S4 V8, this was as quick as U.S. bound German wagons got. Unlike the B5/5.5, the B6 chassis returned to the Golf-based platform, which was both a blessing and a curse. From a performance standpoint the change was a good one, as many of the items intended for the R32 model worked on the Passat now. However, the change to transverse engine placement from the inline Audi setup in the B5/5.5 meant that the “true” quattro drivetrain in the earlier 4Motions was replaced by the Haldex setup found in the R32 and Audi TT. Is this the end of the world? No, not really, and in fact because of this change you can opt to alter the power distribution with aftermarket control units. These 3.6 models were expensive and fully loaded, so they’re somewhat infrequently seen and generally unknown and unappreciated even in the German-specific realm:
I’ve been taking a look overseas over the past few days at a few older treats that never came here, so today we’ll look at a few newer Audi products that also were prohibited from U.S. shores. One of the biggest disappointments for many four ring enthusiasts was that the 8P RS3 model wasn’t imported here. Basically a 5-door TT-RS, it was a Golf R on even more steroids – but today’s example upped the power a full 200 more than stock to 550. Similarly, I have one of the 333 8X A1 quattro MTM models produced a few years ago, and while it doesn’t share the monster performance of the RS3 it’s sure an appealing package. Which would you love to have here on this Tuner Tuesday?
Following up on yesterday’s super-loaded A4 I’ve moved forward a decade to the last of the B7 series cars. Between the B5 and B7 generation cars, Audi made significant improvements to their small car, with more upscale and tech-heavy interiors and impressive power output from the new line of motors. While the A4 was introduced with the 172 horsepower 12 valve V6, by the B7 generation the lump had grown to 3.2 liters with the new “FSi” direct injection. While the B5 generation had introduced 5 valve technology as we saw yesterday, the B6/7 went back to 4 valves per a cylinder with variable intake manifolds. The result was impressive; despite the small bump in displacement, the 3.2 FSi motor produced 255 horsepower; more than the B5 S4 came to market with. Audi backed up the performance with its new “sport” designation, the S-Line package. That added the 1BE sport suspension, the sport steering wheel (with paddle shifters for Tiptronic-equipped models), and special aluminum trim. If there was one downside to the S-Line package, it was that you could only get it with black interiors – unlike the vibrant color combination we saw yesterday. To make up for that in some regards, Audi then offered an even more premium exterior option; the Titanium Package. Selecting that option would equip your A4 with 18 inch quattro GmbH Ronal multi-spoke alloys in Titanium and blacked out trim both inside and out. Generally, these S-Line Titanium Avants are considered the most desirable A4 Avants made – and for some, they’re more special than even the S4 Avant:
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: