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.…
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.…
Back to wagons!
One of the more
captivating baffling options in the used performance wagon market must surely be the C5 Audi. Despite the reputation for 100% metaphysical certitude that they’ll fail – probably catastrophically, they’re fan favorites. Often as a retort to internet commentaries that they’re not reliable, actual owners will chime in, demanding respect and steadfastly assuring the audience that the Allroad’s reputation is undeserved.
‘It’s been 100% reliable!’ they’ll insist.
Of course, the recipe to actually make it reliable involves major reworking of the engine and suspension. And, sometimes the electronics, too. On top of that, it turns out that various people’s definition of ‘reliable’ varies greatly – especially for Audi owners. Basically, to be deemed ‘unreliable’, an Audi must first assassinate a major public figure, then make a Star Wars reboot featuring only Jar-Jar Binks, then kneel during the National Anthem (easy to do, as most have failed suspension on at least one corner), and finally when you turn the key the engine does the action sequence out of a Michael Bay Transformer movie. If, and only if, those conditions are met will fanatics finally fail to reply to the assertion that the Allroad just isn’t a reliable car.
But, it’s cool. And so you probably want one, even though you know it’ll bankrupt you. So the smart way to buy an Allroad is to not buy an Allroad:
Why not kick off the New Year with a few fantastic wagons? Sounds like a good idea to me!
A few years ago, I looked at a pretty tempting bit of forbidden fruit – a C6 Audi S6 Avant. Loaded up with enough tech to employ half of Palo Alto, the C6 moved the concept of the C5 S6 Avant a few notches ahead. The jump from C4 to C5 was 113 horsepower strong, and the next generation nearly matched that. With 95 more horses to net 435, the new C6 had one more gear, more space and even more luxury than the car it replaced. But thanks to very slow sales of the prior generation in the U.S. market, it never came here. Although they’re at least twelve years old now, that means we’re still a solid teenager away from seeing an easily legal import here.
Or are we?
Just the other day on one of the internet chat groups I probably spend far too much time looking at, someone posed the question “Should I buy an Allroad?”
There are two camps of thought on the Allroad. On the one side is the group of individuals, many of whom still own them, for which Audi’s light-off-roader is the best vehicle ever designed. Quickly in speaking with them you realize few of them remain stock, which points towards the cause of the other side of the story.
For those who aren’t fully in love with the Allroad, they’re one of the least reliable, most unnecessarily complicated Audis ever built. And from a company that likes unnecessarily complicated designs, that’s saying something. The electrics fail. The suspensions fail. The turbos (count ’em, two!) fail. Look, I’m a huge Audi fan, but I can acknowledge that you have to really, really want an Allroad to buy into the kind of maintenance you need to perform to keep it going. My mechanic bought my parent’s 6-speed example, and now he’s afraid to drive it because every time he does it breaks. All he talks about is how expensive it is to fix. An ex-Master Audi mechanic. Think about that.
What was interesting to me as this discussion quickly devolved into “It’s the best car ever! (but here’s the laundry list of how to make it the best car ever…)” versus “You can’t afford to own one, because you have to own three so that at any given time one is theoretically working” was that no one brought up the S6. To me, the S6 is the perfect solution for wanting an Allroad. It looks better. It’s got a nicer interior. It’s got more power, and exactly zero turbos that blow. And it’s got an all-steel suspension that doesn’t fail.…
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.
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.…