The Audi S4, now in its 7th iteration, has been a perennial performance favorite of those who like the understated looks coupled with all-weather performance. And since the original, the S4 has offered a unique tuning platform; while the B6 and B7 were difficult to extract extra performance out of, the other generations have offered forced induction out of the box that allows for generous tuning potential for a real sleeper supercar slayer. 1,000 horsepower isn’t unheard of out of the legendary inline-5, but power numbers exceeding 400 seem to be almost commonplace for the C4 and B5 S4s. So when Audi launched the supercharged V6 model in 2009, the return to a smaller displacement forced induction powerplant immediately had me thinking that it wouldn’t be long until tuned versions appeared. The trick in buying a S4, though, is and always has been managing to find an unmodified one that is well cared for but also affordable. After all, for under $10,000 you can run out and grab any one of the first three generations – however, the less you spend up front, the more likely you’ll be dishing out of pocket in the future it seems. But as we get towards the newer generation of B8 you can get a car that is still quite new for a substantial discount over the original purchase price without (generally) the fears of abuse, neglect and immediate repairs that need to be undertaken. Today’s example has the right ingredients; mileage is in check, it’s a manual, and it’s a neat color. But is it the right one to get?
I recently did a breakdown of the C4 production changes, including the rolling revisions on the ‘1995.5’ models, which I covered in a lovely Magnolia Pearl White:
1995.5 Audi S6
The only real downside to a clean S6 sedan is that, of course, there was also an Avant provided – and who doesn’t love an Avant? This one looks pretty special, and as an interesting counterpoint to the 2021 RS6, let’s look at Audi’s first true big-body S five-door in the US:
Friends, the great experiment is finally underway. For generations, US fans have lamented Audi’s all-out refusal to bring its fastest wagons to the US market since 1991. Starting with the first generation S4 Avant and S6 Plus with their thundering (and optional) V8s, through the RS2, RS4, and RS6s, Audi has seemed convinced that it would not be able to sell the top-tier fast wagons here. They’re not alone; BMW has also robbed US enthusiasts of the best wagon offerings as we’ve seen, yet Mercedes-Benz has managed to eek out a market here over the past decade and change and has become the defacto boss of fast five doors, minus an occasional Cadillac interloper.
A few weeks ago, though, I saw the first shipment of fully-wrapped RS6s arrive at the port next to my home. Audi’s no longer playing around, and the full-fat 4.0T cranking out 561 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with a hybrid assistance motor and an eight-speed automatic transmission, it’s no surprise the numbers are staggering. 0-60 is a hair over 3 seconds, and it’ll bury the needle close to 200 mph if deregulated. This isn’t a supercar; this is a five-passenger wagon that weighs in just over 5,000 lbs – with nothing in it! Also staggering? The tech, with touchscreens, virtual cockpit, and torque-vectoring. The tires, measuring 285/30 and 22″ in diameter. The brakes, which are 16.5″ in front and ‘only’ 14.6″ out back. And, the price. Last I heard there was already a wait for these cars, and that’s despite the monster pricetag starting at $110,000. Lucky for you, you don’t have to wait…as long as you’re willing to pay:
The ‘what’ edition?
Don’t worry, that was my reaction too. It’s not that I don’t know the Latin origin of 10…heck, we’re only two weeks away from the month that begins with it (sidebar: Thanks for screwing up the straightforward month numbering system, Julius Caesar, though the weather in his and his adopted son’s months is much nicer). Anyway, here’s the R8.
The 2020 R8 V10 Performance Decennium Edition is ostensibly to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Audi’s V10, which…premiered in 2009 here. So that’s eleven years (or twelve, if you count this year). So…what’s the rub? Well, in the US Audi just skipped the 2019 model year. As the performance of the V10…Performance…was already pretty sharp, the Decennium Edition didn’t add any extra power, so as not to step on Lamborhini’s parade and become a named storm. Instead, it’s a roughly $20,000 visual package that was added on top of your already quite expensive R8 if you ticked the box, and it was limited to just 50 cars in the US. So let’s see what you got:
Within the world of older Audis, it’s often a case of pick your poison. Do you want low miles? Do you want good exterior condition? Do you want good mechanical condition? Do you want a manual? Do you want a desirable model?
Running down the checklist when considering the pool of available candidates, infrequently are you allowed to shout out “BINGO”!
I’m not sure today is that day, either. Here’s a 1986 Audi Coupe GT, and yeah, I really do try to look at every single one I can find. But in particular I wanted to look at this car because it’s very similar to how my own GT was delivered from the factory; Oceanic Blue Metallic, a quite rare color to find on any Audi from the 80s. How rare? Well last year I wrote Audi to ask them. And they claim that in 1986 114 Oceanic Blue Metallic with Gray Velour Coupe GTs were produced. That number seems low, but to me it also seems a bit suspect. Audi also claims they sold 2,846 Coupe GTs here in 1986. If those numbers are both to be believed, it’d mean that every 25th Coupe GT we’d come across would be Oceanic Blue Metallic. Maybe that number does make sense, but it seems to be unlikely; spotting an OBM Coupe GT in the wild seems to be a lot more unlikely than that number would suggest. Regardless, we don’t see it often, so it’s worth taking a look:
Like yesterday’s GTI, the similarly Giugiaro-styled Audi Coupe GT added a touch of upscale Italian design to relatively pedestrian underpinnings. However, there was more of the rally-bred all-wheel drive Quattro DNA in the Coupe GT than its corporate cousin. Nearly everything apart from the door handles in the B2 was overbuilt; massive driveshafts, bigger brakes and heavier duty suspension, and a robust engine meant that in any form these entry level Audis have stood the test of time pretty well. While in Europe there were several different variants of the Coupe in 4 or 5 cylinder and with all-wheel drive, in the U.S. we only got one at any time. Starting with a 2.1 inline-5, the front-drive only GTs worked their way up to the last of the run 2.3 NG motored cars. With 4-wheel disc brakes, special exterior and interior treatments, a unique digital dashboard and 130 horsepower, these lighter “Special Build” GTs were a performance match for U.S. spec Quattros, and are almost as rare. This black example sports some modifications but looks quite clean overall:
Why would anyone even contemplate paying nearly $80,000 for a 26 year old, complicated and turbocharged Audi wagon? Because of the badge that adorns the front – the magical ‘Renn’ added to the S2 badge, along with the legendary name Porsche scripted below. That meant that this relatively unassuming Audi 80 quattro Avant had been produced in Zuffenhausen on the 959 production line rather than Ingolstadt or Neckarsulm and had added a healthy dose of even more “Sport” to the small chassis. Ostensibly, though the Sport Quattro was the first RS vehicle, the RS2 was the first to wear the badge which has become synonymous with Audi’s speed department. For many Audi aficionados, though the RS vehicles have become much faster and more luxurious, just like the with W124 500E and the E30 M3 Audi has never made a car better in its overall execution than the original. Not that it was slow by any means; Porsche’s massaging of the ADU inline-5 resulted in 311 horsepower – even more than the Sport Quattro had from essentially a very similar motor.
So despite being much heavier than the Sport had been, the RS2 wasn’t much slower; sub-5 seconds to 60 and a top speed north of 160 mph. Along the way, it was capable of bullying everything outside of a supercar; yet this car also established the move from Audi’s 2-door halo vehicle to a long line of fast five doors. Porsche also upgraded the brakes and wheels with Brembo units and 17″ ‘Cup 1’ wheels creating a signature look, and tacked on 911 mirrors for good measure. So, too, was the color signature; original called RS Blue rather than the color name it’s often mistaken for – the later Nogaro – bright blue is still the go-to shade for Audi’s fastest and was just announced on the launch of the new RS6 Avant. Even within its fast contemporaries, this car was legendary, and the upgrades to the motors and wheels spawned an entire generation of enthusiasts to turn up their inline-5s stateside. Now that these cars are legal for importation, a steady stream have been coming up for sale:
We’re pretty used to the formula here: take a limited edition or special production 911, slap a neat color on it, and watch the price rise. Even brand new cars – ones that you can roll down to the dealership and order up yourself – are demanding a strong premium in the used marketplace. Insanity? A ‘bubble’? Bad economics? It doesn’t matter what the cause is, it’s the way life is for the foreseeable future.
But there’s a really compelling alternative, I think – for about the same money as most of the modern Porsche range, you can jump into near supercar-level performance and exotic looks with the Audi R8. The ‘regular’ V10 cranked out 540 horsepower, and hooked to the S-Tronic 7-speed gearbox is good for 3.5 second blasts to 60. And that speed is linked to all-four wheels with a gorgeous body and interior full of the most modern electronics. Sure, this isn’t a ‘Plus’ model, but there are a few reasons to like this one, and it should be pretty obvious.
In just a few years, Audi went from only one S model with very limited production imported in the C4 S6 to three models. Top of the range was the S8, but it shared its running gear and sonorous V8 in a slightly detuned state with the new C5 S6. For Audi enthusiasts, though, big news came with the launch of the new S4.
It was unrelated to the first S4 because of Audi’s renaming strategy in 1995. That meant that the new S4 was based on the small chassis B5, and U.S. enthusiasts finally got a taste of Audi’s M3 competitor. Performance came in the form of a new 2.7 twin-turbocharged V6 30V and was mated to either a 5-speed Tiptronic transmission like its bigger siblings or a 6-speed manual. Like other B5s, the S4 made use of the 4th generation of quattro technology driving all four wheels. This utilized a Torsen center differential with open front and rear differentials, both of which employed the ABS sensors to electronically ‘lock up’ the slipping wheels when a speed differentiation was detected. Like other S models, some light revisions to the bodywork and more pronounced exhaust were present, along with polished mirrors and 17″ Avus-design wheels. Most notable was the large front bumper cover with 6 gaping grill covers which hid the twin intercoolers for the motor. With 250 horsepower and 295 lb.ft of torque, you had an all-weather 155 mph warrior. And, it was available as an Avant:
Predictably, as it did with Mercedes-Benz Pagodas, Porsche 930s, 80s BMW M products and the original GTI, the quick rising of selling prices for the Audi Quattro has continued to bring good examples to market. Where we used to wait seasons between seeing any at all, today you seem to be able to view at least one pretty good one on the market at any given time.
There are those that say you can’t really compare the Quattro to the M3, or even the 911 – though the pricing was quite similar. But isn’t that the point? In period, the other car you could have bought for the same money as a Quattro was a basic 911. And the market spoke: in 1983, Audi sold some 240 Quattros in the U.S.. Porsche, on the other hand, traded 5,707 911SCs between the Coupe, Targa and new Cabriolet models. There was basically no market overlap with the other two major contenders – the 944 Turbo and the M3. Both those cars, and the 911, were finished to a higher level of quality with better components, arguably, but the real difference was the type of owner who bought the Quattro versus the 911. These cars were built to be used and abused, and many were.
Today’s example wears LA3A Mars Red that was shared with the A1 and early A2 chassis Volkswagen GTI and GLIs (along with a few others), but is less frequent to see on the Quattro than the color that replaced it in 1984 – LY3D Tornado Red. It appears to defy the odds and be a survivor worthy of a closer look: