USP Tax: 2004 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant Ultrasport

A few of us sat baffled several months ago as we watched auction results come in. The model in question was the E46 330i – in particular, the “ZHP” performance package. The ZHP was basically halfway between the regular Sport package and the M3, utilizing unique body bits and wheels, a slightly hotter motor, and the transmission borrowed from its bigger brother. Your only option for a 4-door performance 3-series in this generation, not many bought the over-$40,000 price tag. What’s interesting is that while these cars were sold alongside the M3 for far less money when new, today they can actually command a premium over the real-deal M.

Case in point – a 33,000 mile Coupe traded for $26,000 earlier this year, and it wasn’t alone. It’s been labeled the “ZHP tax”. There are reasons why a proper ZHP brings M3 money, mind you – they’re cheaper to run and they’re quite a bit more rare than the M, especially in good shape. And BMW wasn’t alone offering them.

Audi, too, had a “Diet S4”. Dubbed the Ultrasport Package, for $3,000 it included RS-inspired “Celebration” 18″ wheels with summer tires, the lowered 1BE suspension that was part of the normal Sport package, a unique quattro GmbH/Votex body kit, and a nicely wrapped leather steering wheel and shift knob. It also limited your interior option to black, and a fair chunk of them appear in Light Silver Metallic – also a popular choice on the S4. Unlike the 330i, the USP A4’s engine choices weren’t upgraded, but you did at least have two – the AWM 1.8T rated at 170 horsepower, or the AVK 3.0 30V V6 good for 220 horsepower. Both were available with choice of 6-speed manual (*5-speed for the FWD models) or automatic, and the basic 1.8T model was about $10,000 less than the 330i. While there was no convertible/coupe USP to compare to the 330i, Audi maintained its trump card on sporty wagons. Just like the ZHP, today the USP A4s command a strong premium in the used market, especially as Avants:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant Ultrasport on eBay

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2004 Porsche 911 40th Anniversary Edition

We like to rib Porsche for their penchant toward celebrating virtually everything by way of ‘Special Edition’ models. Most of that relates to how so many of those special editions aren’t much more than cosmetic additions. This was especially the case in Porsche’s earlier years. But not all of them are just paint and interior specials, like this 2004 Porsche 911 40th Anniversary Edition. Intended to celebrate forty years since the 911’s introduction in 1963 the 40th Anniversary Edition included the X51 performance package (raising hp to 345 from the standard 320), sport suspension, and limited-slip differential. It also received the usual cosmetic updates – GT Silver paint, a unique set of wheels, and Grey natural leather interior – that would help set it apart from other 996s on the road. Only 1,963 were made. More power, better handling, and slightly different silver paint. Not bad!

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Porsche 911 40th Anniversary Edition on eBay

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2004 Porsche 911 GT3

I don’t really know why the 996 GT3 has become one of my favorite cars. Porsche always has produced wonderfully performing cars capable of serving double duty as a track car and daily driver and their various GT or, earlier, RS and CS models shift that balance between performance and luxury decidedly toward the performance side of the spectrum. So we know they’re great and it isn’t really surprising that many, including myself, would find them quite alluring. But the 996 GT3 still feels different to me in the way it more recently has captured my attention. I began to look at them in earnest a couple of years ago when, like pretty much every 996, they seemed like a phenomenal value and prices seemed poised to rise. Well, prices have risen. Not so much that you’d only consider one as a garage queen, but they’ve risen nonetheless. Yet I still find myself coming back to them.

I don’t have any particular relationship to these GT3s; I’ve never driven one and these days see them very rarely. The last point may be part of the attraction as any rarely seen car is sure to elicit stronger emotions than something you encounter every day. Here’s one in my favorite color among the standard offerings: a Speed Yellow 2004 Porsche 911 GT3, located in Connecticut, with 47,200 miles on it.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 on eBay

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2004 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG

I have a kind of love-hate with the Mercedes-Benz W220. The design of the S-Class from the W140 to the W220 was like high school senior who is just starting out in life to now a post-grad with an office job who realizes that this will be his life for the next 40 years. Everything is a little bigger, a little softer, not quite as handsome, but now you have some kind of money to spend on things like screens that will be obsolete in three years. Nothing wrong with that and totally acceptable, but the S-Class was now firmly blended in with the BMW 7-Series, Audi A8 and Lexus LS. There was some hope for W220 if you really wanted a full-size sedan to separate yourself from the rest and that of course came in the facelifted S55 AMG. The styling was much more aggressive thanks to some different bumpers and a quad exhaust setup, but the real gem was under the hood with the M113K. This engine was a gem the day it debuted in the E55 and SL55 in 2003 and to this day is a favorite by many for its relative reliability and ability to make huge power numbers. Now that we are well over a decade into the M113K existence and the regular W220 can be had for the same price as a gourmet pizza, finding an S55 AMG for not much money at all isn’t a problem. Although that doesn’t mean that all problems are solved, especially when it comes to maintaining these monsters. This 2004 up for sale outside of Chicago is no different.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Mercedes-Benz S55 AMG on eBay

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Tuner Tuesday: 2004 Alpina B3S Cabrio

The prospect sounded promising, but I was left feeling lackluster at best about the 750 mile 2001 BMW 330Ci I wrote up a few weeks ago. Sure, it was nice and that interior certainly was to die for; so, too, was the basically as-new condition. But the 5-speed automatic transmission, coupled with the outrageous $32,000 asking price, had me thinking there were better options out there. So if I was in the $30K range for an E46, what are my options?

Well, obviously there are plenty of M3s to check out any day of the week, and I’ll be looking at one soon enough. But when our reader John sent through this seriously impressive Alpina, I couldn’t help but take a look. The B3 isn’t a model we often look at; in fact, I’ve only reviewed on prior, and it was a E36 chassis. The E46 took an unusual route for Alpinas; rather than a blank-slate motor, the Buchloe company selected the S52B32 from the U.S. spec E36 M3 for their basis. It was bored and stroked to 3.3 liters, netting 280 horsepower. In 2002, the “S” version of the B3 was released, with a bit more bore and a revised engine management and exhaust system. This brought the power to 305, 0-60 plummeted to 5 seconds and with a 6-speed manual you could come close to hanging with the M3. Why buy one, then? Well, the looks were a bit more discrete overall, and you could buy not only a sedan and Touring version, but an all-wheel drive one as well. Today, though, we have a lovely Cabrio with the 6-speed manual to check out:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Alpina B3S Cabrio on Autoscout24

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2004 BMW 330xi

If you haven’t been following the E46 market, it’s increasingly becoming more expensive to get into a clean M3. As the M3 has crept up, so too has the “ZHP tax” set in on the sporty brother of the M3. So are there still bargains to be had in the E46 world? Yes, there sure are.

It’s possible to find well-cared for cars that seem to shrug off their mileage much better than their predecessors, and today’s 2004 330xi is a great example of that. Although it’s got the best part of 200,000 miles on the odometer, you wouldn’t know it looking at it from any angle. And the seller has gone through some extensive maintenance to make sure you don’t have to. What you’re left with is a great looking, well-equipped all-wheel drive sedan for a budget price:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 BMW 330xi on Cars.com

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2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG

Last week I checked out a really interesting 2001 Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG that was one of the better W208 AMG cars, but I still thought didn’t hold up to the brother W210 E55 AMG. I just thought it lacked a few things and I’m not just cherry picking little things, Mercedes really did short the CLK55 with equipment and less power. Today, I thought I’d check out the next generation, the C209, to see if anything improved and if they were on par with the W211 E55. Sad news, they were not.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Mercedes-Benz CLK55 AMG on eBay

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2004 Audi TT 225 quattro with 27,000 Miles

Update 6/23/18: After failing to sell last summer for $17,500, the seller of this pristine low mileage TT has increased the asking price to $18,000. With only 400 miles on the clock since last year, will it be a sale this time around?

This 2004 Audi TT 225 quattro represents an interesting comparison point to Rob’s Talbot Yellow 911SC from last night. First, the color – Imola Yellow bares a striking resemblance to the infrequently seen 911 shade, but like the tone on the 911 it wasn’t often selected on these TTs. It obviously has a similar overall shape to the 911, too. If you’re reading this, you’re probably not likely to be able to squint and see how alike they are, but to most non-car people, if you parked them side-by-side, they’d likely claim they were much more than distant cousins. I’d wager that most would probably prefer the TT, too – after all, it looks modern and new, still, unlike that ‘old Beetle’ design.

That a clean first generation TT still looks new some 13 years later is rather miraculous. Perhaps it points to a change in car designs; less revolution, more evolution. Consider for a moment that the TT concept (which went into production largely unchanged) toured the car show circuit in 1995 – only 6 years after the move to the 964 model by Porsche. Of course, it’s easy to see why Audi would only evolve the design of the TT. It was a hit off the bat, as pretty much everyone liked the snappy performance, the unique looks, the economic practicality of a 2+2 hatchback, the available all-wheel drive. So park a 2004 TT next to a 2014 TT, and though the design moved into a new decade, it didn’t change direction.

Because the TT has been ubiquitous over the past nearly twenty years in the marketplace, it’s often taken for granted that you can get one pretty much any time you want. News flash: you can get an air-cooled 911 of any variant, an E30 M3, a Bugatti EB110 – whatever – anytime you want, too. The difference? You and I can afford the TT.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi TT 225 quattro on eBay

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2004 Porsche 911 GT3

Those who have been following along will know that I have had my eye on the GT3 in general, and the 996 GT3 specifically, for a good while now. I know it’s the 996 and we’re not supposed to like their looks, but I keep coming back to these cars in part because I do find them to be stellar looking machines from the outside. I do hate the interior, but I can live with it and given the GT3’s pedigree and prowess we certainly don’t need luxury. There is something about its exterior lines that I do really love and I dare say it’s my favorite of the GT3 models.

I will admit that price does have a little bit to do with the attention I have given these cars and it is in that regard that this particular GT3 has piqued my interest. This is a Carrara White 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 which sits with only 16,396 miles and only has had one owner. It looks in phenomenal condition and has a complete service history. The asking price is above $100K and that’s where I’m curious. I really haven’t seen many 996 GT3s with this sort of price tag. Has the market for these finally picked up a bit of steam?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 on eBay

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2004 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet

Summer is approaching, which means warmer weather is on the way! At least that’s the theory. I’ve already seen that a baseball game has been postponed today because of snow. Still it’s probably safe to assume that it will be sunny and warm relatively soon and top-down motoring will once again be the thing to do. Back in the days when I actually drove on a daily basis I used to love the first few top-down drives of the Spring. They always brought a renewed sense of freedom and exhilaration to any drive. It was the best way to drive when I had nowhere to go. As the air grew warmer and the days longer I looked forward to those drives more and more. Even commuting wasn’t terrible.

So, let’s look at a Cabriolet then. Here we have an Atlas Grey Metallic 2004 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet with Natural Brown leather interior and a lovely 6-speed manual transmission. It only has 11,352 miles on it and the price is quite high so this isn’t bargain shopping by any means. But I wouldn’t expect a sale at this price anyway so perhaps it can be worked down to something more reasonable. While just about any top-down drive can be a joy, having 415 hp at your fingertips certainly makes things that extra bit more enjoyable. To quote Dr. Frasier Crane, “if less is more, then just think of how much more more will be!”

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet on eBay

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