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: