Wagon Week: 2010 Audi A4 2.0T quattro Avant

When Audi launched the A4 Avant with the B5 series, it was a bit of a trump card for the small wagon enthusiast. True, the Volkswagen Passat had been available in 5-door form for a few generations, and it VR6 form it was quite entertaining. However, quality of the pre-B5 chassis Passats wasn’t the best, and all-wheel drive had only been available with the Quantum for a few short years in the late 1980s. Audi had offered its unique large Avant platform in both 5000/200 and S6 form, but they were pretty expensive relative to the small cars the company offered. The A4 Avant continued on for through the B7 chassis we saw yesterday; a serious improvement in looks over the rather plain looking B6. When the B8 launched, initially I thought “There goes Audi again, following the formula of making everything bigger”. The B8 was a LOT bigger than the original A4 had been; in fact, park one next to an original A6, and the B8 A4 is dimensionally it was only slightly smaller. There was one key difference, though. Sure, the A4 had been stretched in every direction – but most importantly, you’d find that the wheel base was now the best part of a foot longer than the early Audi platforms. Visually that shortened the notoriously long overhangs of the Audis and offered more legroom to the occupants. Anyone who has ever been in the back of a B5 A4 would certainly appreciate that. Amazingly, too, the new A4 was lighter, and thanks to revised suspension geometry, new and more advanced computers and a torque-laden 2.0 turbo motor, it felt and drove considerably better than any of the previous generations had, too. It even looked really good in my mind. It was an instant success as previous generations had been, making one wonder even more why it went away:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2010 Audi A4 2.0T quattro Avant on eBay

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Convertible Week B7-off: 2009 Audi A4 2.0T S-Line Cabriolet v. 2007 Audi S4 Cabriolet

Audi’s flirtation with chopped top mid-range sedans has always been an interesting one. Starting with the B4 series, Audi combined the front-drive 90 platform with parts of the Coupe platform to create the handsome and understated Cabriolet model. While not much of a performance machine, it was a good looking and reasonably sensible choice for a luxury 4-seat German convertible. It was not particularly sporty though; while Europe saw a range of engines, the U.S. received only front drive 4-speed automatic V6 models. The B4 model long outlived the rest of its siblings, soldiering on until 1998 when it was seemingly replaced by the TT model. The Roadster model wouldn’t be available until 2001, but the promise of an all-new convertible that was much sportier seemed logical. However, Audi returned to the 4-seat drop top market in 2003 with the A4 based Cabriolet model. Based initially on the B6 platform, it then seemed natural that Audi would finally offer a performance variant to compete against the popular M3 convertible; however, unlike the B3/B4 platform which had a Coupe model, there was no A4 based Coupe. To solve this problem, Audi’s skunkworks quattro GmbH undertook modifying the platform to create the 2006 S4 cabriolet.

Now, on the surface, this was a bit strange. Beyond the question of why you need a really fast convertible, you now had the question of why you needed an all-wheel drive convertible. But the Audi offered great looks, a stunning soundtrack and some trick interiors and flashy exterior colors to really help set the S4 apart. But many of the S4s were coupled with automatic transmissions; coupled with the chain problems the V8 heart is now known for, if you want a B7 cabriolet is it now smarter to consider the less flashy models?

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Audi S4 Cabriolet on eBay

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2001 Audi A4 2.8 quattro

In the world of post A4 Audis, you’d be forgiven for thinking you went back to the old Westerns with tumbleweeds rolling across the screen when it comes to color selection. There are several different shades of grey or silver, a few whites, some blacks, and then occasionally a blue will pop up. Some really daring folks chose bright red or dark green, but unless you get into a “S” model, you’re not likely to see an unusual color. That’s unfortunate, because Audi actually offered you many very cool options in the B5 A4 throughout its run. However, if you lament the cool colors went away, it should be no surprise; very, very few people bought them. And given the A4s propensity for being discarded, they’re in most cases even more sparse than when new. Yet these special color cars tended to be bought by people who took good care of them, and usually come to market in fairly pristine shape – so I bet you can guess why this A4 is here today. A non sport package V6 tiptronic wouldn’t usually make the list, but a lower mile India Red Pearl Effect with Ecru/Onyx interior in very good overall condition? You bet:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi A4 2.8 quattro on eBay

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Motorsports Monday: 1997 Audi A4 1.8T quattro

This past weekend, thanks in no small part to the atrocious weather pattern that seems to be sitting over my head in New England, I missed an opportunity to head to Warner Lake in New York and do some ice driving. While my participation in these events has generally involved instructing students and having a lot of sideways fun, the Audi events I attend are usually run in conjunction with a ice racing organization. If you think Audi quattros are top dog, then you need to see the heavily modified sprint cars on studs running around the ice. They put anything you could drive on the road to shame. But presuming you actually did want to drive there, older Audis are still pretty attractive options to have an ice racing car. First off, they’re good on the ice – especially the older generation cars with less electronic interference. Secondly, they’re generally pretty cheap and mostly reliable. Along with older Subarus, they seem to make up the brunt of cars that head to the ice. Of course, finding a decent older Audi quattro these days isn’t always easy. One possible solution is to look towards the glut of cheap A4s that litter these shores.

I was recently having a discussion about this with my cousin. We both owned 4000 quattros as our first cars, and both are nostalgic about having one, but coming by a decent one can be difficult and the reality is that they’re pretty slow out of the box. The A4, in comparison, isn’t much quicker out of the gates thanks to a heavier chassis; but unlike the B2 they’re plentiful, parts are easy to come by, and select one with the 1.8T motor and you can turn the wick up quite a bit. Plus, near us there’s an A4 for sale every day of the week for less than $2,000 – most of them in pretty reasonable shape, amazingly. But instead of building an ice race car yourself, maybe it’s easier to just buy one that someone else has already built:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Audi A4 1.8T quattro on eBay

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2001 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Sport

Audi loves to do things outside of the norm, and one of the odd things that they seem to do is to upgrade a car and then immediately discontinue it. Why they do this is beyond my level of comprehension, but it means that if you know what you’re looking for you can get a slightly more special version of the car you’re after. These half year models, known as the “.5″s, aren’t always the same – nor are they always well documented. The first I can think of is the 1987.5 Coupe GT; also dubbed the “Special Build”, it featured some serious upgrades including a larger 2.3 liter inline-5, 4-wheel disc brakes and a few trim differences from other GTs. Arguably, they’re the most highly sought after GTs with only a few hundred still kicking around. The same goes for the 1995.5 S6; minor trim and some mechanical changes, such as the change from a mechanical locking rear differential to the newer electronic system Audi would use in newer cars. But it didn’t end there, as in 2001 Audi upgraded the outgoing B5 A4 to 2001.5 specs. The changes were subtle; the A4 already had a refreshed front and rear lights in 1999, so you had to look underneath to find the reinforced front strut housings and changed ECUs. While the S4 didn’t exhibit any exterior differences, though, the A4 Sport package was different. Launched in 1999, the Sport package A4s initially had Ronal made “Swing” 7 spoke wheels that were replaced in 2001 by Speedline-made 7 spoke wheels that had a more square design and a center lug cover. But the 2001.5 models gained the “Celebration Package” as well, featuring 17″ wheels for the first time on the regular A4. It was, for all intents and purposes, the beginning of what would become the “Ultrasport” package on the B6 A4 in 2002. The “Celebration” wheels, as on the A6 2.7T and S8, mimic the RS4 design and became a signature wheel for the early 2000s Audis:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi A4 1.8T Sport on eBay

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Baby It’s Cold Outside – 10K Friday AWD-Off

Maybe you’re lucky, and it’s sunny and warm where you’re reading this. Or, perhaps you’re stuck under a rock – or in the case of Buffalo, several feet of snow. But like it or not, winter is upon us a bit early this year, and if you are in Buffalo you probably need some sort of snow-cat to get to the local store. Hopefully, that’s not the case for most of you but I wondered what sort of all-wheel drive car you could get on a $10,000 budget. As it turns out, you might be able to get a little more than you expected – so here’s a few offerings from the different manufacturers, starting with the folks that started it all:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2004 Audi A4 3.0 quattro on eBay

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Wagon Week Avant End Of An Era: ’08 S4, A4 and A6 Avants

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:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2008 Audi S4 Avant on eBay

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Motorsport Mondays: 2007 Audi A4 DTM R13

From arguably what was the weakest motorsport background of the major German automobile manufacturers in the 1970s, Audi and the Volkswagen group have grown into what is undoubtedly the most active and diverse in the past 30 years. It’s funny, too – since, generally speaking, most enthusiasts would place Porsche and BMW ahead of Audi with sporting credentials; but then, just cover the amount of racing that the Volkswagen Audi Group are involved in. Most notable would probably the 13th victory in 15 years for Audi racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans – an incredible feat and precariously close to the all time record of 16 victories by Porsche. Then there are the R8 customer racing programs and Audis involvement in the DTM since the 1980s. Though Audi dropped out of the Rally scene that bore the legend of Quattro, Volkswagen is no slouch either having won the WRC title last year. Volkswagen also runs a one-off Scirocco cup in addition to Formula 3, Dakar and Global Rallycross efforts. Bentley is still on the radar as well, having also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is now racing Porsches and Ferraris with their new GT3 racer. Lamborghini, though not often associated with motorsport ironically, also has a one-off series called the Super Trofeo and previously ran in GT1 as well. And let’s not forget that Audi also owns Ducati, one of the most famous racing names in the motorcycle world. All in all, then, there aren’t many manufacturers that come close to the level of corporate involvement that the Volkswagen group engages in. One of my favorites until fairly recently was the German Touring Car series, more commonly referred to by with German ackronym DTM – Deutsche Tourenwagen Meistershaft, and since 1996 the Audi A4 has been a lead contender:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Audi A4 DTM on race-cars.com

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1999 Audi A4 Avant 1.8T Quattro

The progression of vehicles in my garage may have been solidly German, but I’ve never been beholden to one marque. I went through my BMW phase, Volkswagen phase, Mercedes-Benz phase and now back to a BMW of sorts, with the MINI Cooper S. But other than the elusive Porsche, the one brand that has escaped me has been Audi. However, this could change sooner than later. The styling of both BMW and Mercedes-Benz doesn’t really appeal to me as of late, but for the last decade, Audis have steadily grabbed my attention each time a new model appears. In the future, I hope the company decides to bring back a standard Avant to these shores, sans Allroad trim, such as this 1999 A4 Avant 1.8T Quattro. The B5 A4 Avant styling for me was an exercise in tasteful restraint. Equipped with the 5-speed manual gearbox and Quattro, it would be fairly easy to forget you are driving a family oriented vehicle.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1999 Audi A4 Avant 1.8T on Hemmings Motor News

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Tuner Tuesday Double Take: Two Supercharged Audi A4s

The Audi B5 was really the first Audi chassis that gained mass appeal for modifications. Sure, the Quattro, 5000, 200, S4 and S6 all had crowds that followed them and modified them, but it was really the B5 that took the Audi tuning theme to the masses. Most of those masses focused on two models; if you were new to the brand you bought and modified the plentiful and relatively cheap 1.8T, and if you could swing the hefty payments you bought the twin-turbocharged S4. Both accepted increased levels of boost easily, making them a no brainer for the tuning crowd. But quickly forgotten in the mix was the silky-smooth 2.8 V6. Initially available in 12 valve form, in 1998 Audi upgraded to the 30V heads. For the first time, the Audi V6 produced power levels near its competition, and the smooth and responsive V6 was a nice match for the slick look of the A4. But easy to tune it wasn’t; you weren’t left with many options outside of exhaust and intake if you wanted to turn the wick up on your 2.8. Unless, of course, you turned to unnatural forms of aspiration – happily supplied by PES in the form of a supercharger:

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2001 Audi A4 quattro on eBay

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