The C5 Audi RS6 was the first full-fledged RS model to head legally to North America. It was the stuff of instant legend, too, with a 450 horsepower twin-turbocharged V8 and enough tech to get you to and from the moon. And despite its relatively limited run, it’s been no stranger to these pages – thanks in no small part to the plethora of used examples on the market at any time. Indeed, just a month ago I counted no less than 10 for sale when I wrote up the unique 6-speed converted sedan:
2003 Audi RS6 6-speed
That car’s asking price has been reduced to a much more enticing $20,000 today. Yet for some, including this author, the fact that there was an Avant form of the RS6 that was left out of our market has always been a sticking point. Well, a few enterprising individuals have eliminated that need:
Although the C3 Audi chassis enjoyed a reasonably long production run of 1984-1991, each year introduced changes that, while evolutionary, were notable and make each specific model year feel a little bit bespoke. The biggest change was the 1986 introduction of Audi’s all-wheel drive system of quattro to the large model range, making three distinct packages you could get the unique drivetrain in the luxury market. In the U.S. market, 1986 5000 quattros came only in “CS” spec and sedan – basically, fully loaded with only heated seats, Fuchs forged wheels and Pearlescent White Metallic paint as options. 1987 opened the options, but not with more gadgetry – the Avant, previously only available in front drive normally aspirated “S” form, joined the quattro lineup full time after being introduced about halfway through the 1986 model run. Alcantara also became a seldom-selected option. 1988 saw a very minor revision to the turbocharged “CS” models with new script badges in the rear and a few more options including heating for the rear seats and Velour interior options, but the big news was a new “5000S quattro” model, which came sans turbo and without the twin-bulb headlights, but shared the big brother turbo brakes and wheels. It was a smart move to drop the price on the quattro models, as the normal run 5000 reported outsold the 5000CS quattro by a measure of 4:1!
1989 was highlighted by a complete model refresh, moving to the European “100/200? model designations. Accompanying the change were some new colors and minor alterations, such as more upscale-looking 15?x6” BBS wheels (color matched on Pearlescent White Metallic examples, just as the aero and Fuchs wheels had been). But inside an entirely new sweeping dashboard setup would be the standard on big Audis for the next 7 years. Instead of the previously confusing “S/CS” monikers, turbocharged models now wore the 200 badge, while normally aspirated models were 100s. The Alcantara and Velour options disappeared on the 200 models, which came only fully-loaded, and Fuchs were no longer an option. The 100 quattro shared many components with the 80/90 quattros from the same time, including the NG normally aspirated motor instead of the turbocharged MC1. 100s also ran the familiar small-chassis 4×108 bolt pattern with accompanying smaller brakes, but oldly Audi commissioned BBS to make a run of 15?x6? wheels that matched the look of the 200’s wheels outwardly. Mechanically, otherwise there were few changes to either model, though as with the 80/90 quattros, the option to lock your own differential was now limited to the rear, and then speed limited to 15 m.p.h.. While 1990 saw few changes to the run overall, there was a change in motor in the 200. A rolling change saw the revised (and very short lived) MC2 replace the MC1. Twin knock sensors allowed engineers to run higher compression; coupled with a reground camshaft, lighter mass flywheel and smaller K24 turbo meant that the MC2 could run less boost and spool more quickly for a better driving experience, but ultimately the facts and figures say the power was unchanged. As always, top of the heap was the 200 quattro Avant, like this Zermatt Silver Metallic example:
Audi brought the S4 Avant to the United States for the first time in 2001. It joined the sedan lineup and offered a follow-up to the large chassis S6 Avant from 1995. This was actually the second S4 Avant, as Europeans had enjoyed the C4-based creation in the early 90s. Audi’s renaming convention therefore created a successor to the B4-based S2 Avant. Instead of the traditional inline-5 motivation, though, Audi had developed a new 2.7 liter version of its V6. With a K03 turbocharger strapped to each side, the APB produced 250 horsepower at 5800 rpms and 258 lb.ft of torque at only 1850 revs. Like all the B5s, Audi’s new generation of ‘quattro’ used a T2 Torsen center differential and relied upon an electronic rear differential utilizing the ABS sensors. The B5 chassis used the same technology on the front differential as well and was capable of independently braking each front wheel to try to sort the car out through its dynamic stability program.
But the real fun was that it was available as an Avant and with a 6-speed manual. Just over 1,500 were claimed imported between 2001 and 2002’s model years, with about 600 of those being Tiptronic equipped. LY9B Brilliant Black was the second most popular color ordered behind Light Silver Metallic, and this particular Avant is one of 183 Brilliant Black (out of 850 total) manuals brought in for the 2001 model year:
Update 5/7/19: This time around, the Bamboo Bomber sold for $12,100.
I don’t think there are any young children sitting around pining for the loss of the wagon. It’s hard to imagine a young teen hanging a picture of a Audi Allroad on his wall next to the idealistic Ferraris and Porsches, after all. Say to a average car-obsessed 10-year old “someday you’ll really want a wagon”, and they’ll probably laugh. Then try to tell them it will be beige…
All of this raises an interesting point: at what point does this particular car become appealing? Is it because it’s rare? Certainly there aren’t many 200 20V quattro Avants out there, with most fans accepting that approximately 149 were imported. Is it because it’s old? Now on the verge of being 30, the scant number originally imported has dwindled to the point where I’m sure someone knows them all by name. After all, there were more people in my high school graduating class than 200 20V Avants imported. Is it because it’s powerful? Well, to be honest, the 217 horsepower the 3B turbocharged double-overhead cam 20V inline-5 chucked out originally seems pretty tame today. But at the time, you needed to spend a lot of money to go faster than this 5-door. Is it because it’s beige? Now it gets interesting, as I was frustrated by the drapes-match-the-carpet tones in a recent S8, which otherwise shares most of the characteristics I just mentioned:
2001 Audi S8
Yet here, this rare Bamboo Metallic over rare Travertine in the (you guessed it) rare 200 20V quattro Avant pulls the right strings and becomes quite desirable:
Update 4/4/19: This stellar swap sold for $26,677.
That M3-powered 325xi Touring was pretty impressive, no? But it’s not without competition in the market today. That’s because at the same time BMW was leaving the most powerful 3-series out of the Touring market, Audi was offering U.S. customers the 250 horsepower twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive 6-speed S4 Avant finally! The blown 30V V6 was capable of hustling the small wagon from 0-60 in 5.9 seconds while your groceries remained firmly embedded in the hatch trim.
Of course, as impressive as the U.S. bound S4 Avant was, it was still over 75 horsepower down on the brand-new E46 M3. That wouldn’t do for Ingolstadt, who employed Cosworth Technologies to revisit the V6. The result was quattro GmbH’s RS4 Avant, and power increased to 375 while the B5 sprouted flared arches, slits in the nose and deep valances. Unfortunately for U.S. customers, the B5 RS4 was a no-go for importation, leaving some to
wonder what might have been build their own:.
Fortunately for its seller but unfortunate if you actually were interested in it, the 2.7T-swapped Audi B6 A4 Ultrasport Avant ‘Unicorn Killer’ I wrote up a few weeks ago sold just before I went to press. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other interesting options out there, and I found two in direct competition (at least, ostensibly) with one another on my local Craigslist.
Here, we have two all-wheel drive wagons from VAG. Both are complicated. Both are reasonably quick. Both have mindbogglingly long names. Both have 6-speed manuals, both originally had MSRPs north of $40,000 and both, predictably, are quite rare to find. But while the mileage on the two is different, their asking prices are within a hundred dollars. So which would you take?
While it was certainly impressive to see the unique Aquamarine S4 Avant over the weekend, for nearly everyone it was a letdown. Many of the faults would be excusable were it not for the outrageous asking price – getting on for four times the market value of a decent “normal” S4 Avant. Of course, one of the great things traditionally about Audis is that the chassis flexibility means parts from a myriad of other models work across platforms. So, unhappy with the available options out there, why not build your own super Avant?
That’s exactly what folks at Black Canyon Performance did, taking an already desirable B6 A4 Avant Ultrasport 6-speed and turning the wick up substantially. The modifications range from installation of a B5-generation 2.7T V6 to a factory RS4 interior and a special Porsche color – 7A1 Gray Black borrowed from the 997 GT3 RS, but don’t end there. Welcome to the Unicorn Killer….or was it Killer Unicorn?
Update 2/25/19: It appears this car’s exact connection to Paul Newman is quite a bit more loose than indicated by the seller. Thanks, Jason!
Lately I’ve had my eye on Audi B6 Avants as a potential replacement for my Passat down the road. The B6 carried on with Audi’s tradition of building a high-quality, all-weather capable and highly versatile package. While arguably not the prettiest products to come from Ingolstadt, the subdued styling of the B6 has grown on me over time – especially as they’ve become less prevalent with age and used B7s and B8s have flooded the market.
While I’ve been looking primarily at the 1.8T that’s both economical and familiar to me, there’s no denying the appeal of the S4. For short money you can grab a car which was effectively without peer; an all-wheel drive wagon with a 340 horsepower V8 coupled to a 6-speed manual wagon. They’re certainly not without their faults, but the cost of doing business in nearly 15 year old high-tech fast German cars is infrequently small.
Appreciation for these potent and unique packages has once again been growing. Recently, a custom supercharged Jet Blue Metallic ’08 sold on Bring a Trailer for $28,250 – indicating there’s a strong market for special examples. And today’s ’05 is quite special for two reasons – first, the special order Aquamarine Blue Metallic exterior, and second involves who ordered it – none other than Hollywood legend and motorsport enthusiast Paul Newman:
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; as we saw recently, 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. The turbo spun up quickly and had an overboost function, giving drivers 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque to be mastered solely by a manual transmission with Torsen center differential. Form-fitting electric sport seats kept front passengers firmly planted in place through the prodigious grip generated by the meaty 225 section tires. Combined with the prodigious space the Avant offered families and the ability of these cars to eat up highway miles with aplomb regardless of weather, not to mention the incredible tuning potential of the AAN 20V turbo, they’ve become highly sought steeds with a very limited pool of around 300 originally imported:
It seems appropriate to follow yesterday’s S8 with this model. 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: