After B5 production ended, Audi continued to widen the pool for its small chassis. Joining the lineup for the B6 model was a new Cabriolet, and of course returning were the dynamic duo of the sedan and Avant models. Power now came from the BBK 4.2 liter 4 cam 40 valve all-aluminum V8. Fitting the motor into the small chassis necessitated dropping the belt drive in favor of the infamous rear-mounted chain. Still, though, with 340 horsepower on tap and weighed the same as the outgoing 250 horsepower V6 twin-turbo, with instant torque, the S4 seemed top of the heap. But it was still playing catch-up with the outgoing E46 M3, so when it came to the B7, Audi offered even more spunk, bringing for the first time after three generations their first top-tier offering in the small chassis – the RS4.
At the heart of the new addition to the fleet was, of course, a special motor. Dubbed the BNS, Audi ditched the 5 valve heads but added FSI direct fuel injection. In reality, little was shared or untouched between the seemingly similar 4.2 V8s in the S4 and RS4, but the result of the fiddling was impressive. The engineers at Ingolstadt managed to crank a 420 horsepower screamer out, and coupled with the revised, more rear-biased quattro drivetrain in the B7, a completely different beast was born.
But while there was celebration that another RS model joined the lineup for the United States, there were some fan groans that once again Audi had skipped its party piece – the RS Avant. But that not-insignificant setback didn’t stop some enterprising individuals from making their own:
Okay, enough obscure Audi crap, Carter. You want the real deal. You want what Audi fans look towards der Vaterland for.
You want RS Audis.
Can I blame you? Since 1994, Audi’s RS moniker has stood for performance in all weather, and is usually paired with their signature Avant model for best consumer consumption. While this conversation and most of the internet would immediately turn towards the RS2 as the defacto signature, a model still unsurpassed in its execution, that’s not where I’ll start. There are reasons for this, but for both the RS2 and B5 RS4, Audi had to utilize outside help to make the car they wanted to between Porsche and Cosworth. So, in some ways, today’s model is the first real all-Audi effort.
Instead of the icon we’re going to look at Audi’s mega-impressive B7 RS4. Audi went to great lengths to revise the all-wheel drive system in this car to make it a better competitor to the M3. With a naturally-aspirated Fuel Stratified Injection 4.2-liter V8 chucking out 414 horsepower, it had the motivation to move it around quite a bit too. And the best part? For U.S. fans, it actually was sold over here and remains a great performance value (if you can afford the repairs). So why look to Europe to get one?
Well, there are a few reasons. First, Avant. We only got the sedan version of the RS4 here, so if you really want street cred, importation of one of these bad boys will certainly gain you that, though nearly every conversation will include a “Yes, it’s real…” exchange. But perhaps an even better reason to consider Europe for your RS experience? The price. These cars haven’t hit the collector market yet, but they’re moving outside of normal consumption for daily drivers. So while an 85,000 mile RS4 sedan hits eBay in the $27,000 – $30,000 range, this clean Avant can be yours for a discount:
On its way out of production, Audi graced the ageing B7 with one last parting piece of performance. The RS4 Cabriolet was announced in late 2007 as a 2008-only model and ripped the top of of Ingolstadt’s signature small super sedan. Like the rest of the A4 Cabriolet production, it was soft-top only, 2-door only configuration, and like the RS4, it was 6-speed manual only. Under the hood lay the same BNS 4.2 32 valve V8; Audi dropped the 5 valve technology for the RS4 application, but gained quite a bit of horsepower in the process. Though the engine shared basic construction with the normal S4 V8, it had a unique crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons, cylinder heads and valvetrain, oil and cooling system, intake and exhaust system, and engine management system. Audi also introduced their Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) system. The result was 420 high-revving horsepower and enough noise to make Pavarotti jealous.
Although the RS4 Cabriolet shared the revised T3 Torsen setup, Dynamic Ride Control and huge 14″ front brakes as the sedan, Audi’s focus for the model was exclusivity rather than sport. The model was fully loaded with only one option – color – and came to market at a substantial $15,000 premium over the 4-door. Only 300 were sold with a sticker price of about $84,500: