Last week I wrote up a 2007 A6 3.2 quattro Avant S-Line, the end of a dying breed of luxury wagons from German manufacturers. But before they fully dismissed the large wagon from U.S. shores, Audi went out with a bang when it refreshed the A6 in 2009. Minor updates to styling once again brought the A6 in line with the new design language from Audi, but the real change was under the skin. As they had with the previous models, in an attempt to save some weight from the large Audis the company utilized aluminum throughout; the 3.0Ts featured aluminum hood and fenders like the previous generation S6 had. Additionally, just like the 3.2 had been, the new 3.0T was an aluminum block; the decrease in displacement was more than made up for with a literal boost from the supercharger. With a full 20% power increase to 300 horsepower and 310 lb.ft of torque at a low 2,500 rpm, the new 3.0T was a much better performer than the 3.2 FSi V6 had been and was, briefly, a defacto S-Avant that was missing from the lineup. On top of that, the new supercharged layout meant power increases are much easier to attain; as Chris Harris demonstrated with his stunning S4 v. RS4 comparison. Audi also moved away from its “S-Line” designations towards the new strata of Premium, Premium Plus ($1,400), and Prestige ($3,200) levels which added levels of electronic wizardry and small detail difference. That was on top of the raised base price, now $60,200 in 2010. If you though the 3.2 was rare, the 3.0T is downright hard to find even though they’re nearly new.
We tend to focus on the faster or the more unique wagons here at GCFSB, a habit which leaves out a huge swath of competent and quite nice automobiles. A great example is the Audi C6 chassis – the swan song, at least for the time being, for the large Audi wagon in the U.S.. It ended three generations of large Avants here, and while it was ostensibly replaced by a car I love – the hatchback A7 – its presence is still missed. There were only two basic configurations that the C6 Avant was available in here; from 2006-2009, you could get the A6 in wagon form only with the 3.2 V6 and the 6-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission. For enthusiasts, that was a bit of a letdown after the plethora of configurations in the C5; no less than 5 different layouts had previously been available. It was strange given the sales success that the C5 enjoyed; Audi chose not only to not bring the go faster V10 S6 and go fastest twin-turbo V10 RS6 here, but the new Allroad also didn’t make the excursion across the seas. Why? Well, quite simply, the sales model in the U.S. had thoroughly changed. While German manufacturers had resisted the temptation to fully delve into the “Sport Utility” market in the early 2000s, but the end of the decade that was just the opposite. Today Audi offers only one wagon option; the A4-based pseudo-offroad Allroad Avant is only available in 2.0T 8-speed auto configuration. Compared that to the early 2000s, when Audi offered fully 6 different wagons with a myriad of different transmission and engine combinations. Only a few short years later, Audi’s model range contained only two wagon options; the A4 Avant remained a popular option, while the A6 seemed to fade into obscurity. You just don’t really see them much, and I live in an area that really loves Audi Avants. Perhaps Audi priced itself out of the market; the base price on a 2006 A6 Avant was a pretty staggering $46,870 before options. Spec one out fully and you were at $60,000 for your family hauler. But for that amount you got a tech-heavy and attractive big wagon that offered pretty respectable performance. The 3.2 V6 had advanced over previous versions considerably; now all-aluminum and offering 255 horsepower, despite the over 4,000 lb. curb weight the Avant scooted to 60 in just a tick over 7 seconds. Opt for the S-Line package, and you got some serious Bologna skins to keep it planted, too – 255-35-19, in the case of this example. Inside was pure luxury, making for a discrete chalet sheppard for you and your four friends:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2007 Audi A6 3.2 quattro Avant S-Line on Craigslist
For a few short years, Audi indulged us. In 1995 only, we received the first S6 Avant on U.S. shores; though the C4 Avant would soldier on until 1998, the 220-odd horsepower turbocharged 5 cylinder hooked to a manual transmission would be gone for a few generations and not seen again in the large wagon. Though the next generation C5 platform would grow in size, Audi would answer with a new S6 Avant for these shores. Now with a seemingly impressive 340 horsepower in an all-aluminum V8, it unfortunately only came to the U.S. in automatic form. It was still a very fast car, but one that catered to a slightly different crowd than the original. It was also, for all intents and purposes, a bit of a sales flop; enthusiasts I think correctly found it difficult to pay the premium when you could get the spiritual successor to the “Ur-S6” in the 6-speed manual, twin turbocharged Allroad 2.7T. As a result, when the new C6 platform launched, although there were new forms of the S6 Avant available, they stopped coming here. Indeed, as soon as we hit 2010, Audi stopped bringing the large Avant all together; you can thank the popularity of the Q7 for that. So today we’ll look at two of the forbidden fruit; the last two generations of S6 Avant that didn’t come to the U.S.:
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2006 Audi S6 Avant on eBay
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
It’s hard to believe I could make such a claim; that there would be unappreciated Audi S models. Even more surprising is that they’re recently produced. But the truth is neither of these cars grabbed the headlines of their bigger brothers – while the S8, RS4 and Europe-only C6 RS6 stole the show for Audi, in the background were two very competent, very fast and very luxurious cars that not many chose to buy. These truly are cars that would have been enthusiasts’ dream rides only a decade earlier – the C6 S6, with its sleek body hiding a Lamborghini-derived V10 that was modified to produced more useable torque, and the B7 S4 – the last run of the great 4.2 V8 and arguably the best looking since the original S4, punting 340 horsepower though a great 6-speed manual. Today, 7 years later, you can pick up one of these super sedans for around the entry-level price of a Volkswagen Golf. Simply amazing. Let’s look at the S6 first: