When it comes to sporty wagons in the mid 2000s, your only options were really Audis and BMWs, right? Well, wrong – because Volkswagen dropped one pretty hot sleeper on our shores before elimination of the Passat wagon from the lineup. Granted, Volkswagen’s hottest entrant into the sport wagon market – the R36 – wouldn’t come here, but the normal 3.6 4Motion was darn close. With 280 horsepower on tap from the enlarged narrow-angle VR6 channeled through all four wheels, the unassuming Passat was the second most powerful wagon offered on these shores from VAG. Unless you spent another 50% to opt for the Audi S4 V8, this was as quick as U.S. bound German wagons got. Unlike the B5/5.5, the B6 chassis returned to the Golf-based platform, which was both a blessing and a curse. From a performance standpoint the change was a good one, as many of the items intended for the R32 model worked on the Passat now. However, the change to transverse engine placement from the inline Audi setup in the B5/5.5 meant that the “true” quattro drivetrain in the earlier 4Motions was replaced by the Haldex setup found in the R32 and Audi TT. Is this the end of the world? No, not really, and in fact because of this change you can opt to alter the power distribution with aftermarket control units. These 3.6 models were expensive and fully loaded, so they’re somewhat infrequently seen and generally unknown and unappreciated even in the German-specific realm:
I’ve been taking a look overseas over the past few days at a few older treats that never came here, so today we’ll look at a few newer Audi products that also were prohibited from U.S. shores. One of the biggest disappointments for many four ring enthusiasts was that the 8P RS3 model wasn’t imported here. Basically a 5-door TT-RS, it was a Golf R on even more steroids – but today’s example upped the power a full 200 more than stock to 550. Similarly, I have one of the 333 8X A1 quattro MTM models produced a few years ago, and while it doesn’t share the monster performance of the RS3 it’s sure an appealing package. Which would you love to have here on this Tuner Tuesday?
CLICK FOR DETAILS: 2012 Audi RS3 Sportec RS550 on Classic Driver
Following up on yesterday’s super-loaded A4 I’ve moved forward a decade to the last of the B7 series cars. Between the B5 and B7 generation cars, Audi made significant improvements to their small car, with more upscale and tech-heavy interiors and impressive power output from the new line of motors. While the A4 was introduced with the 172 horsepower 12 valve V6, by the B7 generation the lump had grown to 3.2 liters with the new “FSi” direct injection. While the B5 generation had introduced 5 valve technology as we saw yesterday, the B6/7 went back to 4 valves per a cylinder with variable intake manifolds. The result was impressive; despite the small bump in displacement, the 3.2 FSi motor produced 255 horsepower; more than the B5 S4 came to market with. Audi backed up the performance with its new “sport” designation, the S-Line package. That added the 1BE sport suspension, the sport steering wheel (with paddle shifters for Tiptronic-equipped models), and special aluminum trim. If there was one downside to the S-Line package, it was that you could only get it with black interiors – unlike the vibrant color combination we saw yesterday. To make up for that in some regards, Audi then offered an even more premium exterior option; the Titanium Package. Selecting that option would equip your A4 with 18 inch quattro GmbH Ronal multi-spoke alloys in Titanium and blacked out trim both inside and out. Generally, these S-Line Titanium Avants are considered the most desirable A4 Avants made – and for some, they’re more special than even the S4 Avant:
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: