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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 model years, with about 600 of those being Tiptronic equipped. This is one of a claimed 80 Imola Yellow 6-speed manual Avants imported for the model year, and for good measure it’s got quite a few upgrades:
To me, if you’re going to go through the effort to get into a B6 and pay a lot of money as you would with the 2004 A4 3.0 quattro Avant Ultrasport I just looked at, why would you not consider the S4 Avant? Not only is it a lot more powerful, you could get them in splashy colors, and with a 6-speed manual to boot. Add in better seats, better looking wheels, and…well, better stuff, there’s only one real reason to not consider the S4 over the A4 – and that’s the engine’s incomprehensible chain system.
But let’s say that the chain repair upgrade was already done, for argument’s sake…
The Audi S4, now in its 7th iteration, has been a perennial performance favorite of those who like the understated looks coupled with all-weather performance. And since the original, the S4 has offered a unique tuning platform; while the B6 and B7 were difficult to extract extra performance out of, the other generations have offered forced induction out of the box that allows for generous tuning potential for a real sleeper supercar slayer. 1,000 horsepower isn’t unheard of out of the legendary inline-5, but power numbers exceeding 400 seem to be almost commonplace for the C4 and B5 S4s. So when Audi launched the supercharged V6 model in 2009, the return to a smaller displacement forced induction powerplant immediately had me thinking that it wouldn’t be long until tuned versions appeared. The trick in buying a S4, though, is and always has been managing to find an unmodified one that is well cared for but also affordable. After all, for under $10,000 you can run out and grab any one of the first three generations – however, the less you spend up front, the more likely you’ll be dishing out of pocket in the future it seems. But as we get towards the newer generation of B8 you can get a car that is still quite new for a substantial discount over the original purchase price without (generally) the fears of abuse, neglect and immediate repairs that need to be undertaken. Today’s example has the right ingredients; mileage is in check, it’s a manual, and it’s a neat color. But is it the right one to get?
The first A3 was launched alongside the then-new A4, and while the visual similarities were strong, the two models shared little. That’s because the A3 was based heavily on the Mk.4 Golf platform with transverse mounted engines. Just like the original Audi 50, though, the A3’s arrival predated the Mk.4 Golf by a year. While the U.S. had to wait until the 2004 launch of the Golf R32 to get all-wheel drive performance, Europe had enjoyed Golfs with four wheels driven since 1986. So it was a relative cinch to stick the Haldex-based all-wheel drive system into the A3 chassis where, like the TT, it would be called “quattro”. And just like the TT, a high performance variant of the 1.8T would be included and become the S3 in 1999. Some of the styling cues were shared with the big-brother S4, including 17″ Avus wheels and deeper, smooth bumper covers. The S3 was the first model to utilize the ‘door blades’ that would become signature S bits soon after. Performance was about what you’d expect from a near twin of the TT – meaning, virtually identical. But what you did get was slightly more subtle styling and slightly more practicality, with a bit more storage space and a roomier cabin.
That a clean first generation TT still looks new some 15 years later is rather miraculous. Perhaps it points to a change in car designs; less revolution, more evolution. Consider for a moment that the TT concept (which went into production largely unchanged) toured the car show circuit in 1995 – only 6 years after the move to the 964 model by Porsche. Of course, it’s easy to see why Audi would only evolve the design of the TT. It was a hit off the bat, as pretty much everyone liked the snappy performance, the unique looks, the economic practicality of a 2+2 hatchback, the available all-wheel drive. So park a 2004 TT next to a 2014 TT, and though the design moved into a new decade, it didn’t change direction.
Because the TT has been ubiquitous over the past nearly twenty years in the marketplace, it’s often taken for granted that you can get one pretty much any time you want. News flash: you can get an air-cooled 911 of any variant, an E30 M3, a Bugatti EB110 – whatever – anytime you want, too. The difference? You and I can afford the TT.