It’s pretty amazing to think that only 20 years separate the 1984 GTI I looked at the other day and today’s 2003 Audi RS6. The development of car design, technology and performance over that time took a greater leap forward during that period than any other, I believe. Sure, new cars are incredible and do more every day. But when the RS6 launched, that GTI felt, looked and drove positively like an old car. When you factor in that roughly the same amount of time that separates those two models has passed since the introduction of Audi’s C5 platform to today, it draws into sharper focus that it’s been more of a progression of steps recently rather than a great leap.
The pinnacle of the C5 was, of course, the twin-turbocharged all-wheel drive version you see here built by Audi’s skunkworks, quattro GmbH. With assistance from Cosworth Engineering, the resulting BCY motor cranked out a peak 444 horsepower at 5,700 rpms and an impressive 415 lb.ft of torque between 1,950 rpms and 5,600 revs. The body, brakes, wheels and suspension were all upgraded by quattro GmbH too, with plenty of technology incorporated to transfer the power to the ground and keep the RS6 planted. Though it was saddled with an automatic transmission only and tipped the scales at a massive 4,050 lbs, the tenacious all-wheel drive, computer programming and massive power resulted in a 4.4 second 0-60 sprint, besting both the contemporary M5 and E55 AMG. The RS6 had 14.4” front brakes, dynamic ride control, and meaty 255-section Pirelli P-Zeros to control that speed. Lowered ride height, flared sills and fenders and giant gaping intakes and exhaust along with signature honeycomb grills set the stage for how these cars have looked since.
The first RS model imported to the U.S., Audi expected to sell 860 at nearly $80,000 a pop. But they didn’t. They sold more, such was the demand, with an estimated 1,200 making the journey to North America. But as with basically all complicated, fast older German cars, they’re not worth what they were new, making them very tempting in the used marketplace. You just have to find a good one…
A fair chunk of the collector world shrugs their shoulders when an Audi rolls by. There are some exceptions, obviously; the Quattro and Sport Quattro have gained notoriety, and of course because it was touched by Stuttgart, the RS2 still has some serious street cred.
Pull up in this RS4, though, and most would have a tough time telling it apart from the 1.8T with vape clouds billowing from the windows. Their dismissal would be unfortunate, because the B5 RS4 is a serious machine. Quattro GmbH turned to corporate partner Cosworth Engineering to modify the 2.7 liter V6 twin-turbo, and the result was pretty astonishing for 2000: 375 horsepower in a manual wagon! Audi’s skunkwork quattro GmbH then gave the car a fitting set of modifications, from a unique interior with Recaro seats to wider track and flares – and, of course, the gaping guppy lower grills. Produced in low numbers, it’s even more rare to see in the United States since none were imported here originally.
Yet a few individuals have gone through the effort of Federalizing their RS4, and when they come up for sale it’s cause for a celebration!
Update 2/12/18: A year after we originally featured it, this ultra-rare S6 Plus is back with 1,000 more miles for $500 less. It’s still a steep price for one of these super-S models, but it’s pretty hard to find them at all, never mind like this.
Audi’s sleeper sedan squared up against some seriously stiff competition in the early 1990s, and to be frank, though it was innovative it came up a bit short in the power department. In turbocharged 20 valve form, the 2.2 liter inline-5 cranked out 227 horsepower and 258 lb.ft of torque. That was impressive by 1980s standards, but in the early 90s you needed to carry a bigger stick. BMW’s E34 M5 brought nearly 100 horsepower more to the party at 311 with the revised 3.6 (and yes, it had more torque than the AAN, too), but Mercedes-Benz really crashed the party with the E500, whose M119 held a full 100 horsepower and 100 lb.ft of torque advantage over the Audi. You could be as clever as you wanted, but a 50% power disadvantage was a bridge too far to cross for the legendary 5 pot no matter how many wheels were driven.
The writing was on the wall, and Audi decided to offer an upgraded V8 model alongside the S4 in the rest of the world. Starting in October 1992, you could select the same ABH 276 horsepower 32V 4.2 liter all-aluminum V8 in the S4. The switch to S6 saw the introduction of the revised AEC, which gained 10 horsepower for the 1995 model year and would continue to be the standard V8 in the S6 until production ended. But the big new was the 1996 introduction from Audi’s skunkworks quattro GmbH of the Plus model.
The Plus upped the ante quite a bit with the reworked AHK V8. Though it displaced the same 4.2 liters and had the same 32 valves, the breathed on motor had 322 horsepower and 302 lb.ft of torque. Power was matched with upgraded suspension, brakes, wheels and some small “Plus” badge details – this was still the decade of stealthy performance, after all. Few who look at this model would see anything other than a C4 sitting on slightly larger wheels. But for those in the know, this was one of the most potent super sedans (and wagons!) of the 1990s:
Update 12/15/2017: This RS6 remains available with 400 more miles and a further $6,000 price reduction to $41,999 – down substantially from the original $59,000 ask.
If yesterday’s post on the Audi 4000CS quattro represented the genesis of my love for the brand, if I’m honest the C5 RS6 was the start of where I started to question the choices of Ingolstadt’s design. It wasn’t that the RS6 wasn’t a hugely impressive car; though they seem pretty new still, this amazing ride is over halfway towards being considered “vintage” in some states. 14 years has passed since the original owner plunked down the heady $80,000 for what was briefly the world’s fastest production sedan. Audi brought two turbochargers to the Cosworth-built 4.2 liter V8 party, offering 450 horsepower, sub-5 second 0-60 times and a car that would easily bump into its 155 mph regulated top speed – and it came to America!
Consider, for a moment, that in 2002 when this car was ready for launch, the car that had existed 15 years before that was the very 1987 4000CS quattro I wrote up yesterday.
It was a monumental leap for the company into the throes of the top-tier performance sedans, but alas, it was a war of escalation that hasn’t stopped since. Audi has already announced that the new RS6 will have a gazillion horsepower and may even come here. In response, BMW has promised to up the new M5’s power to no less than whatever Audi produces, plus 50. To me, though the newest and biggest and baddest sedans are certainly mind-boggling, none of them really appeal to me in the same way the 4000CS quattro did. The 4000CS quattro had been a car I could conceptualize owning downstream of the original owner (maybe I’d even be the second owner?), but the RS6? It’d have to be many years and many ownerships before I could even hope to own one. And then, did I really want a seriously complicated car that hadn’t been well maintained?
Of course, if you’re not like me (a blessing for you, I’m sure!), maybe you love the RS6 and have always wanted one. And, I assure you, there is not a better example than this one for sale. The only problem is, if you have to ask….
We’re pretty used to the formula here: take a limited edition or special production 911, slap a neat color on it, and watch the price rise. Even brand new cars – ones that you can roll down to the dealership and order up yourself – are demanding a strong premium in the used marketplace. Insanity? A ‘bubble’? Bad economics? It doesn’t matter what the cause is, it’s the way life is for the foreseeable future.
But it’s not a trend which follows across the board. Take today’s twin Audi R8 V10 Pluses. The ‘Plus’ adds a serious amount of sport to the standard V10 R8, itself no slouch. Kicked up 70 horsepower to 610 and driven through a 7-speed S-Tronic it’s capable of sub-3 second sprints to 60, can obliterate a standing quarter mile in less than 11 seconds from a 5.2 liter normally aspirated V10 capable of spinning north of 8,500 RPMs. Both can hit 205 mph flat out. Both are presented in the searing shade of Vegas Yellow that will generate enough stares to make a GT3 jealous no matter how red its wheels are. . Both feature the upgraded 20″ wheel option and a host of other special carbon fiber touches that come along with the ‘Plus’ package. Despite being able to rip your face off and producing supercar performance from just a few years ago, both are also able to be used in a daily commute – even in winter. They’ll even return above 20 mpg on the highway. They’re astonishing automobiles.
And yet, both are ‘affordable’.
Look, they’re not really cheap. In fact, they’re massively expensive for any car, but many would argue especially so for an Audi. The sticker price on the V10 Plus is $192,000 before options, taxes and destination, after all. Yet with less than 3,000 miles on each of their odometers, this duo hasn’t appreciated like the 911 market – it’s fallen quite substantially. And don’t think I took the cut-rate approach here; I selected the two most expensive used R8s I could find from two of the most expensive dealers on eBay. And yet, combined their asking price is still $80,000 less than the 911 Turbo S Rob looked at over the weekend.
While ostensibly the S4 Avant was the top-trump in the A4 lineup for both the B6 and B7 series, there were two limited models which each have found a niche in the marketplace of people who might desire them even more than the bellowing V8 beast. While performance on the turbocharged models was much more sedate than the S4 out of the box, the ability to tune these cars up without the impending doom threat of the chain-failure-prone BBK 4.2 means there are a bunch of individuals specifically seeking out the early Ultra Sport or later S-Line Titanium Package models. Today we’ve got one of each – which would you choose?
Just the other day on one of the internet chat groups I probably spend far too much time looking at, someone posed the question “Should I buy an Allroad?”
There are two camps of thought on the Allroad. On the one side is the group of individuals, many of whom still own them, for which Audi’s light-off-roader is the best vehicle ever designed. Quickly in speaking with them you realize few of them remain stock, which points towards the cause of the other side of the story.
For those who aren’t fully in love with the Allroad, they’re one of the least reliable, most unnecessarily complicated Audis ever built. And from a company that likes unnecessarily complicated designs, that’s saying something. The electrics fail. The suspensions fail. The turbos (count ’em, two!) fail. Look, I’m a huge Audi fan, but I can acknowledge that you have to really, really want an Allroad to buy into the kind of maintenance you need to perform to keep it going. My mechanic bought my parent’s 6-speed example, and now he’s afraid to drive it because every time he does it breaks. All he talks about is how expensive it is to fix. An ex-Master Audi mechanic. Think about that.
What was interesting to me as this discussion quickly devolved into “It’s the best car ever! (but here’s the laundry list of how to make it the best car ever…)” versus “You can’t afford to own one, because you have to own three so that at any given time one is theoretically working” was that no one brought up the S6. To me, the S6 is the perfect solution for wanting an Allroad. It looks better. It’s got a nicer interior. It’s got more power, and exactly zero turbos that blow. And it’s got an all-steel suspension that doesn’t fail. But as S6 Avants were quite expensive at $60,000 in 2002 after gas guzzler tax but without options, it (as the other expensive wagons in period) sold slowly. Only around 1,200 were imported over the brief two year period, compared to exactly 3.2 million Allroads if I calculate correctly based on the number that turn up at sleazy second-hand dealers in the greater Providence area. They wander the streets of Rhode Island, three wheels in the air and one on the ground, a winky Xenon vibrating up and down as the bumpstops are tested to the extreme. So let’s look at one of the nicest alternatives to the certain suspension failure:
While the C6 RS6 Avant and B7 RS4 Avant have been nice to dream about, the reality is that both are pretty unlikely in the near future to be making the trip ‘across the pond’ anytime soon. So let’s consider something which both could, and might.
The B5 RS4 was a legend right when it launched, but for some reason it seems overlooked in the marketplace today. Not as exotic as the RS2, nor as fast as the newer crew of turbocharged Audis, the B5 generation somehow feels lost. It doesn’t help that it was insanely popular to mimic the model’s gaping grills and signature widened flares here, nor that the RS4 engine upgrades are fairly common among enthusiasts. But when you see a real RS4, it’s easy to see why this car was so highly regarded at the time.
First, it’s a very sharp looking car. Nogaro Blue was the defining color for fast Audis in this period, but boy does Imola Yellow stand out. The stance, wheels, flares and bumper covers along with more pronounced exhaust all pull together to make the RS4 feel much more special than a normal S4 Avant. And with 375 horsepower on tap from the Cosworth-developed version of the 2.7 liter twin-turbo V6, it’s not exactly like the B5 RS4 was pokey. In fact, the power-to-weight and performance is nearly identical to the later B7 RS4.
The Audi S8. Still, this car ranks as one of my favorite automotive designs from the company, from the 1990s and 2000s – heck, maybe even overall. While I’m not a huge sedan fan in general, there was just something so right about the proportions and presence of the D2 S8. Did it help that it was in a movie I also loved? Sure, without a doubt. But even without that aspect I think this car, and specifically the 2003 model year, are my favorite U.S. bound Audi.
I especially like the 2003 model year because of the limited Audi Exclusive package. Special colors and interiors were fit to the car, along with updated “RS” design wheels. Limited to only 100 copies each. my favorite for the past decade and a half has been the Avus Silver Pearl with Burgundy interior and I think I’ve pointed that out…well, more than a few times. However, at nearly 15 years old, these cars are far from new and we’re deep into a territory were plenty of neglected examples are coming to market. As a result, rather than just find one in the color you want, with the D2 S8 in today’s market condition and history needs to trump other considerations like location and color.
While BMW’s M5 has been the benchmark for performance sedans since its inception in 1985, there have been plenty of challengers along the way that have really pushed the limits of sedans to new levels. The Lotus Carlton, for example, completely changed what going fast with 4-doors meant in the early 1990s. With twin turbochargers slapped on an otherwise unassuming inline-6, the bespoilered and wide-wheeled Opel packed 377 horsepower and could hit 180 m.p.h. flat out in 1990.
That meant the next generation of super-sedans would have to up their game, and constant brinkmanship ensued; the 3.8 upgrade to the E34 M5 hit 335 horsepower. The 500E packed 322, and Audi’s C4 S6 Plus matched that amount. They were still short of the Lotus, though, and playing catch up. Moving into the late 90s, power levels started to go crazy.
The C5 S6 launched in 1999, now with 335 horsepower. The same year, Mercedes-Benz entered with the E55 AMG at 349 horsepower. But both paled in comparison to the new E39 M5 with 400 horsepower – the undisputed king of super-sedans at the time. That would change in 2002 when Audi’s quattro GmbH launched its newest creation. With help from Cosworth Technologies, the new RS6 sported two turbos on the 4.2 liter V8 seen in the S6. The result was an impressive 450 horsepower driven through all four wheels. Giant wheels filled massive flares, at the front huge gulping intakes fed the intercoolers, and special exhaust and gills popped up everywhere. It was the new super-hero sedan and the result was…well, fast. The limited nature and performance potential of these RS6s have meant they’ve retained greater value than the normal C5 range, though they’ve been in steady decline. Today, we get to test the market on a well used example – where do these C5s sit today?