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!
While the name “Evolution” become synonymous with Mitsubishi’s WRX-fighting Lancer for the X-Box generation, the term had much greater meaning for racing fans in the 1980s and 1990s. That was the period where homologation really took off; in order to be eligible to race, the FIA stipulated a certain amount of vehicles generally matching the race version of a car would have to be produced. This resulted in some great race-inspired production cars, and in order to best each other on the race track manufacturers would be forced to modify those cars. In order to have the modifications legal to race, the maker would have to introduce those significant changes to the road-going model, too. Those changed models would be termed “Evolution” to differentiate their model changes. As a result, enthusiasts ended up with ‘Evo’ versions of the Ford RS200, the V8 quattro, the Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.5-16 and, of course, the M3.
The M3 Evolution I was first introduced in 1987 with only a slightly revised motor. The Evolution II followed in 1988, and signaled the first real changes in the lineup. Major alterations to the aerodynamics, bodywork, chassis, and engine netted more power, more downforce and less weight for the FIA-regulated 500 units sold to market. Iconic even within the impressive normal M3 production, these fan-favorites generate feverish bids when they come to market.
But there is an even more desirable variant: The Sport Evolution. BMW Motorsport GmbH maxed out its E30 development in an all-out attempt to dominate the world’s racetracks. A new 2.5 liter S14 cranked out nearly 240 horsepower, while the same ‘add lightness’ recipe was prescribed; lightweight glass and body panels were met with adjustable front and rear spoilers. Signature 7.5″ wide BBS wheels were now darker Nogaro Silver and 10mm closer to the body thanks to lower suspension, while special Recaro seats kept you firmly planted inside from the g-force they were capable of generating. It was as if BMW took all of the best aspects of the E30 and distilled it down into an even more pure form. Produced only in Jet Black or Brilliant Red, 600 of these super M3s were rolled out to fans and remain arguably the most desirable model in the run:
Much like the S4 I posted over the weekend, the Jetta GLI 16V is a car which on paper I should like very much. After all, I’m a huge fan of the same-generation GTI 16V, and the Jetta was little more than a trunk added to that formula. Underneath, there were almost no changes between the two. You got the same high-strung 9A 2.0 16V with Motronic fuel injection pushing 134 horses through that open-diff front end. Your only choice was a 5-speed manual, of course, and it was a close-ratio one – enjoy those highway speeds! Brakes were updated to 10.1″ and dual tailpipes emerged from the new ‘big bumper’ A2 refresh. Central locking and a cassette player were standard, while you could opt for many power options including windows, mirror, anti-lock brakes, trip computer, cruise control and of course a sunroof. The GLI also carried over BBS wheels from the pre’90 1.8 models, in this case the 15″x 6.5″ ‘RA’.
These items should have conspired to produce a deeply desirable product for me. And yet, somehow I never really took to the Jetta though many did. I suppose it’s the same as the 4000 quattro/Coupe GT fan bases. Rarely do they seem to cross over, yet there’s a mutual respect between them. I like the Jetta, and in the absence of the GTI it would probably be a great favorite of mine. It was aimed at being a more refined alternative to the racier hot hatch. But ultimately it falls second fiddle to the GTI, which always seems (and, arguably is) just that little bit more neat.
For enthusiasts, though, that means potential value. As GTI 16V prices climb steeply with no real relent in sight and few good examples hitting the market, you can get a bit of a value if you don’t mind the junk in the trunk:
News broke this morning that the brand new RS4 Avant is unsurprisingly not coming to the United States. While this is no doubt disappointing to the twelve people who actually would have bought it and the 1.8 million who claim on the internet they would if given the option, it follows a long tradition in German motoring of leaving the best of the breed in the homeland. When it came to the GTI, not only did we have to wait several years before we got the hot Golf, but indeed it was a bit watered down and heavier when it did arrive. The same continued in the next two generations; more weight, less power. Both in the second and third generations we also lost out on supercharging, all-wheel drive and special body kits available in the European market.
Once again in 2001, a neat Golf was launched that – of course – wasn’t coming to the United States. But of all of the special editions that weren’t sold here, perhaps this one made the most sense to be excluded. It was called the 25th Anniversary Edition and you didn’t need to be good at math to realize that there was no GTI sold here 25 years before 2001. Since the “18 year Anniversary Edition” didn’t make much sense from a marketing perspective even in spite of Volkswagen’s continual spotty judgement in that regard, it was no surprise that it wasn’t offered. That was too bad, as it had a lowered suspension, better brakes, a bit more power, fantastic Recaro seats and the best looking BBS wheels fit to any Volkswagen, ever. Volkswagen enthusiasts in America drool inwardly and shouted openly, so in 2002 Volkswagen finally did bring the special edition here. Again, since “19th Anniversary” didn’t make any sense, we instead got the “337” Edition. This was, for all intents and purposes, an exact copy of the 25th Anniversary model, but instead the 337 referenced the internal project code for the original GTI. But they were quite limited, with only 1,250 sold in the U.S. and 250 sold in Canada. So, you probably missed out on your chance to own one, right? Well, wrong, because in 2003 Volkswagen re-released the 337 edition. Conveniently, there was now a round number that they could actually commemorate the GTI’s longevity with as it had been 20 years since the A1 GTI rolled out of Westmoreland. Again, it was a greatest hits edition; the 337 upgraded 12.3 inch vented brakes with go-faster red calipers carried over, as did the upgraded suspension. Though they sported different fabric, inside was the same Recaro interior with deep bolsters. The golf ball shift knob also returned, though it now was mated to a new 6-speed transmission (MQ350) which in turn were connected to R32 Aristo wheels in place of the BBS RCs. Deeper front and rear valances matched the previous two models, and the 20th AE got blacked headlights more similar to the 25th AE. A final homage to the original model were subtle rabbits adorning the rear and vintage inspired GTi badging. But the biggest change was that the 20th AE was available in three colors unlike the silver-only prior cars; Black Magic Pearl, Jazz Blue and Imola Yellow:
The 1991-1992 GTI followed the same basic recipe as the 1987 model we saw this past week, but everything was turned up a few notches. Starting in the mid 1990 model year, all US bound A2s received the “big bumper” treatment; new smooth aerodynamic covers front and rear. To help to differentiate it a bit, the GTI’s blackened arches were widened. Filling those arches were new 15″ wheels from BBS. The multi-piece RMs were lightweight and the perfect fit for the design, echoing other contemporary class-leading sports cars such as the M3. Volkswagen color-coded the mirrors and rear spoiler to match the car, as well. VW also gave the GTI a fresh face with more illumination; quad round lights filled the grill, and foglights illuminated the lower bumper. Prominent GTI 16V badges still encircled the car.
Power was up to match the heightened looks. Now with 2.0 liters of twin-cam fun, the GTI produced 134 horsepower at 5,800 RPMs and 133 lb. ft of torque at 4,400 RPMs. Coupled to the close-ratio 5-speed manual, that was good enough to drop 0-60 times below 8 seconds. That may not sound like much today, but at the time it was another league of performance compared to the typical economy car. Holding you in place were the same heavily-bolstered Recaros that special editions like the ‘Helios’ 1989 Jetta GLI Wolfsburg had enjoyed.
It was a recipe for success, but these cars were also relatively expensive in period, and fell into the global recession time frame which affected sales of nearly all European marques drastically. The general consensus is that around 5,000 of the last of these GTIs were imported, putting their rarity on the level of the M3. But because they weren’t M3s, there are far less around today to enjoy and few turn up in stock configuration for a myriad of reasons. It’s always a bit of a joy to see one arrive in the feed, though, and this LY3D Tornado Red example sure looks great:
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:
Audi’s interesting sales plan of S-cars in the early 2000s was, for U.S. fans, both good and disappointing at the same time. Mega models like the RS4 continued to be withheld from this side of the Atlantic just as the S2, RS2 and S6 Plus had been. The new generation of V8 powered S cars had yet to arrive, too; movies teased us of the slithering, nitrous oxide-boosted battering ram S8, and though the C5 chassis now sported the V8 in 2000, we had yet to see the S6.
But there were bright points. The B5 S4 was available as a sedan or Avant here, for the first time, in 2001 the flagship S8 arrived and after a wait until 2002, the S6 arrived in Avant form. And, only in Avant form, and only in automatic. You could complain about that for sure, but then the introduction at long last of an RS model – the twin-turbocharged RS6 – assuaged the loss of the regular S6 sedan for nearly everyone.
But, once in a while, someone has an appetite for something else, and so one enterprising individual in Canada has imported a European-specification S6 sedan, now for sale in Vancouver, CA:
Early AMG cars are always a bit of a gamble without proper documentation, but today’s example really had me stumped. The listing has a bit of misinformation and answers few questions about the history or build of this particular W126. The look of the car, too, is questionable mostly because of the poor photo quality. So, let’s see if we can take a closer look and figure out any of what’s here – is this car worth the gamble?
While the GTi, and more recently “R” models, have enjoyed the Volkswagen performance limelight, in the background has been an equally fun and nearly as capable sedan. Since the A1 chassis, Volkswagen has offered the same underpinnings with slightly different style in the betrunken Jetta (clever, that), and just like the GTi there have been some special models along the way. For example, the Wolfsburg Limited Edition “Helios” GLi was one of my favorite 80s VWs, with the beautiful blue color matched on the BBS RA alloys and uniquely striped Recaro seats. While the Mk.3 model lost the GLi in favor of the upscale GLX VR6 models, the GLi made a triumphant return in the Mk.4. As with the Golf, it was available with either VR6 or 1.8T turbocharged powerplants, and in fact the Jetta got an undercover screamer in a 24V version of the VR6 not offered in the Golf. Today, though, we’re taking a look at the equivalent of the 20th Anniversary Edition GTi in the Jetta lineup:
The BMW Car Club of America isn’t exactly a tough to join organization. Fill out a form, pay your dues, and you too can receive an honorary doctorate in BMW ownership. Heck, for a while if you bought a new BMW they automatically signed you up for the club! However, it’s not the joining that is particularly noteworthy in this discussion. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve got a fantastic magazine that is filled with a tremendous amount of useful information and reviews. But where the BMWCCA membership really shines is when you’re selling your prized car, and you see it all the time with older models. As a BMWCCA member of a no longer new car, you’re probably more diligent about oil changes. You may even be engaging in preventative maintenance. You’ve likely documented all the work you’ve done. And, more often than not, you’ve taken very good care of your car. Downstream, these little (or not so little) things add up.
Now, finding an E36 for sale isn’t particularly a rare event – they’re everywhere, and most are pretty cheap. As I said in a recent M3 article, there are quite a few cheap and tired options to fit any budget. But a well cared for, maintained and tastefully modified E36? Now, that’s reason to take notice: