One of the reasons that I felt the B4 Passat I just looked at wasn’t a great deal was that there are just a lot of other great models you can get for less. Case in point, today’s 2004 B5.5 1.8T 4Motion Variant 5-speed. Sure, you loose the great growl of the VR6 – but what you gain far outstrips that auditory shortcoming.
Produced only for the 2004-2005 model year, Volkswagen linked the 4Motion all-wheel drive borrowed from Audi to the AWM 1.8T. Rated at 170 horsepower, it was down a few ponies on the 30V V6 GLX 4Motion that preceded it. But while the GLX focused on luxury and was only offered with the Tiptronic transmission (unless you stepped up to the W8), you could opt for the 5-speed manual with the 1.8T. It was something few people did; a scant 2,333 manuals were sold in North America, with just 657 of those being wagons. 516 made it to the United States, and this is one of 16 Stonehenge Gray over Anthracite leatherette 2004s originally sold:
After two clean 90s, it’s time to look at the much greater appeal of the turbocharged S6 Avant. Imported in even more limited quantities than the 90 quattro 20V, the wagon form of the C4 with AAN turbo power has been legendary since its inception. But with a very limited stock and a chassis known to pile on mileage with aplomb, clean and low mileage examples are few and far between.
So I’ll start off with admitting that this S6 Avant is not perfect; if anything it’s probably far from perfect by most standards. There’s body damage, a replaced hatch, the wrong wheels, a fair chunks of missing paint. It’s got 179,000 miles and is in need of a suspension refresh. It’s 22 years old, too, so you can bet it’s got some Audi idiosyncrasies. And with that, most of the 911 crew just tuned out.
But, and it’s a big but, it’s a S6 Avant. As such, it’s automatically worth investigating if it runs at all. And dig beneath the (admittedly somewhat ruined) exterior, and there’s a fair amount to like here:
Emerging from the sales slump brought on by the recession and actual fake news, Audi solidified its position in the small executive luxury market with its brand new A4 model in 1996. While in truth the car heavily borrowed from the evolution of the B3/4 series and started life with the same flaccid 12 valve V6 that had replaced the sonorous 7A inline-5 for 1993, the A4 was exactly the model Audi needed to redefine its image.
And redefine it did, going from near zero to hero in just a year’s time.
Car and Driver immediately named the A4 one of its “10 Best” cars, a position it would repeat in 1997 and 1998. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the perennial favorite as the BMW 3-series was for the magazine, but still, that it was mentioned in the same breath was impressive. New sheetmetal was smooth and tight, full of great angles and well-placed curves. The bumper covers were finally integrated well again – something the U.S. specification B4 had inexplicably failed miserably at. Inside was evolution rather than revolution, but the cabin looked and felt upscale and modern. And the market responded to this instant hit; consider, in 1994 Audi sold 12,575 cars in total. In 1996, some 15,288 of just the A4 models were sold. That was before the many variations and improvements Audi rolled out in the B5, too.
Seemingly every year new changes offered refreshment and redesign to the A4. In late 1995 and 1996, you could only get one specification – the 2.8 either with or without quattro. But ’97 saw the introduction of the 1.8T, while ’98 gave us the Avant and more potent 30V V6. Okay, it didn’t pack a knockout punch, but new wheels and a sport package, along with a subtle refresh to the tail lights, gave the model a more sporty look:
By 1996 and the launch of the new B5 chassis A4 model, Audi had decidedly lost the sport from its U.S. model lineup. There were only three models available from the brand in that year, and with the demise of the S6 all featured the venerable if relatively underpowered and underwhelming 12 valve V6. For the new A4, there was no “Sport” model – a little surprising considering the lengths that Audi went through to race the sedan in Touring Car competitions, where it was very successful. The Sport package, which had debuted in the B3 90 20V sedan and continued in the B4 V6 model for 1995, was reintroduced into the B5 model for the U.S. market in 1997 with the launch of the 1.8T 20V turbo model. As it had with previous generations, that included slightly more distinct wheels and Jacquard than the standard model, but the 1.8T at that point still only produced 150 horsepower and lugging the all-wheel drive A4 around meant the early 1.8Ts were anything but quick. With mid 8-second runs to 60 m.p.h., they weren’t much faster than the 4000 quattro had been a decade earlier. However changes and added sport came in 1998 to the A4 run when Audi moved the 5 valve technology into the V6 motor. Now in AHA 30 valve form, the output of the V6 bumped roughly 20 horsepower and 20 lb. ft or torque up and was a closer match to the European competition, and acceleration and especially highway feel were finally befitting a “sport” designation. Audi also gave these sport models the same 3-spoke sport steering wheel the 1.8T model had received, as well as introducing a new wheel design. The 7-spoke “Swing” wheels would begin the differentiation between the sport equipped models and the standard A4s and while they were the same 16″ size as the non-sport wheels, the design somehow looked considerably more special. Audi also began offering the 1BE sport suspension in the B5 model, with a slightly lower ride height and stiffer springs giving the A4 a more menacing presence. Audi further offered some more unique interiors and exteriors to help set their A4 apart; the “Cool Shades” had debuted with the 1.8T and were carried on to the V6 model in 1998. Along with some revised tail lights, the ’98 V6 model could be made very special indeed, with unique interiors as well:
Ever see a car ad and think “Well, they obviously don’t want to sell the car”? We see them a lot; from “feelers” to regular advertisements with ludicrous pricing, there are is no end to advertisements that make it apparent that the seller isn’t in a hurry to move the car. Jalopnik recently wrote up a WRX ad that was one such example – the husband agreed to put the car up for sale to get a SUV when the family expanded. Of course, he didn’t say he was going to sell the car, just that it would be put up for sale – which he did, at a little over double the current market rate. Clever. In any event, we do see some of these ads come up from time to time that it’s apparent that the seller either thinks they have something really, really special or are just not looking to sell the car. Such is the case with today’s 1995 Audi S6; it certainly looks splendid in Emerald Green Mica and has a clean looking Ecru interior, but at well over double the going rate for a 1995 S6 sedan, is the seller hoping it won’t move? Let’s take a look: