Fun Stuff

Find of the Week: 2001 Audi RS4 Avant

It's starting to get a little chilly out. Snow in Alberta, frost in the Maritimes. It means that winter's arriving whether we're ready or not. So the Find of the Week is the perfect vehicle for going fast in lousy weather. Even if it might be too nice for the snow. It's a near 400 hp wagon with a manual gearbox and a storied name. It's a 2001 Audi RS4 Avant.

In Audi-speak, RS stands for RennSport, or racing sport. That's the designation that the company has reserved for its absolute quickest and fastest models. The S might be quick but it's still comfortable. The RS turns up the wick, making for the hottest version of whichever model it's applied to.

The first RS model was the Audi 80 RS2, better known as the RS2 Avant. It was a wagon version of the Audi 80. The predecessor of the A4. It was a project that paired Audi and Porsche, with the latter significantly modifying the Audi engine, adding big brake and suspension upgrades, and even handling assembly of the car at a Porsche plant. It was built in 1994 and 1995, with total production under 3,000.

But it was still more popular than anticipated. Which meant that the RS name wasn't going quietly away as a one-hit wonder. Enter the RS4.

The second generation of Audi's S4 was actually based on the first model to wear the A4 name. Yup, there was an Audi 100-based S4 before there was an A4. It used a 2.7L twin-turbo V6 that produced 261 hp and 295 lb-ft. It had big tires, big brakes, and a stiff suspension. It was one of the quickest sedans around at the time. But why not make it quicker?

The RS4 arrived for model year 2000. The 2.7L five-valve twin-turbo V6 was still under the hood, but this time it had gotten some attention from Cosworth Technology. The legendary engine builders from the UK. It got modified cylinder heads, new turbos, and bigger intercoolers. Inside it had stronger connecting rods. The intake and exhaust systems were enlarged as well. Instead of 261 hp, the RS version made 375 hp at a screaming 7,000 rpm. Torque was up to 325 lb-ft.

Behind that engine was one transmission choice. A six-speed manual, cooled via underbody ducting. And all four wheels were driven by a Torsen-differential based quattro system.

To go with that extra power, there were other big changes under the skin. And even changes to the skin itself.

Audi lowered the car and stiffened up the suspension significantly. the brakes were upgraded to massive 14.2-inch rotors in the front and equally impressive 12.3-inch rears. The fronts were clamped by double-piston floating callipers. Much rarer then than they are now. At the corners were 8.5-inch wide 18-inch wheels wearing 255/35R18 tires.

The tires were so large that they wouldn't clear the original S4 bodywork. So the RS4 got some new metal. The front fenders were widened to allow the wide track and big wheels to fit. The same at the rear, where the car has big shoulders. New front and rear bumpers including more vents up front to help keep the brakes and intercoolers chilled.

It was an absolute monster of a performance car for the time, offering up nearly as much power as a Porsche 911 Turbo. And unlike that Turbo, this one could seat four. As in four actual people, not the two tiny jump seats in the back of a 911. Even more, the RS4 was offered only in the A4's most practical body shape. The wagon version.

The biggest downside of the RS4 Avant was that it was never sold in Canada. Or to our neighbours to the south.

This car, though, was imported from Japan just last year. Don't worry, though, it's still a left-hand drive car. The seller says that this stunning red example has had a thorough service including valve cover gaskets and CV boots.

Despite just 120,000 km on the odometer, the nearly 20-year-old factory suspension was showing its age. So it was removed in favour of an adjustable setup. And the original radio was swapped for something more modern. With Bluetooth. That's because the original factory unit wouldn't work in North America. 

If you're looking for fast and subtle, then those big bolstered Recaro sports seats are waiting for you. This 2001 Audi RS4 Avant is for sale in Woodbridge, ON, just north of Toronto.