There's something about West Vancouver that attracts rare and mythical creatures. Can't be the weather, though – while the West Coast can't complain about the format its precipitation comes in, not when the good folks of Toronto are up to their eyeballs in crusty, salty snow, it's certainly rainforest conditions today.
However, just like the Amazon basin, the rain-soaked mountains to the North of Vancouver are home to one of the most endangered species in North America: the fast wagon. Travel West from the Lions Gate Bridge into the Dundarave area and you'll start seeing them crop up. BMW Tourings. Mercedes E-Class Wagons. Audi Avants.
On the busy, brick-lined street of Clyde Avenue, you'll find West Vancouver's sole dealership. A narrow affair, tucked in between a bike shop and a beauty salon, it's a hidden gem of a place that specializes in the rare and exotic. Today, for instance, window-shoppers will find themselves pressing their noses up against a window that's showcasing a brilliant Gallo Midas Lamborghini LP560-4 Gallardo.
Step inside and you'll find more subdued but no less unique fare, AMGs and Range Rovers and the like. However, today's selection is a last-of-breed special, the kind of machine that the Urban Garage knows all too well. It's an Audi S4 Avant, one equipped with a six-speed manual transmission.
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Not only does Audi no longer offer a stick shift paired with a V8 in anything other than an R8, they don't really sell a hot wagon this side of the Atlantic any more. A shame, that, as Audi pretty much invented the whole speedy Euro estate segment with the original RS2 Avant, developed in partnership with Porsche.
This 2006 Audi S4 Avant manual transmission at Urban Garage packs a mighty 4.2L V8 under the hood, thanks to what you have to assume is the world's largest shoehorn. It's benefited from a slew of recent maintenance, and has the double-rarity of being both local to BC and accident-free.
On the outside, it looks like any Audi of the mid-2000s. On the inside, the seats have Alcantara inserts to keep you in place, and the engine whirrs to redline with a fantastic rumble, thanks to a Milltek exhaust. Yes, there's room for a dog or a bike or a squadron of snowboarders, but the S4 Avant also hauls more than just stuff.
It's part muscle car, part sporting saloon and part Oregon Trail special; the B7 chassis A4 is a right-sized gem akin to the E46 BMW 3 Series, and the sporting variants are even better. This one has a 340-hp V8 routed through a Getrag six-speed manual, and is completely wonderful. The sounds emanating from the quad exhaust pipes of the Milltek exhaust are like the rumbling of some apocalyptic beast, but there's plenty of room inside for a friendly Labrador.
This is the sort of car that makes you scratch your head a little. It's wonderful, but why don't they build one anymore? Sure, you can get a zippy Audi crossover, but there's got to be an audience for this kind of power and practicality in a single package.
Oh well. Even if it is an endangered species, this particular S4 Avant is plenty robust. If you're in the market for something speedy that can still double up for family duty, there's not much choice left out there. Happily, there are dealerships outside of the Audi range who recognize something special when they see it.