No, you are not seeing double, this is indeed Audi RS4 Avant number two in the SH Garage. At least we’ve spread them as far apart as can be, with Jordan’s red wagon over in the UK and my black example stationed here in JDM-land. But how did it all come to be?
The story with this car begins late last year, when a little mishap with my trusty old Subaru Legacy 30R wagon gave me the opportunity to consider other options. I’d had the Subaru for 11 years, and the choice was to either fix it and continue on, or sell it and go for something totally different. Well, the road I went down should now be obvious, as is the fact that ‘totally different’ isn’t probably the best term to use here. I needed another wagon, but this time around I wanted to kill two birds with one stone: It had to be manual, and it had to have a naturally aspirated V8.
Talk about shortening the list pretty dramatically, right? The reality is that since the B7 RS4 Avant came out I’ve had a rather soft spot for the model. In my eyes, it’s far more interesting than the subsequent generations that have proceeded it. The big motor coupled with a 6-speed manual, and on top of all that the peace of mind that the full-time AWD Quattro system brings – to me it’s the ultimate über family wagon. There’s 420PS on tap, the versatility of five seats, and a decent sized trunk for all the miscellaneous gadgets that three young kids force you to carry around at any given time.
Thus, the B7 RS4 is the best car for someone in my position. It truly offers everything, the right mix of practicality, performance, involvement and subtly aggressive looks that just want to be spiced up. And this last bit is something I’ve been struggling with for eight months, and the reason I haven’t introduced the car to you guys until now. I mean, with a vehicle this perfect, is there really any need to mess with what’s offered from factory?
With two other project cars on my hands a third is the last thing I needed to get involved with, so for some months I’ve just enjoyed the car as is.
It wasn’t going to last long though, and Jordan’s regular updates on his super-clean example only fueled the craving inside. But what if I did this, and that, and fixed that other thing? The mind of a car enthusiast is always wandering; with every corner you ponder what a tighter suspension package would feel like, and with every 8,250rpm sweep you just can’t help imagine how a freer flowing exhaust might sound. It’s an illness, but a good type of one to have; an addiction that gives meaning to your life.
Plus, the car already came with a nice carbon fiber front splitter to get things going in the right direction.
There’s even the most JDM of touches, a big old tow hook sticking out of the front bumper which I’ve just left there as I actually quite like it.
And all of this is why I’m sharing the RS4 with you, because I’ve got small plans in place that over the next months will not only get the car looking just right, but also address some things that need attention.A True Screamer
Let’s talk about the engine…
It still blows me away where Audi decides to place their motors. I mean, almost the entire V8 is ahead of the front axle line with its nose literally ending up inside the bumper. Audi’s inherent understeer-prone handling partly comes from that, but luckily there’s so much mechanical grip and power on tap that if the situation calls for it, you can usually figure out a way to either not get into it or power yourself out of it.
The car’s 10 years are starting to show with some wear and tear, things like the discolored carbon fiber dress-up parts under the hood, as well as greasy dirt that has accumulated on pretty much everything.
The reality is, I’ve had so much fun driving this thing that I’ve not even attempted to bring it back to its former glory. Plus, it’s the car that sees the most use out of the fleet, so it just thunders on, day after day. But a decent scrub down of the engine bay is in order, as are some more performance oriented upgrades while I’m at it. I’m getting giddy just thinking how it’s all going to improve.
And boy does this car need a proper exhaust. Call it a teutonic over-conservative approach, but in 2008 I guess farting and crackling exhausts weren’t a thing over in Ingolstadt. These days Audi’s RS variants are all about the pops and bangs.
Don’t get me wrong, the sound is sublime, a creamy V8 burble that intensifies as it climbs through the rev range. The quality is there and it’s beautifully harmonic – I just need the volume turned up. There’s an ‘S’ button on the steering wheel which opens up the valves in the silencer, but the actual noise difference is negligible.
Aside from these things, I really cannot fault this car. It’s just so damn good.The Captain’s Chair
The interior is a place where the goodness shines right through.
There were a lot of options ticked on the original order sheet, which means I’m now enjoying things like a sports steering wheel design borrowed from the Lamborghini Gallardo. Once upon a time it used to be trimmed in soft and furry suede, but a decade on there’s only a faint memory of such covering on the harder to reach corners of the wheel rim. The same goes for the shifter and e-brake grip, it’s all shiny and from a distance looks like plain leather. This is all something I’ll be getting fixed soon, the only problem being that the steering wheel needs to be removed and sent away for a week.
The cabin is subtle and classy, albeit a tad too black-on-black-on-black for my taste. I’m currently thinking of ways to bring a little bit of color inside. I do love the constant reminders that you are entering an RS version through with badges and logos everywhere you look, though.
The optional Recaro buckets are possibly the best seats I’ve ever parked my generously sized posterior into. They sit a tad too high for me, but I’ve kind of gotten used to the position. They contain you beautifully, something that you really start noticing when you up the pace through some twisty roads, and even in mind-numbing Tokyo traffic they are pretty comfortable considering their design and thin padding.
The passenger seat shows almost no wear and tear, but the driver’s side Recaro needs a little TLC; I just picked up some leather treatment, so let’s see what that can do to the surface. I’m not expecting miracles, but if it gives it a little boost in softness I’ll be content.
There’s plenty of adjustments to be played with, including an electrically altered lumber support section and some air pockets in the bolsters to cater to different body sizes. The slide, height and recline adjustments are made mechanically, which is a refreshing change from modern cars where you always have to wait for slow motors to do their job. Simple is always best.
The rear shells of the buckets are painted in black to match the exterior, something that adds even more darkness into the cabin. They are exceptionally cool, however.
A slightly decrepit pair of rubber suspension top mounts make the rear sag more than it should, which is something that I will need to eventually address. It does give the car a pretty mean stance though, so I’m not too fussed for the time being.
The bushes on both upper and lower arms are pretty tired too, so they’ll need replacing in time too.
The only thing that the previous owner changed was adding slightly fatter rubber, a set of 265/35R19 Yokohama Advan Sports on the stock 19-inch rims. And yes, the Lamborghini Gallardo 8-pot front calipers have more than enough brake bite to haul this autobahn rocket up from silly speeds.Quattro Snow Drifts
The most memorable experience I’ve so far had with the car was this past winter when I followed a few friends up to Nikko to do some drifting in the snow. I bought the car with a spare set of B5 17-inch wheels with Michelin snow rubber, and fitting those turned the RS4 into a real hoot while powering through knee-high fresh powder one very cold February night.
The 4.2L motor churns out a decent amount of low-end torque, which meant I could just ride that wave of twist in higher gears and allow the Quattro system to sort traction out.
I got the car sideways at every corner and just feathered the accelerator to allow the car to rotate on its own wheelbase with minimal counter-steer, providing a fun way to get around a slippery corner.
There’s an RS4 badge somewhere under there.
It’s incredible what a set of good snow tires can do when combined with all-wheel drive.
I ran the car on these wheels and tires up until May and tackled snow a couple of other times, but I was glad to get them off as they look pretty uninspiring unless they’re coated in the icy stuff.
So that’s my voyage with ‘Project Quattro’ thus far. Work on the car should begin next week, so I’ll have an update coming soon.
What I’m doing first should give the V8 a little more character…
Dino Dalle Carbonare