100 Years of BMW
Here’s why this 2001 Audi RS4 Avant just sold for $86,100
We are huge fans of wagons (and those with excellent wagon taste). Functional back seats, alluring sleeper quality, and, unlike purportedly ’Ring-worthy family haulers, a respectable center of gravity. Speaking of sleeper status, you can’t exactly camp in the back of a Miata. So naturally we’re rather taken with Audi’s five-seat, six-speed 1991–2001 RS4—and its 380-horsepower, twin-turbo V-6.
So too was the recent high bidder on this silver, 80K-mile example on Bring a Trailer. He (or she) is bringing it home for a cool $86,100 (including BaT’s 5-percent commission). Yeah. We’re not talking solid-driver Volvo 245 with a peeling hood clearcoat (as a purely chance reference point). Why did this uber-wagon notch such an eye-watering price?
Audi’s RS4 Avant Quattro checks most enthusiast boxes—powerful, usable stick-shift wagon from a trustworthy brand—and it didn’t come stateside. Audi has a tradition of leaving the RS wagons back home. For example, the U.S. market got the RS6 sedan back in 2001–02, but the liftgate version didn’t leave Europe. The RS4, as the successor to the vaunted RS2, didn’t have a sedan-spec sibling. (Thus, if we drop the “Avant” in subsequent references, we’re innocent of criminal intent.)
The RS4 only shared a hood and roof with the A4 wagon and, unlike the RS2 Audi developed with Porsche, it boasted a Cosworth-developed, 30-valve V-6 with two BorgWarner turbochargers and Quattro GmbH’s all-wheel-drive system. Though Audi did sell the A4 and the S4 sedan and wagon in the U.S. with the same 2.7-liter, twin-turbo engine, that configuration made only 250 hp. The RS4’s unit, though displacement stayed at 2671 cc, got bigger side-mounted intercoolers for its turbos, a larger intake, beefier connecting rods, and dished pistons.
Pre-Top Gear Richard Hammond called its performance “breathtaking” and praised its mid-range power, saying, “In third gear there’s huge grunt available.” Car and Driver, while noting the “borderline harsh” ride, also praised the RS4’s smoother powerband compared to its predecessor, the RS2 (which was also Audi’s first-ever RS model).
Roughly 6000 of these badass estates were produced. Unsurprisingly, when the Hamster reviewed the 2000 model year, all 400 UK allotments had been snapped up. The RS4 was exclusive from the get-go, and American Audi fans especially chafed under the 25-year importation limit on foreign-market cars.
Enter this solid example with light performance mods and a rebuilt, tuned motor that was already federalized for U.S. import.
This RS4 was first imported in 2002 and moved to California four years later. Apparently the hotted-up twin-turbo V-6 could pass emissions tests when new—it likely benefited from sharing a powerplant with the A4 and S4 already in the States. We’re not sure how many hoops the seller jumped through to get this car stateside, but the process was no cakewalk (even though the government made an exception in 2003 and exempted RS4s from the 25-year rule). Though the car’s legal emissions status is obviously a boon for bidders, there’s good reason people haven’t imported RS4s in large numbers and flipped them for a profit. It’s often a painful, expensive process that can take months. Even with the $82K final bid, this car’s seller likely didn’t make a fortune.
What exactly did the high bidder take home? It’s a two-owner, 2001 model with the optional Sport package from Quattro GmbH, which blacked out the roof rails and tailpipes, lowered the suspension, and deleted the sunroof. It suffered a keying back in 2016 but has since been repainted. The 19-inch BBS wheels get you one more inch over the factory alloys, and you squat a hair lower on those larger rims, thanks to Öhlins coilovers.
At 55K miles, the engine got new turbochargers and also received upgraded Edge Racing intercoolers since then. You’ll have your choice of bolting on Milltek exhausts with or without catalytic converters and, thanks to a rebuild in August of 2019, that twin-turbo engine should sound beastly with either.
The $86,100 sale is the highest RS4 ever sold on Bring a Trailer, nudging out this $84K sale last spring (both prices including commission). In fact, this RS4 is the most expensive Audi (that’s taking into account all Audis) sold on Bring a Trailer so far in 2020. It’s more expensive than a six-speed R8 with $40K in options and a quarter as many miles. (Need we mention sleeper status again?) To point out the premium U.S. buyers paid for the two already-federalized examples above, look back to this 2001 example. It has much lower mileage (roughly 45K) and factory alloys—but it’s a Canada car that hasn’t been brought into alignment with U.S. regulations. It was bid to just $30,025 with no success.
It’s hard to imagine these wagons going out of style any time soon. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for them and, in the meantime, dreaming of empty highways and German biturbo power.