In spite of its flaws, the first RS4 holds up against the modern era of high performance in part because of its lack of high-tech features.
Following the end of the RS2 Avant in 1995, Audi fans had a long wait until the team at Ingolstadt developed a proper successor. After four years, one arrived: the RS4. While the United States received the B7 version between 2006 and 2008, Europe has enjoyed all four generations of one of the hottest Audis ever built, including the current B9 RS4 Avant.
Which begs the question: what of the B5 RS4 Avant? Does it hold up as well today as it did at the turn of the millennium? JayEmm on Cars seeks the answer with a modded 2001 RS4 Avant.
“Although they were certainly quick as standard,” said JayEmm, “posting a sub-5-second naught to 60 time, one of the things that made these cars was just how tunable they are. And this particular example is not standard.”
The 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 that once made 370 horsepower, thanks to tuning and a freer-flowing exhaust, it makes 470 horses. The RS4’s been lowered, and has front brakes from a Volkswagen Phaeton to better stopping power. This is also one of 530 B5 RS4s to come over to the United Kingdom, and one of 400 in right-hand drive. Its styling, meanwhile, doesn’t scream performance, unlike nearly Audi on the showroom floor now. But is owning an B5 RS4 worth it?
“I’ve been tempted by the S and RS4 of this generation a number of times in the past,” said JayEmm. “But there’s one really big reason I was always put off of them […] What’s put me off buying one of these in the past is the absolutely extraordinary running costs. For whatever reason, nearly everybody I talk to that owns, or has owned, one of these cars is always trying to put something right with it.”
That said, the RS4 Avant offers a few things newer ones don’t, like a six-speed manual. The ability to shift one’s own gears is a throwback to how things were in the 2000s: few electronics, more mechanicals, more connectedness. Today’s Audis, meanwhile, seem to handle everything for the driver, which might not be as fun as thought.
“Because this car is becoming something of a classic, with a price to match,” said JayEmm, “it becomes ever more difficult to justify it as merely a daily proposition. Yet still, the car has a lot going for it. If you ignore for a moment the fact you could get a much more modern, much more capable, much better-equipped car for the same or less money now, this is really quite a nice thing.”