By on September 8, 2015


B&B, I’m listening.

I’m still relatively new to this place, and I am trying to pay attention to your comments. Several folks last week were bothered by my rather cavalier use of the term “Crapwagon” for decidedly non-crappy cars. So, we have a new title for those better cars I find while I’m supposed to be doing my day job: “Digestible Collectible.” I hope to bring both a Crapwagon and a Digestible Collectible to you every week, until the Internet runs out of interesting cars.

This week, a particularly digestible collectible comes to us from Ingolstadt, by way of Houston. Naturally, I’m in love with hot wagons, and those from Audi are among the best. Like this B6-series S4 Avant.

I know that Audi maintenance and repairs are, at best, headaches, and that parts prices could mean community college for my children. I don’t care. A basic family sedan/wagon has absolutely no business looking as good as an S-labeled Audi does. The moderately-flared fenders riding right over a fat set of performance tires is alluring to this minivan driver. A twin-turbo V8, six-speed manual, and quattro all-wheel-drive mean I can have fun after dropping the kids off at volleyball practice.

Oh, since I live in an area without smog checks, I might consider yanking the cats:


The pearl yellow paint isn’t necessarily my style, as I tend to prefer more neutral hues, but it looks appealing against the dark wheels and window tint. With an ask of $14,350, I can’t imagine any family car being more fun for the price — even allowing for maintenance costs.

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45 Comments on “Digestible Collectible: 2004 Audi S4 Avant...”

  • avatar


    -Looks like it’s been repainted, S4 logo is crooked.
    -Yellow paint? Very early 00s. Zero dignity.
    -Has been parked outside, heavy headlamp haze.
    -Console armrest lid missing.
    -Rear seat dents (permanent?) from car seat.
    -Finish of center stack and headlamp buttons in terrible condition (mistreatment).

    This 05 S4 6-spd sedan is in superior condition, and is what an S4 of that era -should- look like for this kind of money.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s factory paint. I don’t like that it has RS6 wheels. It was just listed for sale by a private party recently.

      • 0 avatar

        I didn’t like the RS6 wheels either. The stock wheels are much more period correct and attractive, and they’re nice wheels anyway.

        From the listing on Autotrader: “I had this car for almost a year at first was going to be a weekend car, however wife’s new car is coming soon and will need my garage space for her car =(”

        “Always garaged”

        Rubbish. I’m really not liking this one.

  • avatar

    Just an FYI, the B6 S4 has a normally aspirated V8, not a twin-turbo V8. Nevertheless, a very fun car to own and drive (my wife and I had a ’05 B6 S4 Avant 6-speed manual up until a few months ago).

  • avatar

  • avatar

    Better off with a professionally conservative tune on an STI hatch. Faster, cheaper and with a good tune and good fuel reliable.

  • avatar

    I call that banana yellow vs. true yellow. True yellow on a hot car is awesome. Banana yellow is not. That being said, I am a sucker for an “avant” because I am so pretentious that I call a “dead end circle thingy” a “cul-de-sac” so I might not be the best arbiter of termnology.

  • avatar

    has the car had a timing chain done? If it’s high miles and the owner can’t produce proof of replacement, the car is literally worth nothing.

    the current model S6/S7 wheels on it do look nice, tho.

    • 0 avatar

      Honestly, it might not even be worth the effort. I’ve seen a number die due to damaged bores. Before bothering with the timing parts check compression and leak-down. If the engine isn’t ready for being recycled due to damaged bores then MAYBE it is worth putting thousands into so you can get some more time out of it.

      An S4 with a junk engine is ready for a built 2.0 20v turbo engine. More power, more torque and cheap to replace (relatively speaking).

    • 0 avatar


      “LS1 swap FTW”.

      Remember where we are, people.

      • 0 avatar

        this would be the one situation where that doesn’t make sense.

        With an LS1 swap, you generally use the GM transmission too, which in this case means all sorts of problems from yanking out the Audi’s transaxle since it drives the front wheels for AWD. At very best you’re looking at a ton of custom work for an adapter or one-off bellhousing and input shaft to mate the 2 together.

  • avatar

    B6/B7 S4 is a skip.

    The fenders are not flared.
    The appeal of $600/ea plastic valve covers prone to warping is what?
    The V8 is normally aspirated and often has a life span of under 100k miles. Timing chain adjusters/tensioners. Scored bores. Leaky valve stem seals. The BHF code V8 is not a good engine. The only thing that engine does is sound nice while plotting to empty your wallet.

  • avatar

    Yelp review “…The wheel on the car fell off during test drive!! Didn’t disclose the $1400 repair needed for the front control arms and bushings. Car arrived reeking of gas and requiring a 400$ interior recondition!! Save yourself the headache!!”

  • avatar

    Run. Away.
    I am, as we speak, desperately trying to sell and/or drive off a cliff my 2004 Audi A6 3.0 Avant Quattro. For once, the interwebs were right…owning an old German car IS a nightmare. I know the S4 is “special”, but if it is comprised of the same fragile materials and questionable engineering choices as my A6, it ain’t so special.

    When it’s “right”, it’s truly a lovely car to drive. Problem is, it’s been right for about 15 minutes since I bought it one year ago.

    In the past year, I’ve dealt with oil leaks (still working on that one!), water leaks in the front passenger footwell (fixed!), leaky washer fluid tank (know what it is, but impossible to get to without disassembling the front of the car), sporadic water leak from headliner near hatch (don’t care anymore), plus leaking rear diff (fixed!), and an exhaust leak in both flex pipes (fixed!). Did I mention this car has an issue with leaks? And this was no basketcase when I bought it, a one-owner with regular documented maintenance.

    In comparison, the six Saabs I’ve owned were far more reliable and much easier to work on. Time to go back.

    As an additional data point, my buddy sold his S4 4.2 a couple of years ago. At the end, it burned oil so rapidly that he put a case of oil in his trunk on a trip from Boston to NYC and used 5 quarts….one way.

  • avatar

    This is the very definition of a crapwagon.

  • avatar

    LSx FTW

  • avatar

    Don’t pull the cats, regardless of your inspection requirements. Even disregarding the emissions effects, the sound and smell is incredibly obnoxious to other drivers.

    • 0 avatar


      I was out jogging when some smug looking teenager who had just hollowed out his cat(s) and muffler came by on a test drive.

      Breathing deeply while he drove by was an obnoxiously smelly and loud experience. That kid was not as smart as he thought he was, but the only way he’d be educated is if he let someone else drive his “masterpiece” while he watched, because his moving vehicle is upwind from its stinky wake.

      Fortunately, thin doesn’t happen too often. But it is a glimpse of what the world must have been like in the early 1970s, and I’m glad we’ve come as far as we have.

    • 0 avatar

      Bad for the environment and also a violation of federal law.

      Also limits the sale-ability of the car, and good luck if NC starts doing emissions checks.

  • avatar

    Audi’s of this era are like Victoria’s Secret model. You can’t help but wonder how awesome it would be if you were seen around town with one. The pleasure and status provided by a sweet VAG will be endless, you tell yourself. You’ll be rich and everyone will envy you.

    5-7 years later, she’s a washed-up, hard-loving drunk who never quite became an Angel. She’s forgotten how to speak English, and she’ll never work again. If you didn’t cash-in during the 5-7 year window, the best possible outcome for you is a messy, protracted divorce. Maybe you can expedite the process by having her dolled up and hope someone steals her off of your arm. Keys are in the ignition, bruh. I owe you one. If you’re really desperate, leave a gift-wrapped handle of Jack Daniels on a dumpster about 10 blocks up the street. Then park your “baby” way too close to your dumpster on trash day. #noregrets #bluecollarchaos

  • avatar

    “Digestible Collectible” is a fine category for this car, because it appears that once it’s fully digested, it will become… a crapwagon.

    Seriously, though, it looks very nice, but would probably not make a good daily driver that you have to depend on.
    The repair costs could be substantially lowered if you do the work yourself and have an identical parts car in the barn. Paying full fare will get very old very quickly.
    As for removing the catalytic converters, if you want your shiny, modern car to smell like a ’68 Plymouth, go right ahead. You’ll have to put them back on when you want to sell it.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one who got a working Audi? My A6 Avant has been a reliable car. I put 35k miles per year on it, and the issues are all fit and finish, no driveability.

    That said, if you can’t do your own work, don’t get an Audi. For me, the coolant bypass tank replacement was a 30 minute job. At a shop, it would be much worse. If you’re fine with a car that will degrade to looking like a beater, an Audi will give you the ride of a life. If paint, trim, and other issues concern you, an Audi is a terrible choice.

    Crapwagon or not, I’d have another. You can pick them up for a song. I’d stay away from this particular one, though….

    • 0 avatar

      What year and engine is your A6?

      The problem with Audis is the requirement to put them in the service position every 60-80k miles for timing belt, water pump, and tensioner replacement, which necessitates removing the entire front clip at the cost of a better part of $1200. So that your engine doesn’t grenade itself. If you have the ubiquitous 1.8T or 2.0T, have fun replacing a coil pack or 2 every other oil change once you’re out of warranty period too.

      When they moved to chains on most of them (2.0T in 09, 3.2 in 05ish) it made things a little bit easier, but the 4.2 V8 has its own famous crappy timing chain problems that’ll also grenade the engine. Then at least through 08 or so you’re dealing with sub-par VW electronics that give up the ghost with no warning and with alarming frequency.

      There are a lot of faults I’ll forgive in a car if it’s nice to drive, but Audi’s historic problems putting a powertrain that’ll reliably make it to 100k miles with reasonable maintenance put them in the solid ‘do not buy’ category for me.

      • 0 avatar

        Is this part of what i’ll have to do? I have the 3.2 v6 in a 2006 A4. I love it dearly, and have had zero problems in the 36k miles i’ve put into it in two years (78 to 114k miles).

        • 0 avatar

          Nick, your “3.2” actually displaces 3.1 liters. You have a timing chain, not belt, so you don’t have the issues the turbo 4 cylinders have. But the chain in the “3.2” actually faces the driver, so if it does go, the car is going to the junk yard. But you should be good to 200K miles.

          • 0 avatar

            THanks VoGo. It sounds like we have the same powertrain, but you have the more mature looking – and spacious – shell. If I do hear a chain rattle well, I’ve always wanted a BMW, and 2009s 3ers are just at the perfect spot for me right now. 200k miles and I’ll be a VAG believer forever!

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve seen plenty of the 3.2 BKH engines fail due to death rattle. They tend to develop timing chain slop or the cam adjuster fails resulting in a rattle noise. Eventually the engine jumps time and at that point it is game over. I’ve not seen a BKH come back from death rattle.

          • 0 avatar

            I have an ’05 A6 with the “3.2” and 100K miles on it. Like Matador, I budget $1,200-$1,500/year for maintenance and a similar amount for depreciation.

            In return, I enjoy a car that is as nice as any $25-30K sedan sold today, except for the advanced electronics, which I really don’t value.

            However, I do live in fear of the timing chain rattle, which would reduce my car to junk value in a heartbeat. A chance I’m willing to take, but I understand why so many others would rather just lease a new Camry.

      • 0 avatar

        Mine is a 2001 A6 Avant, so it has the 2.8 engine. That’s the boring, but reliable choice.

        I bought it just shy of 100k miles, so I had the timing belt done when I go home. I’m at 168k now, so in the spring, it’ll go in for the timing belt and water pump again. That $1200 is well worth it. In the last two years, I’ve had:

        *Clear Coat Peeling (In Wyoming, a lot of cars do that due to the desert climate)
        *Trim Strip Started Peeling (Fixed it by drilling a hole and using a bolt)
        *Sensor caused hard starting. Was about $200 at the mechanic
        *Front End Suspension Recently Redone (Control Arms and Tie Rod Ends)
        *Timing belt at 100k
        *Coolant Overflow Tank Replaced (About $40 and a little of my time)
        *Two Tail Lamp Bulbs
        *Front Brake Pads (Super easy to change on these cars)

        What I do is monthly I set aside $100 in my “I bought a German Luxury car fund”. This covers the repairs I need. Since I don’t have a car payment, I’m driving an Audi at the cost to finance a Dodge Dart. I can do some of the basic work myself, so it’s not too bad. Since I can do my own oil changes, brake pads, and other minor repairs, it’s not too bad.

        Call me crazy, but I’d have another one. I’ve definitely been very happy with mine.

  • avatar

    Meh, get a real S4, later B5 2001-2002 V6 Biturbo cars with already replaced K04s chipped + cat back.

    That B6 V8 is junk.

  • avatar

    I have a non-S4 B6 Avant 2.4 V6 with an S suspension and I’ve been extremely lucky so far. No significant maintainance issues and little oil consumption from the BDV engine, which is an extremely rare fortune. The interior is also in good condition, none of that peeling rubber that this model suffers from.

    I love the car, it handles fine and the engine is a bit lazy for its displacement, but runs very well (especially when hitting the German Autobahn :) )

    At app 130.000 miles I will need to invest in front suspension rebuilding. Yes, a traditional VAG problem.
    But given the plethora of problems I’ve seen on forums over the years there is only one sane advice I would give you:

    At this age, steer clear of these A4s!

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    While it runs, the Audi S4 is a fine, fine automobile: fast, comfortable, nimble. Used to work with a guy who had a blue 2002 twin-turbo V6. When it started puffing blue smoke from one of the turbos, he took that as a command from God to install larger turbos and chip it. When he sold it, it was like Harrison Ford in “The Fugitive” leaping to safety right before a fiery disaster.

    Nice work on the new title, Chris. Now – if you want to test an actual crapwagon, I have this winter-beater Saturn SL2…

  • avatar

    I have an itch for a V8 again and the S4’s sounds great. That said, I’m terrified of the car. I thought getting one with the timing service already done would put me in good shape; now apparently I have to research scored bores.

    Maybe I’ll just go back to an E39 540i. They have their own issues with timing chain guides, but the repair costs a fraction of what it does on a B6/7 S4 (though still painful). They are also much cheaper to purchase, with the difference easily paying to repair the guides if necessary. And they lack the added complexity of AWD.

    That says a lot about the S4 when it makes a V8 BMW look like it has low running costs…

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