Digestible Collectible: 2003 Audi RS6

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
digestible collectible 2003 audi rs6

Cue the “CEL” jokes.

The collective “wisdom” of scores of forums have decreed that Volkswagen and Audi products are invariably cursed by permanently lit Check Engine Lights. Some have joked that the CEL is by far, the most reliable component on any VAG vehicle, and that Meatloaf was 20 years early with his “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.”

So, with some hesitation considering the comments on the last Audi to grace this column, I press forward in pursuit of the four rings and eight pistons.

Today, I’m looking at a 2003 Audi RS6. It seems to be the cheapest of the C5-chassis cars out there at just under $12,000, so I’d be prepared for the worst. However, the seller mentions a good bit of recent maintenance, so if records are included this could be a relative bargain. Importantly, the timing belt was completed 19,000 miles ago, so it could be another year or two before it’s due again.

That’s another thing. Taking this or any older German car to the dealer is a bad idea. Even an independent shop can be financially crippling. I have to believe that the only way to own one of these on a reasonably budget is with the ability to do most of any needed work at home. Google “Audi C5 Service Position.” The work looks difficult, but with the proper service manuals, any required work looks straightforward and within reach of a decent home mechanic.

Or I could just be trying to justify a crazy-expensive performance sedan to myself. The styling of most modern Audis is alluring, both inside and out. The S and RS models take it a step above with not-too-subtle fender flares and big wheels and tires.

Though, from what I’ve read, those tires might last 20,000 miles if you are lucky and gentle.

So, continue calling me an idiot for even considering an out-of-warranty Audi. The soft glow of electric CEL gleaming in the instrument panel will keep me warm.

Join the conversation
2 of 80 comments
  • Lightspeed Lightspeed on Dec 29, 2015

    So, pretty much as reliable as a late 90s Volvo?

  • 64andahalf 64andahalf on Dec 30, 2015

    I bought one new and continue to love her. Only problems were a factory recall on the diagonal suspension thing and windshield wipers blades that apparently only come from Audi and cost like $30 each

  • FreedMike No, but then again, I think folks who truly have no money should be given the opportunity to pay through things like community service. Otherwise, the traffic justice system becomes an excuse to make poor folks into de facto debt slaves.
  • Paul Alexander "Rumors have pointed to it switching to the larger LX’s platform, giving it expanded exterior and interior dimensions. Lexus is expected to offer a hybrid powertrain in the upcoming GX, which could also appear in the Land Cruiser, and a trick four-wheel drive system is all but a given."So it'll be an LX with the GX name? What does this paragraph mean?
  • Jeff S If Ford can do a software update on their EVs to receive AM then this should be something that all EV automakers can do. Doesn't seem that an AM band on a radio is that big of a dollar item when you consider the overall cost of a new vehicle in today's market. I have started to listen to my favorite FM station on AM since I lose FM reception the further away I get away from an urban area. Maybe not as refined a sound as FM but the AM comes in much clearer when I am driving in rural areas.
  • Mike Beranek Well yes, any government fine should be based on the offender's income. But I'd take it a step farther.Any public funding aid, from welfare to stadium deals to tax incentives, should also be doled out based the need. And trust me, Shad Kahn doesn't need the taxpayers of Duval County to pay for his football stadium renovation. He can easily pay for it himself, without even having to downgrade to a lesser yacht.
  • Jeff S No it should be based on the violation and the fine on speeding should be based on how much above the speed limit the violator is going. Anything 5 mph are below should not be ticketed.