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FEATURE: Power, Purpose, Practicality?

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We’re always hunting for cool feature cars here at Sehr Gute! Motoring – automobiles that display an exceptional set of characteristics, be it exclusivity, outright performance, attention to detail, or just innate ‘interestingness’ – whatever that may be. It’s a hard to define concept, but to paraphrase United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward “I know it when I see it”. Except here we’re talking about cool cars, not obscene material (for the most part…)! The Audi B5 S4 Avant you see before you definitely ticks the appropriate boxes.

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From factory, the Audi B5 S4 Avant had an impressive spec list, especially for the late 90′s. A 2.7L 30V Biturbo V6 send power to Audi’s renowned quattro permanent four wheel-drive system through a six-speed box. Figures like 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, and an (electronically-limited) 250 km/h top speed seem tame by today’s standards, but in 1998, from a wagon, were seriously impressive. It’s also got the right mix of quirkiness and credentials to become a modern classic in this writer’s humble opinion. Even better – they can be picked up for a relative steal compared to the $110,000+ price new.

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I first became aware of Ash on the Euro Style Tuning forum, and his car became one of my favourites not just because of the awesome base car, but his considered and holistic approach to improving upon the car’s capabilities and aesthetics.

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Ash was looking for a B5 RS4 after selling his frankenstein Mitsubishi Evo for an Audi A3 to get back into the Euro scene, but then deciding the 1.8 turbo wasn’t enough to satisfy his craving for speed. Ash’s mechanic at Euro Revolution, Sebastian, had an S4 Avant gathering dust in the corner of his shop so Ash made an offer, and the rest is history!

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His original plans for the car included importing original RS4 wide body panels to give his car the muscular stance which separated the RS4 from the rest of the B5 series.

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Ash’s plans changed however when he was quoted a price for the widebody – $12,000 in parts alone! Add shipping and labour into the equation, and the cost was simply impossible to justify. Thus the handsome original lines of the S4 Avant remain, and give no hint to what lies beneath.

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However Ash did borrow some front end components from the B5 RS4 parts bin, including the front bumper and grills. The front lip, however, came from a Seat Cupra R but looks right at home here.

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The interior of the S4 is a very nice place to be, with the trademark Audi quality materials and finish giving a sense of competence and luxury from behind the wheel.

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A few small additions hint at the nature of this car, such as the Zeitronix LCD display mounted on the steering column and the AWE boost gauge integrated into the central aircon vents which does a great job of looking like a stock gauge. Otherwise, the interior remains as Audi intended, with the factory leather Recaro buckets providing the right mix of comfort and cornering support. Sections of the dash came from the factory trimmed with carbon fibre, giving an aggressive flair to the otherwise understated interior.

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Open the bonnet, and what confronts you is not unlike an Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark snake pit. A writhing mass of black piping and tubes conceals the V6 block beneath, centre stage being taken by the carbon fibre Y Pipe from 034 Motorsport.

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The engine has been built to 2.8L (originally 2.7L) and the list of modification to both engine internals and externals is extensive – you can find it at the bottom of this article – but the end result should be good for approximately 300kW at the wheels when the car is tuned properly!

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Consider for a second that the B5 S4 and RS4 came from factory with 195kW and 280kW (flywheel) respectively. The S4 that you see before you has not only reached the performance levels of the RS4, but comfortably exceeded them. But why stop here? “I could have gone with bigger turbos based on what I’ve done to the engine but where do you draw the line I’d forever be chasing more power and the reliability would have become non existent. This car is going to be a daily and so it must provide reliability as well some decent power, that goal is 300kw ATW which will pretty much max out the K04′s.”

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To help the AWD drivetrain cope with the punishing power figure, Ash has swapped out the original input shaft for a custom solution with a stronger and wider 1st gear, as well as fitting a slew of JH Motorsports gearbox and differential parts.

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This S4 sees duties as both a daily driver and weekend warrior, so a combination of comfort and performance was required from the suspension setup. As such, Ash entrusted the damping responsibilities to a set of KW V3 coilovers, with a whiteline 19mm rear sway bar and OEM upper and lower control arms supporting. The adjustability of the V3s allows Ash to tweak the ride to a lower compression setting which gives him more compliance on bumpy roads – so perfect for our drive through the Royal National Park today.

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An SSAC 2.5″ Twin Resonated Exhaust with High Flow Cats manages exhaust gasses from the 3″ Down pipes, also from SSAC (a performance part fabricator based in North Carolina).

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I asked Ash if there were any downsides to S4 ownership. “The downside is they are getting to that age where things start to fail and need to be replaced, my advice to anyone looking to own a B5 S4 or RS4 set aside a budget of at least $2000 for on going costs. This is a must! The running joke in the B5 S4/RS4 community is any work that needs to be done requires an engine pull but hey you get use to that in the end. The B5 S4/RS4 suits a DIY’er who is happy to put in some wrench time. You’ll get to learn about your car and also save money on labour if anything does pop up.”

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The Avant looked right at home carving through the winding roads of the Royal National Park south of Sydney. The sports bike riders were out in force, though I wonder how many of them would expect this humble European wagon to keep them honest?

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I think that’s what lies at the heart of the Audi S and RS series of Avants – the unassuming and practical body of a wagon mated with the engine and drivetrain of a supercar. You can shuttle the kids to Saturday morning soccer, then while they’re not watching go and chase down some 911′s on some quiet back roads. One of Ash’s favourite things about the car is that torque which is on tap even in stock form and people don’t expect it.

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On the drive South we spotted an abandoned petrol station which was too good of a photo opportunity to pass up, so we made a final stop on the home journey to grab some final shots. As Ash eased the wagon into the shade I admired the understated styling of the B5 S4 – an approach which Audi has well and truly abandoned in favour of the futuristic design language present in the latest S4.

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Due to the significantly increased power output and resultant potential for silly speeds, the front brake setup was ditched in favour of C5 RS6 Brembo calipers and 365mm rotors with custom carriers. The hubs were slightly machined so the elegant BBS LM could fit – leaving no more than a millimetre between caliper and spoke. In the rear, deceleration is provided by 300mm discs and a caliper bracket upgrade from 034 Motorsport. At both ends, ECS Exact-Fit stainless steel brake lines were fitted.

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Seeing Ash’s car parked up amongst the remains of the gas stop I couldn’t help daydreaming about turning this place into a cafe for drivers to come to for a coffee and a few minutes of relaxation after a run through the Royal National Park…

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…back to reality. BBS LM 154′s nicely fill the guards at each corner in 19×8.5″ +32 offset sizings both front and rear.

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They complement the car brilliantly, wouldn’t you agree?

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I asked Ash what his future plans were for the car. “The future for me and this car… Not sure, I hope to hold on to it for as long as possible and maybe sometime down the track I may do a RS4 wide body conversion? Short term I just want to continue to work on reaching my goal of 300kw ATW.”

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We’ll certainly be asking Ash for a ride-along when the car is fully tuned!

Spec List:

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Engine:
  • JE Pistons 82.5mm
  • Integrated Engineering H-beam Rods
  • Integrated Engineering Valves
  • Integrated Engineering Titanium Retainers
  • OEM B5 S4 2.7T Camshafts
  • Pair of Borg Warner K04′s
  • Bosch EV14 850cc Injectors
  • Bosch 3bar FPR
  • Bosch 044 “Motorsport” Intank Fuel Pump
  • 034 Motorsport Drop in Billet Fuel Pump Adapter
  • Bosch Wideband O2′s Sensors
  • Beru RS6 White Top Coilpacks
  • 034 Motorsport ICM Delete Kit
  • Bosch RS4 MAF sensor
  • OEM 4bar MAP sensor
  • 034 Motorsport Carbon Y Pipe
  • 034 Motorsport Turbo Inlet Pipes
  • 034 Motorsport 5mm Phenolic Spacers
  • Forge Motorsport DV’s
  • ARD Bi-pipes
  • BMC CDA Intake
  • Custom Side Mount Intercoolers with factory shrouds
  • Mann Provent 200 Oil Catch Can
  • 1.8T Pancake Valve
  • Ported OEM Exhaust Manifold
  • SSAC 3″ Down pipes
  • SSAC 2.5″ Twin Resonated Exhaust with High Flow Cats

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Transmission:
  • Custom input shaft with a stronger/wider 1st gear
  • JHM Performance Carbon Syncros
  • JHM 4:1 Centre Differential
  • JHM Trio Short Shifter
  • JHM Drive Train Stabiliser (DTS) Bar
  • JHM DTS Poly Upgrade
  • Southbend SS Stage 3 Clutch Kit with uprated pressure plate
  • Uprated Front CV shafts and joints

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Suspension & Brakes:
  • KW v3 Coilovers
  • Whiteline 19mm rear sway bar
  • OEM Upper and lower control arms
  • C5 RS6+ 8 pot Brembo Calipers
  • C5 RS6+ 365mm Discs Front
  • 034 Motorsport Caliper Bracket Upgrade Rear
  • 034 Motorsport/Zimmerman 300mm Discs Rear
  • ECS Exact-Fit Stainless Steel Brake Lines, Front & Rear

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Interior:
  • Zeitronix 4 channel LCD Display
  • AWE Vent Boost Gauge
  • 034 Motorsport Weighted Delrin Gear Knob
  • Factory Leather Recaro Seats

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Exterior & Wheels:
  • Dietrich Concepts RS4 Front bumper
  • B5 RS4 Bonnet Grill
  • B5 RS4 Lower Bumper Grills
  • B5 RS4 Centre Grill
  • OEM Sportline Rear Spoiler
  • Removed lower door sills
  • BBS LM 154′s 19×8.5″ +32 offset
  • Seat Cupra R Front Lip

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Like all good builds, there were many great minds and hands involved, and in particular Ash would like to thank:

Seb from EuroRevolution
Peter from Fast Torque Engineering
Dmitri from PRJ Tuning
Ray from RAW Works
Nils (Milka)
my girlfriend, brother and mother for picking me up dropping me off, lending me their cars to get to and from the workshop at ungodly hours and putting up with my jibba jabba trying to justify this build!
Photography: Blake Jones & Dale Thomson. Words: Blake Jones

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One Comment

  1. Nice write up, mate. And a lovely S4!

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