13 Jun 2013

Living with - Audi RS4

The car - Audi RS4 B5 MY 2000
The owner - Paul Eldred

The Audi RS4 launched by Audi in the late 1990s turned out to be such an iconic car. I remember seeing Tiff Needel review the RS4 on the “original” Top Gear and at the time I said “Want, Need, Must have”.

Several years later I started my first steps towards owning a RS4 by buying a S4. The S4 was great and gave me three years of enjoyment and then I took the big leap and bought a lovely Misano red RS4. I disobeyed nearly every buying rule in the book as my heart was shouting “BUY, BUY, BUY”. Well, you guessed it, my heart ruled my head. 

The car had already been remapped and the already ample stock power of 380bhp had been upped to about 420bhp but no other modification. The previous owner had looked after the car well and suggested that I take out an Audi warranty. After a year of hassle free ownership Audi were not able to renew the warranty due to some technical reason and three days after expiry I could hear the ghostly whistle that signalled turbo failure. I must admit that Audi were brilliant and take my hat off to them as they agreed to meet the cost of replacing both turbos. The bill was over 5 grand plus VAT.

Not long after that I started down that long wallet emptying journey of modifying the car. Two sets of better brakes, the first upgrade was terrible, the second upgrade used Audi parts from the RS6/new RS4 (lovely 8 pot callipers). I had the old ECU map removed (literally it was a chip soldered over the original ECU) and had a custom remap flashed via the OBDII port. 

The second remap was far better – similar power but the delivery was smoother and from lower down the rev range which made everyday driving far better. New anti-roll bars and new coil-over suspension (lowered slightly) with adjustable links which meant the wheels sat square on the road. It handled really well, but was crashy over typical UK roads. The map was tweaked after an exhaust modification and the car was now developing maybe 440bhp with the speed limiter removed.

The only place to exploit such power was the track (other than a few German Autobahns of course), and I indulged myself many times. It always raised eyebrows as most track day cars are saloons and coupes – not estates! “Where’s your Golden Retriever mate?” echoed around the paddocks. I just let the big estate car do its thing on the track – my partner often commented that spectators were astounded at its performance. At one Goodwood event, Anthony Reid (BTCC driver) asked to drive the car, I felt honoured and it was a fast ride around Goodwood, and I had some learning to do.

It is an estate car with Supercar performance and sadly supercar repair bills come with it! Tyres don’t last long (depending on the right foot of course). Cam belts every 40,000 miles are not cheap, servicing and parts from Audi are silly so I used a specialist for nearly everything (MRC Tuning in Banbury). 

One tip is that many parts are common to other VAG cars and if you’re canny you can order the alternative part that doesn’t have the “RS4 price tag” attached to it. 

I owned the RS4 for just over 5 years - the longest I’ve ever owned a car. But, what do you buy after owning a RS4? No other car compares given the price. With 112,000 miles on the clock and the enthusiast forums full of tales of woe, I decided it was time to move on. I didn’t fancy another turbo replacement job, cams were becoming problematic and costly to replace. 

You know what? I wish I’d kept it - I could have lived in it if a push came to a shove. Even 4 years after selling it for £13k many good examples are still fetching similar money. If you fancy one (and who wouldn’t) do your homework – look at the main UK forums and grab yourself a stonking car. It’ll cost you an arm and a leg – they are money pits but wow! What a fantastic performance car. Owning one is a bit like having a mistress, it’s going to cost you but boy you’ll have fun along the way.

What broke my heart was that the new owner stripped it and made it into a dedicated track car covered in gaudy stickers, I cried.

Only 400 were made for the UK market and with so many having been crashed/scrapped the prices are firm – good ones are still fetching £12,000+ and some low mileage examples have asking prices near £20k! There are very few unmolested cars out there, most are modified, some better than others – do your research.

Enthusiasts’ forums: www.audisrs.com and www.rs246.com

Here's some footage of Paul on track at Goodwood Motor Circuit in the RS4

Many thanks to Paul Eldred for this fantastic review of his RS4 - Matt