There are two types of Audi owner. The first has been genetically wired to the brand, the four rings inserted into his DNA. He loves Audi-always has, always will. The second type is simply looking for a good luxury vehicle. He could easily be swayed by offerings from BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or even Cadillac. Choosing an Audi is a decision made from research and number crunching. Ultimately, it's about value, a cost-versus-reward thing.
Some years back, most Audi owners were the first type. That has since changed. The cars featured here are owned by both of the aforementioned types. Alan Knutson, owner of the striking S5, is a hardcore Audi man, a perfect Type 1 example. Over the last 20 years nearly a dozen Audis have resided in his garage, including a Coupe GT, Quattro Turbo Coupe, Audi 90, a handful of A4s, a TT and a bunch more. Yeah, Knutson likes Audi.
Jason Baker, owner of the A6 Avant, is of the second stripe. He's played with everything from lawnmowers to high-performance aircraft, typically searching for more performance and singular styling. His Audi fits his current needs: a utilitarian vehicle that looks cool.
More than a decade ago, this magazine featured Knutson's Oettinger-equipped A4. It was a fantastic ride (probably still is) with 260 hp from its turbocharged four-pot and all the right bits. After some time spent autobahn driving in Germany (see 'European delivery' sidebar), his new S5 arrived Stateside. Within a few days, Knutson contacted MadAudi, who had pre-sourced Euro-spec adaptive headlamps and the Export Zoll plates the S5 wore across the pond. MadAudi also pre-ordered H&R lowering springs, forged DPE wheels and 20-inch Nitto Invo tires. Knutson commissioned MadAudi to fabricate a custom intake comprised of both CNC aluminum and bits from Audi's parts bin. MadAudi also built the custom exhaust system, a handsome piece wrought from mandrel-bent stainless steel tubing (2.5-inch) and Magnaflow mufflers. With its new pipes, the S5 sounds fairly exotic-a cross between a big-block Ferrari and a Formula One car. Whether or not it makes power is almost a moot point. A voice this beautiful deserves to be bottled and sold.
Knutson hesitates slightly when asked if this car is finished. Compared to his former Audis, the S5 is nowhere near as developed. "Audi created a tasteful and sophisticated car with the S5," he says carefully. "It's always been my goal to complement, not disrupt, the car's integrity. The S5 is so well done, so complete, it's reduced my to-do list dramatically. That's a good thing."
I remember the stock S5 being fast. This S5 let me relive the experience-and then some. Knutson's car punches through the air with Mike Tyson-like brutality, its forward thrust instantaneous. I spent some time 'punching' between airport hangers, amazed at the responsiveness of its V8. Nothing with so many moving parts should behave like this. As much as I miss Audi's turbocharged cars, this naturally aspirated S5 makes it easy to forget them altogether.
2007 Audi S5
4.2-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. MadAudi intake, custom exhaust
H&R sport springs, factory shocks and struts
F: StopTech six-piston calipers, 15-inch cross-drilled rotors
R: StopTech 14.5-inch rotors
*Wheels And Tires
DPE S-10, 9x20
Nitto Invo, 255/30
Power: 354 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque: 325 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm
0-60 mph: 5.0 sec.
Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
"I was looking for an alternative vehicle," recalls Jason Baker, regarding his 2006 A6 Avant. "Something besides an SUV or minivan. Something utilitarian, fun to drive and cool. It had to be cool."
Basically, he just described the Audi Avant. Baker likes to describe his Audi as Bakerized, a vehicle modified for increased visual appeal and performance. Obviously, both are subjective terms, but we like what we see. Here's what a Bakerized A6 Avant looks like.
Though common in Europe, Avants are a rarity in the States. This car distinguishes itself even further with a Caractere aerodynamic package, a system that replaces the front and rear clips, and includes a small rear roof wing. Devoid of any badging, the Avant had its front-bumper amber parking lights relocated to the headlamp housings and wired for city light provisions. The headlamps were later treated with MadAudi's brows, a simple stick-on touch that manages to change the car's entire demeanor. The entire front end is coated with 3M Clear Bra.
Resting slightly lower than a stock Avant, this car rides on Eibach sport springs and includes Koni's remarkable FSD shocks and struts. DPE alloy wheels measure 9x20 inches and were custom-cut to the proper Audi offset, then shod with Nitto Invo tires (255/30). It also wears StopTech brakes in front, 15-inch cross-drilled rotors and six-piston calipers. Hawk pads and braided stainless steel lines complete the binders.
Like all Audi cars, the Avant's interior is brilliant, but this particular vehicle even more so. Baker's liberal use of Alcantara throughout the cabin looks like something from Audi's special werks program. MadAudi sourced the S6 shift knob and installed Hella Twin air horns for their distinctive classic European sound.
Although equipped with a fine sound system, Baker took it several steps further by replacing all the factory drivers with special Rockford Fosgate units and that company's proprietary Interactive Signal Processor (see 'Stereo lab' sidebar).
Future upgrades will include a Borla exhaust, Recaro sport seats and S6 side mirrors. But to be honest, this Audi is as good as they come. It's utilitarian, maneuverable and very cool. Mission accomplished.
2006 Audi A6 Avant
3.2-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve
Eibach sport springs, Koni FSD shocks and struts
Front: StopTech six-piston calipers, 15-inch vented/cross-drilled rotors, braided stainless steel lines
*Wheels And Tires
DPE S-5, 9x20
Nitto Invo, 255/30
Power: 255 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 243 lb-ft @ 3250 rpm
0-60 mph: 7.4 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph (limited)
Following WWII, many American servicemen remained overseas in advisory roles. They needed transportation, cars designed for the tight, challenging roads of Europe. Cars from Alfa Romeo, Audi, Austin Healey, NSU, BMW, etc., were more than up to the task. As their tenures came to an end, these same people found it difficult to part with their newfound loves-many brought their cars home. Thus was born the first European delivery program.
And folks are still bringing their European cars across the pond. It's much easier today, thanks to Audi's European Delivery Program. This scheme gives the buyer five percent off the MSRP (three percent for the A3), chauffered transport from Munich airport to a four-star hotel (one room for one night paid for by Audi. The buyer pays for his/her air travel), chauffered transport from the hotel to Audi Forum Ingolstadt, guided tours of the Audi factory and museum and 15 days comprehensive insurance for European travel. There are 20 drop-off locations throughout the continent and Audi handles (and pays for) the shipping all the way to the buyer's American Audi dealership.
Our man Knutson did just that, spending a few glorious days on the autobahn at 150-plus mph. "I decided this was the best way to celebrate the new car. Audi started the program earlier in the year, so I was able to read about the experience and details on the web. I contacted my dealership early on to ensure that I would be able to take delivery as soon as the vehicle became available. Penske Audi's Brendan Harrington and Jerry Loh were instrumental in organizing and providing first-class service throughout the pre-order process. If they didn't have information, they pulled strings to get it. Once the process was started, my order was turned over to Kathy Bis (Audi European Delivery Program Manager), who provided exceptional customer service. Experiencing the Audi factory and Audi Forum in the flesh-compounded with picking up a new S5-was great. I enjoyed driving around Ingolstadt and seeing the new silver B8 A4 and a red R8 on the street before their release in the U.S. There's nothing quite like breaking in your new European car on the A9 autobahn after having just left the factory. I drove to Wrzburg, visited Frankfurt, Berlin, and finally Prague, before returning to Munich via the high-speed Deutsche Bahn. I will definitely be taking advantage of the Euro delivery experience again in the future."
This scheme doesn't cover the R8. There's a special program for those buyers which is a little more upmarket. No discount is offered and air travel still has to be covered by the customer, but accommodation is a five-star hotel in Stuttgart and there are tours of Audi's Neckarsulm facility where most of the Quattro work goes on. After that is the same insurance and shipping deal.
If you've been itching to travel, Audi's European Delivery Program provides the perfect rationale. For more information, visit www.audiusa.com.
Today's European vehicles are heavily integrated with OEM audio systems complete with navigation and numerous electronic functions and features tightly intertwined. Vehicle manufacturers have made it virtually impossible to install aftermarket car audio systems due to the need to modify, carve up, or destroy dashboards to accommodate new head units. Furthermore, some vehicle electronics will disable vital functions should any wire tampering take place. This condition is present in almost every European vehicle made today (Audi, BMW, Porsche, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and so on), but a solution exists for those wanting more punch out of their audio systems.
The 2006 Audi A6 shown in this article demonstrates how Rockford Fosgate has solved the problem of enhancing a factory audio system without completely replacing it. The Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty Interactive Signal Processor is a powerful tool in a little box. It allows aftermarket car audio amplifiers and speakers to connect seamlessly with existing OEM audio equipment by utilizing artificial intelligence signal processing. The entire Audi audio system remains undisturbed and fully functional to include the steering wheel volume and mode controls, the center gauge cluster digital display, the in-dash color screen, and the console-mounted Audi control knob, offering complete control of the OEM CD, AM/FM, phone and navigation controls. The 3Sixty also offers an auxiliary input for an iPod (or other MP3 players) as a bonus.
The 2006 Audi A6 Avant Rockford Fosgate audio system includes the following aftermarket equipment: Rockford Fosgate 3Sixty Interactive Signal Processor; two (2) Rockford Fosgate Punch amplifiers; one (1) Rockford Fosgate dual voice-coil 12-inch woofer in a custom fiberglass enclosure; new Rockford Fosgate component speakers replacing all stock door speakers.
The average Audi owner will most likely be satisfied with the factory-installed system. But audiophiles are worse than horsepower junkies-too much seems to be just the right amount of performance.