The Sport Wagon concept is somehow intrinsically European. It offers both speed and utility, but with none of the handicaps of an SUV. At one time or another most of the German manufacturers have offered something along these lines to tantalize the public. Cars like the M5 Touring spring to mind, and even the M Coupe is like a little wagon. The British got in on the act with Aston Martin's eccentric Shooting Brake. However, Audi are the undisputed wagon daddies. They take the crown thanks to consistency and outright insanity.
If you're unsure about Audi's credentials, we assume you missed the 6/06 issue with the Audi RS family. In it we documented the lunatic lineage that stretches back to the Audi 80/90-based RS2. Launched in '94 and offering 315hp from a Porsche-tuned 2.2 liter five cylinder 20v, it was the fastest way to make a Labrador puke. They followed up with the 380hp B5 RS4, which is legendary throughout the world. More recently we got the 450hp RS6 and Audi has just announced a wagon version of the latest 420hp B7 RS4.
So if you want to get to the best snowboarding slopes before anybody else, an Audi wagon, or Avant, is what you need. And since none of the cool RS Avants have officially made it to the US yet, it's up to the tuners to do this for you. The A4 1.8T Avant has been a great tuning platform in B5, B6 and B7 variants. So we thought we'd gather three of the nicest Avants to scrutinize exactly what's possible with these cars.
All three embody slightly different approaches. One's a 12sec drag car, another is a widebody show car and the third is a daily driver - so there's something here for everybody.
'05 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant
Albert's 1.8T Avant is the wildest of the bunch. He currently co-owns The Wheel Supply in Walnut, CA. At TWS he spends most of his time building custom wheels and fine-tuning all types of cars, including his own Audi Avant and Porsche GT3. With its widebody conversion, enormous "dubs" and high-end stereo, Albert has built an unimaginable Avant for the street and show.
The project began when Albert imported rare Kerscher aerodynamics for his wagon. The bumpers and side skirts transformed the wagon's aesthetics into a menacing ghoul, with a large open-mouthed grin in the front and a sporty rear featuring dual exhaust openings. DTM Autohas provided a bser carbon hood to complete the ruthless appearance.
At this stage, Albert felt his Avant wasn't quite unique enough. He wanted to blow people's minds even if they weren't European car enthusiasts. Autowerks Body & Paint in El Monte, CA answered the call by fabricating metal flares that are 1.5" wider front and rear. The fenders made ample room for the staggered "dubs" setup. Albert constructed his own wheels through his associates at DCR Forged. After experimenting to find the proper sizes, Albert concluded that 20x9" fronts and 20x11" rears would do the job. The enormous five-spoke wheels were finished with black chrome centers and chrome lips. Wrapped in Pirelli P Zero Nero tires, they measure 245/30 front and 285/25 rear.
The ludicrous wheels warranted stronger braking, so Albert fitted StopTech's big brake kits to satisfy the Avant's weakness.
To produce more ponies, Albert switched out the factory turbo with an ATP kit utilizing a Garret GT2871R turbo. With Bosch 440cc injectors installed, Revo and Eurocode Tuning programmed the ECU. Cooling the intake air heading into the turbo was a one-off front-mount intercooler fabricated by Evolution Racewerks from City of Industry, CA. Finally a custom exhaust was designed to match the Kerscher rear bumper.
With all the work done, we have to admit we were drooling when Albert pulled up at our photo shoot. Peering inside, the saliva continued to flow when we saw the Recaro SRD seats and panels were reupholstered in elegant red leather. Looking up at the roof, we caught sight of the suede headliner.
Complementing the interior was a unique audio system. Albert admitted he's always been a stereo junkie and he planned the sound to be better than most home theaters. A rare Panasonic vacuum-tube CD player gleams from the console. The head unit has old-fashioned VU meters instead of digital displays. Mounted on the dash are two Swans ribbon-tweeters with integrated mid-bass drivers. On the doors are Premier 6.75" mid-bass speakers and the rear doors house Vifa tweeters and 6.5" mid-bass. The sub-bass is mastered by two 10" Focal subs in the trunk. The rear also houses three JL amps decorating the rear enclosure. Finally, an Image Dynamics equalizer adjusts the settings accordingly to Albert's personal taste.
Albert lives and breathes wild European cars. His Avant is proof he and his shop will go the extra mile to build cars beyond the norm. Stay tuned for more projects from TWS.
LOCATION: Irvine, CA
OCCUPATION: Co-owner of The Wheel Supply
2005 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant
ENGINE: 1.8 liter 20v four cylinder with ATP GT2871R turbo kit, manifold and downpipe, 440cc Bosch injectors, Revo/Eurocode software, Carbonio intake, custom exhaust, Evolution Racewerks front-mount intercooler
DRIVELINE: six-speed transmission
SUSPENSION: Bilstein PSS9 coilovers
WHEELS & TIRES: 20x9" front, 20x11" rear DCR Forged wheels, 245/30 and 285/25 Pirelli P Zero Nero tires
BRAKES: StopTech big brake kits front and rear
EXTERIOR: 1.5" metal fender flares, Kerscher aerodynamics, DTM Karbon carbon fiber hood
INTERIOR: reupholstered red leather, including Recaro SRD seats, suede headliner
AUDIO/VISUAL: Panasonic CQ-TX5500 vacuum-tube CD player, JL Audio 300/4, 500/1 and 300/2 amplifiers, four Premier 6.75" mid-bass, two Swans ribbon tweeters with integrated mid-bass, two prototype 10" Focal poly-kevlar subs, two Vifa silk-dome tweeter, two Vifa 6.5" mid-bass, two Image Dynamics 31-band mono equalizers
THANKS: www.thewheelsupply.com, Peter and Pedro at Autowerks Body & Paint, Andy at Pacific IE, Fred at Evolution Racewerks, Jay and Luis at Form & Function
'04 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant Ultrasport
Charlie Ashby of Huntington Beach, CA owns the fastest Avant of our group. It was factory-equipped with the rare Ultrasport package, comprising sportier aerodynamics, 18" wheels, sport suspension and a fancy leather steering wheel. Not many were sold in the US but Charlie was able to snag one from a dealership in Vegas.
So how fast can this wagon go? Charlie claims to have the world record for the fastest B6 Avant 1.8T with consistent low 12sec quarter mile passes.
Unleashing the 1.8T's potential wasn't a walk in the park. Charlie spent weeks researching his course of action. With the help of Eurocode Tuning he found the solution. "The big turbo conversions were hyped for about a year before they were released," he said. "Up to 350hp was claimed but the first ones didn't make that much. At that point I figured the turbo was good but the software and injectors were the problem. So I purchased the turbo from Eurocode, and Revo developed software to run with the turbo with Bosch 440cc injectors. After that the kits started selling like hotcakes."
From there, Charlie had to strengthen the engine to handle his need for speed. He withdrew factory internals in favor of a forged crank and rods, fastened by ARP hardware. He also installed forged JE pistons with a 9.1:1 compression ratio. "The built bottom end was easy to do but cost a lot of money. It's worth it, though, to have a bulletproof motor," he said.
Eurocode supplied its FMIC and test pipe, while Thermal R&D installed a 3" race exhaust featuring a dump tube on the downpipe for the track. A Neuspeed turbo inlet hose provides increased airflow into the turbo. Charlie also fabricated a custom hard pipe for the turbo outlet hose for additional reliability. Adjusting the boost levels was a piece of cake thanks to an A'PEXi AVC-R electronic boost controller that was mounted behind the steering wheel so it could be fine-tuned on the fly.
Superior handling represented another key ingredient. "Originally I wanted to build the car for road courses," Charlie said, "so I went with something reliable yet aggressive. The Tein SS coilover kit was best for me because of its height and damping adjustment." A Neuspeed 21mm anti-roll bar was fixed in the rear to cure the wagon's understeer.
Throughout the entire project, Charlie neglected braking performance. "The car was making a lot of power and running fast times but I was never able to stop the damn thing," he said. Eventually he retrofitted six-piston Cayenne calipers with ECS Tuning 14" drilled and slotted rotors.
So what about wheels? Like any enthusiast, Charlie's gone through an assortment before finding the right ones. "I started off with Sevas, then RS4 replicas. However, DPE always had my favorite designs and the boys hooked me up with their GT7 wheels. I was mainly into performance but also wanted to turn heads. I liked the staggered look with the big lips, so I went with a 10" rear to make it look aggressive."
"The exterior is nothing flashy. I wanted the OEM look with some clean wheels. The Ultrasport Avants look perfect off the lot," he said. The interior shares this minimalist principle. Carbon dash trim, TopSpin Design harnesses, OE RS4 pedals and a center-vent boost gauge added the necessary personalization and function for Charlie's driving comfort.
"You don't see many wagons breaking into the 12s. It's been special for me because I've worked so hard to accomplish everything, and Audi's aren't cheap!" And all that hard work has paid off, because now Charlie can say he's successfully built one of the fastest 1.8T Avants in the world.
LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA
OCCUPATION: Manager at The Lending Connection
2004 Audi A4 Avant 1.8T quattro UltraSport
ENGINE: 1.8 liter 20v four cylinder with forged crank and rods, ARP main bearing bolts and hardware, JE forged pistons with 9.1:1 compression, Euro-spec 20mm wrist pins, ATP GTRS Eliminator turbo kit with manifold, Revo/Eurocode software, Bosch 440cc injectors, Forge Motorsport 007 DV, Eurocode FMIC and test pipe, Thermal R&D 3" race exhaust and downpipe with custom dump tube, Neuspeed turbo inlet hose and snub mount, hard pipe turbo outlet hose, A'PEXi AVC-R E electronic boost controller, RS4 motor mounts
DRIVELINE: six-speed transmission, Eurocode 11 lb flywheel, SouthBend/Eurocode FE-series sprung-hub clutch disc and SS-series pressure plate, AMS short shifter
SUSPENSION: Tein Super Street coilovers, Neuspeed 21mm rear sway bar
WHEELS & TIRES: 19x8" front, 19x10" rear DP Engineering GT7 wheels, 235/30 and 265/30-19 Falken tires
BRAKES: ECS Tuning stage 4 big brake kit with Porsche Cayenne six-piston calipers, 13.9" two-piece floating cross-drilled & slotted rotors, steel braided brake lines, Hawk pads
EXTERIOR: OEM Ultrasport aerodynamics, DTM Karbon carbon hood
INTERIOR: carbon fiber trim, AWE center vent boost gauge, Momo shift knob, A'PEXi turbo timer, RS4 pedals
THANKS: Tamara, Eurocode Tuning, DPE, Anthony at Falken, Greg Folwer at DTH, Mike Hood, DTM Autohas, Lending Connection, Haji, Josh, my family
'02 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant
At 28, Lon Mok is on his seventh Euro. He's been a devotee since 16. His first modified car was a '86 Volvo 760 Turbo with IPD products. Maybe he got it from his father, who passed the car down to him and now owns a GTI 337 with a Jetta front-end. Nonetheless, Lon's enthusiasm has continued and if you run into him today he's probably wrenching on his '99 GTI VR6 project, or busy managing the socaleuro.com community and its successful events.
Lon's Avant is the most versatile of the three. He hasn't built the car to be a showstopper or speed demon - it's a wonderful mix of both. "I drive my car everywhere," Lon clarified. "It's definitely not a garage queen. It's seen 92k miles. The car has seen many autocrosses and laps of Streets of Willow. I also use it to transport stuff when I set up for SoCal Euro gatherings."
The perfect blend required substantial power. Having a 1.8T unleashed several options. "I've gone through the Euro-spec K04-E05 turbo and then a standard K04," Lon admitted. "In the end, the ATP GTRS Eliminator kit has shown the most potential."
Supporting the ATP turbo kit, Eurocode Tuning helped program the vehicle with custom-mapped Revo software. With the extra air blowing into the engine, Lon installed 440cc Bosch injectors to supplement fueling. Eurocode also provided its test pipe and FMIC for effective turbo performance. Finally, he had Magnaflow build an exhaust to reduce restrictions.
Though Lon's Avant is no stranger to the track, he also demanded comfort. And KW V2 coilovers provided the right balance of handling and comfort. He fitted H-Sport sway bars as well to reduce overall body roll.
Since Lon acquired the Avant he's cycled through several sets of wheels. "This is my eighth set and the fourth set of BBS. Ironically, it is my second set of BBS RS-GTs - the first were 18s. Some call me a wheel whore, but I admit wheels to me are like shoes to girls." Well, he's finally found his Jimmy Choos with 19x8.5" BBS RS-GTs.
Lon maintained a clean exterior. The Sportec front bumper and side skirts give a more aggressive yet clean appearance. He fitted a silver carbon hood from DTM Karbon with the paint feathered from the edges. An S4 rear bumper was also fitted.
The interior continued Lon's theme - a comfy pair of alcantara Topspin Design seats replaced the factory chairs. An AWE gauge was cleverly fitted in the center vent to monitor boost.
Lon confessed he's an enormous music fan. Before SoCalEuro.com he was a club organizer and promoter, and while there wasn't a reason to disrupt the factory audio system, he added more bass with a concealed Image Dynamics 10" subwoofer in the rear panel. A JBL amp was also hidden under the floor. This gives pleasure to his ears while allowing him to retain complete use of the trunk.
It's been four years since Lon started the project and he admits there have been several changes and many hours of toil to achieve the level it's at now, but he reassured us he's happy. "Maybe a new set of wheels," he joked.
LOCATION: San Diego, CA
OCCUPATION: Web Server Administrator
2002 Audi A4 1.8T quattro Avant
ENGINE: 1.8 liter 20v four cylinder with ATP GTRS eliminator kit and exhaust manifold, Revo/Eurocode software, Bosch 440cc injectors, Eurocode test pipe and FMIC, Neuspeed Xtreme turbo inlet pipe, Magnaflow exhaust and resonators, Evolution Motorsports diverter valve, AFE filter, Sun Auto Hyper Ground and Voltage kit
DRIVELINE: five-speed manual transmission, Stasis Motorsport 40/60 center differential, Advanced Motorsports short shifter kit
SUSPENSION: KW Variant 2 coilovers, H-Sport Audi S4 sway bars
WHEELS & TIRES: 19x8.5" BBS RS-GT wheels, 245/35-19 Toyo Proxes T1R tires
BRAKES: B6 Audi S4 brakes, Carbotech Bobcat pads
EXTERIOR: Sportec front bumper and skirts, S4 rear bumper and door blades, DTM Karbon silver-weave bser hood, Euro grille, OEM Ultrasport hatch spoiler, Euro HID headlights
INTERIOR: Topspin Design alcantara sport seats and 3" harnesses, S-line leather shift knob, AWE center vent boost gauge
AUDIO/VISUAL: hardwired Valentine 1 radar detector, Image Dynamics IDQ 10" subwoofer, JBL 300.1 amp
THANKS: Paul Chan and supporters of socaleuro.com, EuroCode Tuning, Chris and Stan at Toyo, Mike at Pure Motorsport, Stan at Topspin Design, Cory at Magnaflow, Troy at Group5motorsports, Sun Automotive, Sinful Enhancements body shop, my family