This 2018 Audi A4 Allroad reminds us of a time when America was all about the station wagon. It was hailed as a popular family hauler through much of the 20th century, right up until the '80s when the minivan craze hit, followed by the introduction of the SUV in the '90s. Today, we're seeing the SUV and crossover markets dominate sales, while wagon sales continue to decline and the only model that seems to do well is the tree hugging Outback (no offense, Subaru).
In the U.S., when it comes to cool, quick wagons, there aren't too many options, which is why Tyler Setterstrom of Pacific German in Laguna Hills, Ca, took matters into his own hands. He set out to build the ultimate Audi wagon by combining the practicality and size of a 2018 A4 Allroad with the turbocharged quattro performance of a 2018 S4 sedan.
FAMILY BUSINESS SPAWNS AUDI DIEHARD
Tyler is the epitome of a die-hard Audi enthusiast. A decade ago, in high school, his first car was an Imola yellow B5 S4. From there, he would go on to own a B7 S4, B8.5 S4, B8.5 RS5, and both the 8J and 8S TT RS. Much of his love for the four rings comes from being in the family business where the Setterstrom's run Pacific German - a service, repair and performance shop that specializes in Audis, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Bentleys and VWs. Tyler is the performance director there and as you can imagine, he gets to play with a lot of sweet cars and interesting projects, which brings us to the shop's V6T-converted Allroad.
HOW THE ALLROAD IDEA STARTED
Audi offers a wagon model in the U.S., but getting their cream-of-the-crop S4, RS4 or RS6 Avant ('Avant' means 'wagon' in Audi speak) has been nothing but wet dreams for wagon fans. The last high-performance wagon Audi offered stateside was in 2008,, with the 340hp, 4.2L V8 S4. That sucks because in Europe, you can walk into an Audi dealership tomorrow and buy a B9 S4 Avant. Here, the Audi A4 Allroad is our best option, which is why Tyler decided to take matters into his own hands. He explains, "A friend of mine worked at the local Audi dealer and had both a 2018 S4 V6 turbo and a 2018 Allroad 2.0T on the lot, both in Mythos Black. I quickly headed over to check 'em out. The idea was to pick up a nice daily and to load the rest of the cash into a house. I arrived and he had both cars side by side. Immediately the idea hit me, 'why not buy both and make the only S4 wagon in North America?!' I signed the papers and drove both cars home that night. There wasn't any research into the project beforehand, but it had to work since they were the same platform, right? Fast forward and I still don't own a house, but I have a really cool car!"
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE ALLROAD AND S4
Let's breakdown both vehicles first... The 2018 A4 Allroad isn't a terrible whip to begin with. It's powered by a zippy 252hp and 273lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder matched with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic and Audi's signature quattro AWD. The engine is the same powerplant used in the A4, A5, A6, Q5 and Q7 - basically it's a well-proven and popular engine that Audi knows will satisfy the majority of its buyers. And with up to 58.5 cubic feet of cargo space, you can pretty much haul anything your heart desires at a starting MSRP of $44,500 (2020 model now starts at $44,600).
Now, segway to the 2018 S4 and you begin to understand what's going on in Tyler's head. The S4 uses a 3.0-liter single-turbo V6 that puts down 354hp and 369lb-ft of torque via an eight-speed automatic tranny. It features a rear-biased 40/60 AWD quattro that gets 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds, a full second faster than its A4 counterpart. Acceleration and handling are its two best attributes and with a starting MSRP of $50,900 (2020 model now starts at $49,900), it certainly was a top pick among sporty European sedans. Of course, having this kind of performance with the versatility and look of the wagon is ultimately what Tyler wanted, so he got to work once both vehicles were in his possession.
SWAPPING EVERYTHING OVER
According to Tyler, the A4 Allroad and S4 are basically the same chassis so all the mechanical bits swap right over. Both vehicles were stripped naked with no engines, computers, control modules, wiring, suspension, instrument displays, interior, etc. If you can imagine, at one point, the gutted Allroad and S4 were both on dollies at the shop with their hundreds of components sitting on the ground. "There was a point when I had both body harnesses lying on the ground as I was sectioning the wagon parts out to move to the S4 sedan harness. I realized there was no turning back."
Tyler explains that it's pretty much a straightforward swap except for the body panels. So, why not just swap the engine for engine, right? "There were huge differences in the body wiring harness that prevents just an engine swap like you can do with older cars. Plus, I wanted this to be 100% California smog legal, so it had to be done the right way without any weird wiring jobs."
NO NEED FOR CUSTOM FABRICATION
We were curious if there was any custom fabrication needed and Tyler revealed it wasn't necessary and that everything remains mostly OEM. This S4-converted Allroad could be serviced by any Audi technician without any hurdles. The custom parts that did need to be made were mostly aesthetic, such as the RS-style honeycomb grille up front and the Milltek exhaust that was modified with turndown tips to retain the factory rear valance.
MORE S4 & RS4 VIBES
Aside from the powertrain, it's important to notice that there are more S4 and RS4 ingredients that make this Allroad unique. The interior is stunning in its red diamond-stitched leather attire - not Allroad upholstery but swapped in from the S4. There's also some European RS4 bits sprinkled in such as the roof rails, window trim, steering wheel and hatch spoiler. Simple but very effective. Allroads came with a boring cloth headliner so Tyler took it upon himself to reupholster his in black suede to continue the premium packaging.
Much of the beauty of this build is that it's very OEM; however, there were a handful of things which required Tyler dip into the aftermarket to up the ante of his Allroad. The biggest difference makers are the KW V3 coilovers and Brembo front big brake kit, necessary upgrades for a better ride height, stiffer handling and impeccable stopping power. He's also added 034Motorsport's catalog of suspension parts including bushing inserts, sway bars and struts bars. Last but not least are the 20-inch Rotiform wheels which follow the theme of the vehicle gracefully.
150 HOURS BUT DRIVES LIKES OEM
At the time of our photoshoot, Tyler's Avant was tuned to the sound of 440hp on 91-octane pump gas. Using Dragy Motorsports GPS Performance Box, he recorded a 3.7-second 0-60mph and a 11.8-second quarter-mile. Since then, he's increased power to 500hp with the help of ethanol, though he points out that it's not the wagon's ability to race from stoplight to stoplight that makes it so special - rather it's the OEM reliability. "I have about 150 hours into the wagon conversion, start to finish. The main hurdles were figuring out the wiring and tons of control module programming. This swap wouldn't be possible without the factory scan tool, which we luckily have, and a lot of time was spent online with Audi Germany adapting modules to be happy in the new chassis. The finished product runs and drives exactly as if Audi had sold the car themselves - no warning lights, faults or errors. The greatest thing about this car is that it's actually CARB (California Air Resources Board) compliant for emissions testing. I originally left the engine stock and went through the process to ensure it was done right in California since they are picky about emissions. Any Audi dealer or Audi certified technician can work on this car as if it was just an S4. I also wanted to show that if any potential buyers wanted this car, we can do so without any shady paperwork."
WOULD YOU BUY ONE?
Tyler's Allraod is the only B9 chassis S4-powered wagon in the western hemisphere, and it's technically the only "Allroad V6 Turbo" in the world. But to hold this sort of title does come at a cost... "Between buying two new cars, 150 hours of labor, and all of the upgrades, it would cost $140-150k to replicate this car in the exact way that I did. If someone were to look for used cars and didn't go as overboard on the parts list, it can certainly be done for less, but what fun is that!?" Precisely, right? Maybe you could wait for the upcoming 600hp RS6 Avant to make its way to the U.S. next year, but like Tyler said, "what fun is that?". The A4 Allroad is the perfect size for most wagon fans and having the proper powertrain along with factory-like drivability has made this project car one-of-a-kind and the ultimate Audi Allroad.
More wonderful wagons in Super Street history to check out, too:
M3-powered BMW wagon from the Pacific Northwest
BMW Diesel wagon on TE37 wheels
Bisimoto makes history with an AWD and turbocharged Honda Civic wagon