Buying used: Audi RS4

Buying used: Audi RS4
Buying used: Audi RS4

The quick, practical and stylish estate – still a class act

It was codenamed B5, but that’s no indication of what came before. It was launched in 1999 and only about 500 examples came to the UK in the two years the car was in production. That’s quite a small window, quite a small number of cars. And quite a big impression.

It was an estate car and then some. The lines hinted at this with the beefy wheelarches, loud colours and squat stance. They hinted at the 2.7-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine that Cosworth worked on to produce 375bhp. With 62mph coming up in just 4.9 seconds, this was a truly exhilarating way to carry the family around or go to the tip.

By today’s standards there is a bit of turbo lag, and the Recaro seats are really rather hard, and so is the ride. This was a car from the beginning of this century and in a few places it shows, like with the optional and rather primitive sat nav.

However, it also has the quattro all-wheel drive system keeping things secure, and transmission was by a delightful six-speed manual gearbox that will still feel a pleasure to use today. The engine was so solid it could take more power, up to 600bhp, but we’d advise against going for a hotted-up version. Instead, go for a stock car and enjoy one of the most exhilarating estates of the day.

So what would this motoring enjoyment cost? The short answer seems to be that you can get one for £12,000 but that probably won’t be the end of your spending spree. If you have about double that then you’re looking at a low-mileage car in sound condition. Prices are creeping up, so you could view this as a potential investment. Or you could just enjoy it.

One reason you can enjoy it is that not much goes wrong. They’re built very solidly indeed, with no stand-out horrors at all. A few cars suffered from prematurely wearing camshafts and nobody seems to know why. More likely are leaks and failing hoses for the intercooler and oil cooler, and you’ll know if you have a turbo problem because they become whistlers, when good ones run very silently.

This is such a good car that if you spot rust on the bodywork it’s probably a sign of crash damage rather than normal wear and tear. Check for worn suspension, parking damage, kerbed alloys and just the usual stuff. And that’s it.

So let’s break down those prices a bit more. Here are the sort of budget figures you need for the relevant age and condition:

£16,000-19,995: At this price you’re looking at second time round the clock, some rebuild history, and probably some more work to be done.
£20,000-22,995: This should get you a full service history and a car that has been looked after, although it will probably still be a high-miler.
£23,000-26,995: Well refurb’d models, low-mileage examples, everything with full history – this is the area if you can afford the peace of mind.
£27,000 and up: There seems to be a gap between around the £25k mark and then it jumps to about £34k. There’s little justification for such prices given how good the cars are around the £25k area, but this is perhaps a sign of a car that some consider is going to notably appreciate in value.

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