If you’re into fast Audi station wagons, you probably know that the automaker tends to save its best models for Europe. For years, the story has gone roughly the same: Audi creates fast wagon; Audi does not sell fast wagon in America. This has been true for several generations of the RS6, the RS4, the original RS2 and even the most recent S4 models.
Here’s the background: In the early 2000s, Audi started selling a few more performance cars in America. There was a V8-powered S4 that debuted in 2002, the super-fast RS6 sedan released in 2003 and the ultra-rare S6 Avant, a limited-production wagon sold only in 2002 and 2003 that most people have forgotten about. Many people remember the turbocharged 5-cylinder S6 from the 1990s, and it’s hard to forget the 2007-2011 model with the Lamborghini V10, but the 2002-2003 S6 Avant has slipped under the radar.
This is probably because the S6 Avant was overshadowed by the 450-horsepower RS6, which at the time was one of the most powerful sedans in the world. But the S6 Avant shouldn’t be overlooked, because it was pretty cool in its own right.
The main reason I like the Audi S6 Avant is its subtlety. Despite fairly standard station-wagon looks, it used a 340-hp 4.2-liter V8, which propelled it to 60 miles per hour in around 6 seconds. It also offered standard all-wheel drive and a tremendously well-constructed interior, like all Audi models of its day. It was, when it debuted, an impressive sleeper.
In the used-car world, however, the S6 Avant suffered some problems. Transmission failure was rampant, as it was with the RS6 — both models used a Tiptronic automatic that couldn’t handle these cars’ power over the long term. And the S6 Avant suffers from the famous timing-chain tensioner issue that also befell the same-era S4.
In other words, only buy an S6 Avant if you’re comfortable working on it yourself — or if it’s already had any transmission problems addressed and there’s no timing-chain rattle in earshot. You may have to do some digging to find one: There are only eight currently listed on Autotrader, with an average price of just over $9,000 — not a bad deal for a V8-powered Audi wagon (assuming, of course, that it works). Find a 2002 Audi S6 for sale
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