Feature: The Little Red Grocery Getter

By James Mackintosh, 07 November 2011

A station wagon?  Bleh.  Are we catering to the soccer mom market now?  No, no we are not.  What we have here is a shining example of a balanced combination of form, function, and utility:  a lightly modified Audi (B6) S4 Avant Quattro.  This little red wagon is owned by none other than Matt Welliver, who's 360+whp Cobalt SS Turbo I featured previously.

Matt has made a name for himself in the Ecotec tuning community, one of the go-to guys for custom tunes to make big, reliable power out of GM's little overhead-cam four cylinder.  So what is he doing driving a big, naturally aspirated Audi station wagon?

In his own words: "I wanted something more grown up, yet still entertaining."  I can't blame him.  While the Cobalt SS was a nasty little turbocharged monster, when you're pushing towards the big 3-0 and have an adorable little baby girl, I can see a boosted GM compact getting old pretty quickly.

Now, the Cobalt was abnormally fast.  It usually didn't any have grip in second gear, even with sticky Nitto NT-05's and an LSD.  It put more torque to the wheels than a lot of bolt-on 5.7L LS1 cars.  So from the perspective of a 360whp, 2,900lb car, most everything will feel slow.  But still, a B6 S4 is no slouch.  With a 4.2L 32v V8 literally crammed in the engine bay and a six-speed manual pushing 340 crank horsepower (267whp and 256wtq on an AWD dyno) to all four wheels, this little grocery getter will still scoot.

For now, the 4.2L V8 is stock performance-wise, with the exception of the stock exhaust resonators being deposited in a dumpster where they belong, as well as a polyeurothane "snub" mount (front motor mount) to limit deflection under load.  A LaBree exhast is currently on it's way from somewhere in Europe which gives the V8 a ridiculously throaty sound.  Future modification plans include an Apikol rear differential mount, JHM short shift kit, JHM Piggies, a Unitronic tune, and maybe a 100 shot of nitrous.  There is relatively little aftermarket support for Audi's 4.2L V8, so you make do with what you can get.

The biggest modification is to the stance of the car.  The S4 sits remarkably closer to earth thanks to a set of KW Variant 3 coilovers.  If you're not familiar with aftermarket suspension technology, these are pretty much top of the heap for street coilovers - they offer a wide range of height adjustment, infinitely adjustable rebound damping, 14-way compression damping, and remote reservoirs.  The wheels are worth mentioning, as well:  VMR V710 (e.t. 33) in a fairly massive 19x9.5" all around, mounting 245/35/19" tires.

Stanced cars are all the rage these days, but it's nice to see a European car on a set of top-notch coilovers and wheels that isn't slammed in the dirt to the point of uselessness.  This suspension setup is absolutely amazing, and worth every penny of the somewhat absurd asking price.  Ride quality is actually better than a stock S4, despite being 3+" lower to the ground.  Body roll is nonexistant, and even with big 19" wheels, suspension control over bumps is immaculate.  A set of B7 RS4 sway bars are in the works for the future as well.

The current S4 is a big step up from these old V8-powered cars in a lot of ways.  They're faster, despite having less horsepower and consuming a LOT less fuel.  The aftermarket support is (or will be, they're still fairly new) greater - a retune and an underdrive pulley for the 3.0L's supercharger yields an amount of power that lots of expensive tinkering in a 4.2L never could.  Still, these cars have a unique appeal.

There is a lot of torque.  Not like Mercedes AMG 6.2L V8 torque; mind you this is just a 4.2L engine.  But in the small B6 chassis, it has low-end grunt to spare.  It's the character and sound of the the powertrain that really sticks in your mind.  Audi's V8 has been around a while - since 1988 in 3.6L form in Europe, actually - but it's still smooth as silk, with an inimitable growl to it.  If you're wondering what a LaBree exhaust on a B6 S4 sounds like, here's a sample:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_Lu_tBcUPA

The interior on the S4 is typical Audi - wonderful.  The leather heated Recaros are just about as good as factory seats gets, the stereo is great, and the level of fit and finish (even after 100k miles) is spot-on.  Inside the car, the cammy roar of the V8 is muted but still mean - especially when the intake valves open up around 5,500rpms.  I expect it will sound mental with the new exhaust that's on the way.  Then there's the fact that it's a wagon, which you don't really notice until you look behind you, or you're going to IKEA for some furniture, and you don't have to borrow your friend's truck.  There's probably more cabin noise than in a sedan, but it's so well-insulated as to be a non-issue.  Plus, plenty of room for nitrous!

Image from Audizine user YT1300

The S4's stock brakes are mighty strong, but here they're augmented with aggressive CarboTech brake pads - XP 10 in front and XP8 in rear.  They squeal when cold or at low speed, but hitting the binders in the S4 feels like dropping anchor.  Overall, the car is a strong combination of head-turning looks, uniqueness, performance, and comfort/luxury.  It might not light up the tires in the lower gears like his last car, but when it comes to an all-around daily driver, it's hard to beat.  Plus, it frees up some time for a project - maybe something boosted and ridiculously fast, without the need for routine considerations.

I asked Matt a few questions about his car - the answers are below.

CT: So this S4 replaced a particularly nasty Cobalt.  What do you like better about it?Matt Welliver:  "It's refined, gets me away from the whole "tuner car" scene, the ride is better - it's just a completely different world for me, and I love it."

And what did you like better about the Cobalt?"The power.  That's really about the only thing that was better than the S4.  That, and it's cheaper to fix."

What don't you like about the S4?"The gas mileage, and maintenance costs.  That's really about it, not much else to dislike.  Other than that it feels slow compared to the SS."

What are some of your favorite things about the S4?"The interior - especially the Recaros, the KW V3's, and the exhaust note is gorgeous.  It's just a lot more refined, which is nice."

What car would you like to have next?"Oh lord, that's a tough question.  Honestly, if I had the money, I'd get a B7 RS4."

Any interest in a project car in the future?"I'd like to have another 1G DSM.  My last one had a Buscher Racing 2.4L stroker motor, a 100 shot of nitrous, T66 turbo, 262 camshafts, tuned like a champ - made 580awhp without spray, 740 with the nitrous - ran 10.2. in the quarter and would light up all four drag slicks.  Having another one to play with would be fun."

Future plans for the S4?"A catback exhaust, intake, tune, longtube headers, downpipes, Porsche Cayenne 6-pot Brembo brakes, a 75 or 100 shot of nitrous, and other little stuff.  Some RS4 swaybars, a short shifter, you know.  It's really great the way it is, just want a little more power and noise."

Thanks Matt!  A video with the LaBree exhaust is definitely in the works.

Details:

Car: 2005 Audi S4 Avant QuattroEngine: 4.2L DOHC 40v (5v/cyl) V8Transmission/Drivetrain: 6 speed manual, Torsen Quattro permanent AWDPower: 340bhp crank, 267hp at the wheelsTorque: 302lb-ft crank, 256lb-ft at the wheels

Internal Engine Modifications: noneExternal Engine Modifications: de-resonated stock exhaust

Suspension modifications: KW Variant 3 remote-reservoir coiloversWheels/Tires: VMR V710, 19x9.5 (ET 33), 245/35/ZR19Brake Modifications: Carbotech brake pads (XP10 front, XP8 rear)

 

Bonus: apparently some of the pictures I shot of Matt's car wound up on VMR Wheel's website, which is pretty neat.  Check them out here - the last three.

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