If you want a sporty B7 Audi A4, you have two choices; you go for the cheaper option of the S4, or push the boat out and plump for the RS4, which uses a higher-revving version of Audi’s 4.2-litre V8.
What you might not know, however, is that there’s a lesser-known third way: the A4 DTM. It’s likely to have snuck under your radar because Audi only made 250 of the things in right-hand drive, making it arguably a more interesting car than both the S4 and the RS4. And slower.
Lift the bonnet, and you’ll find a petite 2.0-litre inline-four turbo. It’s the same engine used in the MkV VW Golf GTI and other A4s, but is lightly tweaked to bring the output to 217bhp. That power is sent to all four wheels via a Torsen centre diff.
The ride is dropped by 20mm on a set of new springs and there are cross-drilled brake discs. Mechanically, that’s it. You get some new vents on the outside (they’re fake, but I’m OK with that), along with a new carbonfibre front splitter, a rear diffuser (complete with because racecar red tow hook) and carbon boot spoiler.
There are some 18-inch, 15-spoke wheels on the outside, while on the inside there’s yet more carbon and lashings of Nardia microfibre, which looks and feels a lot like Alcantara.
You get the picture: this celebration of Audi’s 2004 DTM success isn’t some monstrous racer for the road. And sure enough, the 0-60mph time of 7.1 seconds doesn’t suggest something that’ll set your hair on fire with each prod of the throttle.
But, after spending a couple of weeks with Audi UK’s heritage fleet example, I really warmed to the car. Part of that is down to the interior - even with the super sporty additions, there’s an understated elegance to it that Audi cabins have lost in recent years, and it helps that this mint one has somehow only covered 8000 miles. But there’s also plenty to like about the way it goes.
The 2.0-litre inline-four turbo engine is an absolute peach - I love it in my own MkV VW Golf GTI, t’other Matt is fond of the one in his Skoda Octavia vRS, and hooked up to an all-wheel drive system, it’s especially effective. There’s no scrabbling around here: just bags of traction off the line in the wet or the dry.
It’ll pull keenly from about 2000rpm, and while there’s little point in cranking it all the way around to the red line, it makes a decent noise if you do so. A nicer, more muscular din than the newer EA888, anyway.
Shifting gears is a joy too, and that isn’t just because the knob is clad in that not-Alcantara stuff. There’s a surprising amount of heft to the change and a short throw. And when you’re going back down a few cogs, you’ll find a set of pedals that are nicely spaced for a little rev-matching.
The Torsen T2-based all-wheel drive system has a 50:50 torque split, and that makes for some fairly one-dimensional handling. If you’re loaded up in a tight corner and being greedier with the throttle than you should be, you might just feel a little nudge from the rear axle, but that’s your lot.
There’s not a lot of life in the light steering, but that’s entirely expected. As is the quality of the ride - like many quicker Audi products of the era it’s firm and at times crashy, but the stiff setup does at least mean body roll is reasonably contained.
Crucially, though, the A4 DTM is up for being thrown around a little. Yes, this is from a time when sportier Audi models had a tendency to understeer more than you’d like, and that’s something the DTM is guilty of, but its front end is far keener than that of the S4. That’s the penalty you pay for having a dirty-great V8 mounted rather far forward.
This leads us to an interesting comparison. Thanks to the rarity factor, you should expect to pay around the same for a DTM as an S4 of the same vintage. Potentially more. And on the face of it, shelling out the same for something with an engine that’s less than half the size with half the cylinder count and around 100bhp less to play with sounds absurd. But I think there’d be some logic to such a decision.
It’s not just down to the added agility. You’re getting something that’s cheaper to service, cheaper to run (you can nudge 40mpg on a run if you’re careful) and should hold or even increase its value. Plus, despite being something a little special and historically significant, you can pick one up for around £6000. Not bad considering it was £29,980 12 years ago - the equivalent of over £40k in today’s money. Other than the BMW 320si - another touring car tie-in - there isn’t much else around that ticks all those boxes.