2001 Audi S4 2.7L twin turbo from North America
A car reserved for a special type of car enthusiast
Throttle body boot tore. Common issue, $40 and a half hour to replace (if left torn this will destroy the turbochargers).
Rear wheel bearing. $35 for bearing, $50 for pressing, took about six hours.
Coolant temperature sensor. $55 for OEM part. An hour to replace.
EGT sensor failure (passenger side). Jumpered bad sensor signal wire into good sensor output. About an hour of work.
Primary driver's side O2 sensor failure. Yet to replace, likely $80 and an afternoon.
Many of the reviews on this site for this car are from long ago, when the car was still newer. Some even mention dealer servicing. Well, it is a different time now. It needs to be viewed from a different perspective.
The B5 S4 is still considered one of the higher-performance cars on the road today. It is an incredibly complex car for its time, and even compared against today's vehicles is quite a technological showpiece. My friend, the previous owner, says it has "max everything: max turbos, max gears, max drive wheels, max power." He is, of course, referring to it against its contemporaries. In the early-mid 2000s, this was a car all the turbo tuning people talked about, regardless of their prejudices.
The performance, especially straight line, is phenomenal. The tuning potential is very high, and you will find very few unmodified cars since a simple chip/computer flash can get you almost 100 lb/ft more torque from the engine. The handling, unless you invest in a high-end suspension system (Bilstein PSS9 and above), is not even close to a serious sports car, à la BMW M3, Porsche 911, Mazda RX-7TT. It's fairly heavy -- it has poor weight distribution with a gigantor engine mostly ahead of the front axle -- and it feels like it. Even then, you will find most former or current owners of this car who have also owned or do own "serious" sports cars still say they love the B5 S4; that it's just "different." It is really a pleasure to drive on a day-to-day basis. It makes you feel like king of the road with the grip and hilarious torque wave. The handling isn't bad, either. It just doesn't deliver precision when you're at the limit. In the snow it is typical Audi awesome.
That said, it requires a special breed of car person to not have a horrible experience owning one of these, now 15 years since the end of their production. Here is the question I put to those considering buying one: if an intake hose tore and blew off while driving, would you understand the problem immediately and consider this a roadside repair, or would you have it towed to a shop to diagnose and fix? This car is for the first type -- the guy that hears a small noise and immediately begins running through the possibilities of what it could be. These are very sophisticated; a small boost or coolant leak could easily cascade into a blown turbo or cracked head respectively, both of which require engine removal and thousands of dollars just in parts. You'll always have a mental list of future repairs in order of priority.
I won't get into all the things that can go wrong on this car. The list is long, well established in forums and buyer's guides, and some items are very expensive. The most common major failure as these get up in mileage are the turbochargers. Anything that places additional stress on them will hasten their demise: chipping/flashing, boost leaks, infrequent oil changes, not allowing warm up and cool down, wailing on them constantly. Some turbos make it to 200,000 miles. Not usually "enthusiast" driven cars. Expect, in parts, $2000 minimum to replace them, $3000+ if you want to upgrade to a more durable (and powerful) factory type, and the engine must be removed for any turbocharger service. This can be a very intimidating project for a novice, and one that even some non-enthusiast mechanics will balk at simply because they don't want to deal with the agony.
That all out of the way, this is a very unique, very awesome-to-drive car. The fuel mileage sucks. The boost comes on fast, and you'll be laughing every time you blow away a 996 on the freeway. Don't let forum horror stories scare you -- this is one of the most rewarding cars to own, period. No, it's not a Honda, but it is still just a car.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 23rd September, 2015