May 7, 2002

Feature Car: RS4 Sedan
Article and Photos by: Jamie Vondruska

Ideally, we would all own several cars. While each person's garage might contain different vehicles, a few species would turn up regularly. Everyone needs a basic grocery getter: the car that goes from 'A' to 'B' in style and comfort. In some areas, a winter beater: a 4x4 or all-wheel drive car to get a driver through some of the worst weather conditions without white knuckles. For us enthusiasts, a race car: something fast, but more importantly, something responsive and fun.

For one reason or another, many of us only own one automobile - it is the ultimate compromise. Can one car do everything well? Rob Fox in the Chicago-area thinks he may have found the solution.

Rob's car started life as a 2000 Audi S4. Bone stock, the S4 twin-turbo 2.7 liter V6 produces 250 horsepower and about 260 ft-lbs. of torque. It also has upgraded brakes and stiffer suspension compared to the A4. Other key touches include a perfect three-spoke steering wheel, six speed manual transmission, and sport seats with black leather bolsters and silver alcantara inserts. For these reasons, the S4 often makes people's short list of cars to buy. For Rob, it seemed to be a good foundation.

In stock form, the car is luxurious and smooth. Most of the shortcomings of the stock Audi S4, however, become apparent when the car is tracked or even just driven hard. The power delivery is ample, but almost too smooth. There isn't any peakiness; no RPM range where the engine seems to be at its best. It feels as if the engine has been slightly "detuned" to allow for more passenger comfort. The brakes, which stop very well the first few times, exhibit excessive fade when asked to repeat their performance more frequently, as one might do on a road course. Although the springs are stiffer than those on an A4, Rob felt they were still too soft for aggressive cornering. Body roll is readily apparent and robs ultimate grip--which is already in short supply because of tires that were chosen for noise level rather than traction. Rob felt that while the car is a great all-arounder it just lacks an edge, and doesn't seem to be built for the hardcore driving enthusiast.

Many of these characteristics can be changed with the right performance parts. A few cannot--like the car's weight, for instance. At about 3600 pounds, it is significantly heavier than a standard A4. This taxes every aspect of performance. Since stripping his car of all comfort, luxury, and safety was not an option (can you blame him?), another solution needed to be found. Wider tires are one answer, but limitations in the stock wheel wells dictate otherwise - even 235mm tires can be a tight squeeze on an S4. However, the "not-for-America" Audi RS4, an uber-wagon still based on the A4, has flared fenders with 255mm wide tires at each corner. Rob took a leap of faith and decided to take this course--to do what was necessary to turn our S4 into a pseudo-RS4 sedan.

Factory RS4 panels were a required choice for the widebody process. A "kit" with fiberglass panels glued in place simply would not afford the longevity or subtleness that factory steel can provide according to Rob. Bumpers, front fenders, rear passenger doors, rear quarter panels, side skirts, and miscellaneous other parts were delivered from Europe. Most of these were simply exchanged with the original S4 pieces. In the case of the rear quarter panels, the car went under the knife. The original quarters were measured precisely and cut away. The RS4 quarters were welded in place. Significant custom modification and fabrication had to be done to ensure structural rigidity, where the rear wheel housings and the quarter panels meet. The rear bumper was similarly custom-the RS4 only comes in "Avant," or wagon, form. The sedan's rear section was mated to the RS4's flares to produce a unique bumper that bridges the gap between RS4 Avant and S4 sedan.

The result of all this craziness? One of the most beautiful and striking Audi S4s we've ever seen. The factory pieces blend in so well to the stock bodywork that the casual observer probably wouldn't even notice the first time they look at the car. Yet, upon closer inspection you start to notice the beautifully flared fenders pulled taught over the wheels, wide sills that mate the front and rear flares perfectly, and that unmistakable front end. Even VW and Audi diehards walk past this car, stop, and spin on one foot to take another look with a is-that-what-I-think-it-is look on their face. This car gives new definition to the term "sleeper" and we love the way it works.

With newfound roominess inside the fenders, appropriate wheels and tires were needed. 25mm H&R Trak+ hub spacers bolted in at each corner provided the necessary offset correction to allow an ample wheel selection. A stunning BBS RXII wheels in 18" x 10" (!) size dressed in 265/35 P-Zero Asimmetrico tires helped fill in the new wheel wells. For the track, Rob uses a set of 20 pound 18" x 9" SSR Integral wheels with DOT legal race tires also in 265/35. In the off-season (yes, Rob drives it in the snow!), it is equipped with 17" x 8" BBS RX wheels with 235/45 Bridgestone Blizzak LM-22 high performance winter tires.

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