Growing up in the 80’s had many perks…it was this sort of hybrid time-period between the raucous simplicity of the 70’s mixed with the blossoming digital frontier-age of the 80’s that seemed to permeate through every part of our lives. Sitcoms made a comeback, game shows ruled supreme, MTV, John Hughes films and of course glamrock hair bands. Fun fact: The 80’s also carried with it the highest density of one-hit wonders than any other decade. You know them when you hear them… A-ha’s “Take on Me”, Toni Basil’s “Mickey” and “Come on Eileen” by none other than Dexys Midnight Runners. Wait, who?
No this is not a setup for the DeLorean DMC-12, the Buick Grand National GNX or the Pontiac Fiero…all great one-hit wonders in their own right. Although if we ever cover those in detail I may have to copy and paste the lead-in paragraph. No, this is for a much newer creation from our friends in Germany, specifically in a 37000 sq. ft. facility in Neckarsulm.
We’re talking about the very limited production 2003 Audi RS 6 Quattro. Yes, very specifically the 2003, as that was the first and last year that North America would ever see the all-wheel drive V8 bi-turbo modern classic. If you’re looking around the corner or over its shoulder searching for some sleek low-slung mid-engine 2-seater, you can stop looking. This is it, in all it’s 4-door sedan glory.
What you don’t see hiding under the rather conventional sedan sheetmetal is a 4.2L DOHC bi-turbo V8 good for 450hp and a tree-stump pulling 415 pound-feet of torque. The RS (Renn-Sport) line is Audi’s way of saying to Porsche, the BMW M-division, and the Mercedes AMG-division…we see your horsepower and raise you 50. They are all handbuilt in the same factory (save the TT RS) and all are the essence of understated awesomeness.
At the time the RS 6 went to market in the U.S., it was the most powerful sedan ever sold Stateside. That was, until the supercharged 469-hp Mercedes E55 AMG entered the scene later that year. Though in no way does that take away from the RS’s 4.6 seconds run to 60 or the 174mph top speed numbers.
Recalling MotorTrend’s review at the time, “Strange as this may sound, its acceleration feels supple yet brutal at the same time. The Tip trans works great, too, responding quickly to paddle commands with no slop between shifts. Some might think the steering too heavy, but it’s very direct, with great feel.” Upfront are very large 8-piston calipers over vented disc rotors and a Dynamic Ride Control on the suspension. You can usually recognize it from afar as it not being a normal A6…mostly due to enhanced front and rear fascias and the bulging wheel arches.
So back to that 5-speed tiptroinc transmission mentioned earlier…unfortunately the automatic is all we would see in the 1,435 imported to the States (*source from Audi of America). Audi didn’t have a manual at the time to handle the torque output. And ironically, over the years transmission failures have plagued some of these cars as they age. But, if ever it does present a problem you can either replace with a stronger unit or do a manual transmission swap which some have done. The DRC has also given some a few sleepless nights as well but overall, the engineering is solid and maintenance is normal 14 year old Audi maintenance. For less than $20000 in today’s dollars, it’s one of the best bargains in the rising modern classic market you can find.