Cast your mind back to 2000, a little tricky for me I was 5. However Audi’s first Rennsport model, the Porsche co-designed RS2 was over the hill, was this just a flash in the pan? Oh no Audi were just getting started. Audi had started with a pretty good recipe in the RS2 with a 2.2 litre 5 cylinder. However their new base from the B5 S4 was graced with 6 cylinders 2 turbos and 261bhp. Not bad for 1999 however this was just the base for what was going to become one of the most tuned and iconic engines Audi has ever produced. Quattro GMBH Audi’s then junior performance division set to work enlisting British tuners Cosworth to develop the already good S4 engine into something truly remarkable and boy did they deliver. The engine returned with 375bhp and 440nm of torque and the gift of twin KO4 turbos. Meaning plenty more power could be had with some very minor tweaks, this was a cult car from the very start. However they were absolute pigs to work on with even routine jobs involving an engine drop at great expense. The cars were somewhat delicate from the start with exhaust cams wearing for unknown reasons at random mileages, however upgrades from LOBA were often used by owners.
The bodywork got some tweaks too, bold blistered arches made the car look mean with an aggressive stance like a bouncer, just waiting for you to step a foot out of place. Add this to the wide 18” wheels, beefy 360mm front brakes and the oval exhausts at the rear you knew you were looking at something very very special. The UK market was pretty small for the B5 RS4 with little over 500 units making their way across from Germany. All of which were pre-ordered and sold the second their tyres touched UK tarmac. So what are they like to drive? Well my car was not a standard example it was modified by QS Tuning who installed Milltek down-pipes a matching cat-back exhaust , Porsche 4 pot rear brakes at 330mm and 380nn Porsche 4 pot fronts ( however I swapped these out for b7 RS4 8 pots and 380mm discs). This coupled to their stage 3 map and power developed circa 460bhp. The car was typical of its era, very raw and unforgiving in its delivery. You plant your foot and wait for both turbos to spool, before a violent surge hits you and the car surges forward. In what can be described as an almost unpleasant fashion. The handling wasn’t the most confidence inspiring despite its Bilstein B12 set up all round. You often felt bumps like a kick directly to your spine , this car was hard and raw and it made no apologies for it. But once you hit boost none of it mattered it surged so aggressively with a symphony of v6 echoing through the cabin. You row through the gears as it just pulls and pulls , you just forget this car is 20 years old (at least in a straight line ). My car was fitted with Recaro Pole Position buckets as I had always wanted to recreate Audi’s press car (Homer) the club sport package. This gave owners the option to spec buckets, alcantara steering wheel, gearknob , stiffer suspension, a different exhaust and drilled discs all round.
I’m an honest man and I think it’s fair to say a lot of the B5’s charm was lost on me. I was too young to appreciate its character and I always found myself longing to be back in a b7. I must admit that the b5 has a simply iconic stance like the whale tail on an Escort Cosworth. It’s one of those cars you stand back and admire and you’ll always be pleased to see one at a show. I bought the B5 for the wrong reasons I loved how they looked stanced at a lot of German car shows but apart from that I knew very little about them. I just didn’t fall in love with it the way I did with the b7. I put some great parts into a very cool car ,my favourites being the Sportec wheels and Recaro buckets. Would I have another b5? Yes I would , would I daily drive it? Absolutely not. Parts are becoming harder and harder to source and some even basic maintenance parts are a nightmare for owners. They will soon all be relegated to collections or the odd weekend blast in June. It’s a grave shame there weren’t more b5s sold in the UK as people deserve to see them. Hopefully Audi heritage will start to produce parts again so that a few of these legendary cars will see the road just that bit more often.