Still, we spoke to enough people to know MCP Motorsport’s pricing isn’t off the pace, and in any case, all the ingredients for rising prices are present in the venerable RS4, most notably rarity, desirability, performance and quality.
The model, codenamed B5, was launched in 1999 in estate form and was on sale for just two years. A little over 500 cars came to the UK. Pumped-up wheel arches, lairy colours and a dose of estate-car practicality triggered a showroom stampede, but what had punters signing on the dotted line was 0-62mph in 4.9sec, courtesy of a 2.7-litre Audi V6 re-engineered by Cosworth to produce 375bhp.
Torque steer? Not a chance, thanks to Audi’s quattro driveline with Torsen diff that split torque fair and square between front and rear. Turbo lag? Just a bit, but that’s how things were back then. Folk just learned to sit back and brace themselves for the main event, in the RS4’s case from 3000rpm all the way to 7000rpm.
The only transmission was a tough six-speed manual, which is smooth and deliciously mechanical. The suspension was hard enough to loosen fillings if not the interior trim, which, on most examples, remains firmly anchored. The seats were thinly upholstered Recaros, which is what enthusiasts back then expected. Standard equipment included alloy wheels, air-con and heated seats, to which many buyers added a sunroof and primitive satellite navigation.
The engine will take up to 600bhp, so many RS4s have been tuned. Larger wheels are popular, too. Avoid both. Instead, go for a straight and original car with a solid service history. And if you a find good one at a fair price, buy it, because it could be dearer tomorrow.
An expert’s view...
MARK MCMANUS, MDM TECHNIK
“We’ve just completed a ground-up refurbishment of an RS4 B5. The customer spent around £8000, but given what the car had just cost him to buy (it hadn’t been maintained well) and the way prices are going, it was money well spent. We did the lot: cambelt, water pump, rebuilt the turbos, renewed the suspension. It had been misfiring on cylinder five. When we drained the oil we found small bits of metal in it. We took the heads off the engine and the side walls of the hydraulic tappets were scored. We polished those out, polished the buckets and re-cut the valves. On the test drive I was amazed by how it pulled so well and still felt so tight.”