Here’s one for you: what do you buy when you want a genuine supercar for everyday use but are hamstrung by a five-strong family and a sub-£10,000 budget?
It’s not the impossible conundrum it might seem. After all, everybody knows that when it comes to power for money, used examples of the Audi RS6 – what with today’s gasp-inducing depreciation rates – are among the biggest bargains on the market.
Today, we’re concerned with the car that started it all, the C5-generation RS6, which changed the world of fast family cars for good. Packing 444bhp and 413lb ft from a twin-turbocharged version of the less potent – but still Ferrari-baiting – 4.2-litre V8 found in the S6, it will shoot across 0-62mph in less than five seconds and top out at an electronically limited 155mph (although that’s perhaps a somewhat conservative figure).
It was only the third car in Audi’s now-revered RS sports car family – the first two being the Porsche-engineered RS2 and smaller RS4 – and was produced for just two years, from 2002 to 2004, bowing out to make way for its V10-powered C6-generation successor.
Happily, though, it’s not as rare as its limited production run and original £60,000 starting price would have you believe – and there’s a good variety of cars to choose from, albeit mostly estates, which outsold the saloon by quite some margin.
It will come as no surprise to hear that the RS6 is not a cheap car to run. It’s easy to be taken in by the concept of buying a genuine performance icon for £10,000, but remember: this is an Audi, so it has Audi problems and Audi-flavoured repair bills. Got a gearbox issue? You’re looking at £3500 for a replacement unit. And if that doesn’t put you off, how does £1250 sound for a second-hand front bumper that needs painting?
Then there’s the suspension. The C5 RS6 was the first model to feature Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) system, which uses a pump to adjust the pressure of each individual shock absorber under acceleration, braking and cornering to improve handling without affecting the ride quality. It was groundbreaking when it made its debut but it hasn’t stood the test of time and you’ll find that most owners have swapped it for a more conventional strut set-up to avoid future headaches.
The gearbox is another story. Torque-converter failures plague the otherwise promising reputation of the C5’s powertrain and can cost you big money. A full rebuild will set you back around £3000, or you can have a new unit for £5000 plus shipping from the US.
All of which is to say: walk away from any car that doesn’t have a full service history, preferably from a combination of main dealer and Audi specialists, be aware of the C5’s most expensive potential pitfalls from the outset and set aside a hefty rainy-day fund for future repairs.