- 7 Min Read
- By: Nathan Brown
Cut-Rate Quattros - An Audi For Every Budget
Audi has been making great cars for a very long time. As a brand, Audi took a little longer to find their true voice compared to some of the other older, more storied marques like BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche, but once they did, they’ve grown by leaps and bounds in the USA. While the newest, latest, and greatest cars from Audi are filled with tech and do a remarkable job of combining raw performance with a sophisticated air, they are a premium brand with a premium price. Thanks to the vast number of Audis on the used market and the magic of depreciation, you can find an Audi for almost every budget and taste. Here are a few of our favorites.
$10,000 - Audi TT 225 Quattro (Mk1 - 2001-2006)
There are many options in this price range, but while the 3.2 VR6 Audi A3 is a great car, it doesn’t evoke the same feeling as the TT. The original TT was a revelation of automotive design when it was first introduced. It was Audi’s first sports coupe since the Audi 90 Coupe Quattro and looked like nothing else on the road. Originally equipped with a 180-horsepower version of the venerable 1.8t 20v 4-cylinder engine, the car was fun but slightly underwhelming to drive compared to what the looks of the car suggested. With the introduction of the 225 models in 2001, the TT now had the performance it deserved.
Available in both coupe and convertible variants, the Audi TT 225 makes (as the name suggests) 225 horsepower and 207 ft-lb of torque, thanks to a larger K04 turbocharger, twin intercoolers, and larger fuel injectors. All 225s are Quattro, and power is sent through a 6-speed manual transmission and to all four wheels via the active Haldex all-wheel-drive system. Performance is solid, with the 0-60 times coming in at a still-respectable 6.2 seconds, and finishing the quarter-mile in 14.6 seconds.
Numbers aside, the Audi TT is a fun car to drive. Although it is based on the same basic platform as the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf, the TT 225 enjoys an independent rear suspension, improved front geometry, and steering, and that results in a rewarding driving experience. The little 1.8t does have a bit of lag when paired with the K04, but once you’re into the boost, it’s a ton of fun.
These cars were about at the bottom of their depreciation a few years ago but have picked up value recently, and prices are all over the place. You can find very well-kept, later model cars, for over the $13,000 mark, but most TT 225s are under that price depending on mileage and condition. Look out for the cool Nimbus and Aviator Grays, along with the “baseball glove” interior, as some of the more unique options that affect the price.
The instrument clusters are a known problem, but most major parts are shared with other models so you can maintain them for a fairly reasonable price. Headroom is at a bit of a premium, so if you’re over 6’2” you may want to try before you buy, so to speak.
$15,000 - Audi A3 2.0 TDI (8P - 2011-2013)
Ok, so this one is “FrontTrak” and not Quattro, but it’s too good of a car for us to leave it off of this list. The 8P Audi A3 wasn’t the best-selling Audi, but it certainly wasn’t because it wasn’t a good car. People don’t really look to European luxury brands for hatchbacks, which seem to be the more natural fit for ‘mid-level’ brands like Volkswagen and MINI, and the A3 was not cheap compared to a very similar Golf TDI. That said, those that did pick up the A3 had a solid little car on their hands. While the 2.0t and S-line 3.2 VR6 are both really solid options, the 2.0 TDI offers surprising performance and refinement, plus those unbeatable em-pee-gees.
The 2.0 TDI used in the 8P A3 is the same Common Rail direct-injected turbo-diesel engine as used in the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf TDIs that were sold from roughly 2009 to 2014. The TDI also uses the majority of the same suspension, braking, and mechanical components as the Mk6 GTI, so service and replacements are plentiful and cheap. With variable turbine turbo technology and the refined injection system, the CR 2.0 TDI makes 236 lb-fit of torque and 140 horsepower, while utilizing the S Tronic branded dual-clutch automatic transmission. While not as quick as gasoline-powered variants, it’s still a lot of fun to drive, and it bests them in the efficiency department by up to 17 mpg on the highway. Add hatchback utility, good looks, and the upmarket A3 interior, and you have a real winner on the secondary market.
Like all Common Rail TDIs, the Audi A3 was affected by the Dieselgate scandal. That means some of them got crushed, while the ones that were worth saving were updated by Audi and released onto the used market. Part of the Dieselgate settlement includes extended warranties on many of the expensive emissions components, including the fuel system, turbocharger, and the engine itself. The extension is up to 10 years from the date of manufacture or 120,000 miles, regardless of whether you are the original owner or not. Since most of the updated cars were of the lower mileage variety, that means there are plenty out there which still have an active warranty from Audi. Despite a lower MPG rating after the fix, we’ve seen an improvement in performance in some conditions, compared to the illegal software installed initially.
$20,000 - Audi S5 4.2 V8 (B8 - 2008-2012)
Audi’s B8 S5 is a lot of car for the money. From the powerful 4.2 L 354 horsepower engine to the refined B8 chassis, to the muscular and eye-catching design, everything about the S5 is big and bold. As the last of the naturally-aspirated V8s, the B8 S5 holds a special place in the world of Audi performance. It also hits the ‘sweet spot’ of design and technology, with far better reliability than the 4.2 V8 B6 and B7 S4 models, without the higher cost of the more exclusive B7 Audi RS4.
The Audi B8 S5 was only available in a coupe with the 4.2 L V8 engine. With 354 horsepower and 325 ft-lb of torque, the manual S5 can sprint to 60 mph in only 4.8 seconds and cover a quarter-mile in 13.4 seconds. The Tiptronic automatics are a touch slower, but if you deal with a lot of traffic or prefer a more relaxed drive, they have proven to be generally reliable with the right service. The S5 utilizes the traditional Torsen all-wheel-drive Quattro system, and power is split 40/60 between front and rear.
The Audi S5 feels solid, safe, and secure from the driver’s seat. The interior is nicely appointed without being too over the top and mixes a good combination of technology and luxury. The high belt-line and relatively small windows result in a bit of a rear blind spot on either side, but it’s nothing you don’t adapt and get used to. The rumble from the V8 is satisfying, and ripping up to the 7,000rpm redline turns the low rumble into a proper V8 howl. The engine has proved to be reliable with proper care, and the most common issues are going to be control arms, wheel bearings, and normal service parts like spark plugs and ignition coils. Fuel mileage is not good, but you don’t buy a car like this for saving fuel.
$25,000 - Audi S4 3.0t (B8.5 - 2013-2016)
The Audi B8.5 S4 is arguably one of the most versatile of the 3.0t-powered models in Audi’s lineup. The supercharged engine provides outstanding performance while providing excellent efficiency, and the face-lifted B8.5 makes it stand out with sharp, modern good looks. It’s also a sedan, so it can just as easily tote around the family or business associates as it can lay down quarter-miles and carve canyon curves. While it lacks the muscular looks of the S5, it still has just enough in terms of small touches to let you know it’s special, compared to the basic Audi A4.
The supercharged 3.0t is a powerhouse of an engine, producing 333 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque in standard trim. Like all the other models listed so far, there are plenty of performance tuning options on the market to take power above and beyond what it is from the factory. That said, a stock B8.5 S4 has a 0-60 time as low as 4.7 seconds and 13.2-second quarter-mile time. The S4 comes in either 6-speed manual or 7-speed S Tronic dual-clutch automatic, and while both have their unique benefits in terms of how the car drives and feels, the S Tronic is faster when it comes to all-out acceleration.
One of the biggest advantages of the B8.5 includes updates to the Quattro system. A new ‘Crown’ center differential, developed for the RS5, can variably split torque between the front and rear axles. Depending on conditions, up to 85% of power can be sent to the rear or 70% to the front. This results in better power delivery, handling, and efficiency. Add the active rear sport differential package, and you have one of the most advanced Quattro systems on the market, all for around $25,000.
$35,000 - Audi Q7 3.0t (4M - 2016-2020)
The Q7, which until the introduction of the Q8, was the flagship SUV from Audi, has matured into one of the best full-size SUVs on the market. Based on the same MLB Evo platform as the Porsche Cayenne and Volkswagen Touareg, the Q7 is large, luxurious, and versatile. It’s extremely well appointed in terms of technology and creature comforts and has a 7,700-pound towing capacity, which is more than enough for smaller boats, campers, or if you’re like us, a nicely appointed race car set up. If you attend a typical HPDE, there’s a 99% chance you’ll see at least a few Q7 tow vehicles in the paddock.
The Q7 has been equipped with a few different engines throughout its production, but the venerable 3.0t version is one of our favorites. While it has less torque than the 3.0 TDI, it’s still rated for the same towing capacity and will have significantly fewer maintenance costs comparatively speaking. A big SUV isn’t really about hardcore performance, but the same 333 horsepower and 325lb-ft of torque, as seen in the S4 propel the Q7 to 60mph in a scant 5.7 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 14.3 seconds. Honestly, that’s pretty surprising considering the size and relative heft of the Q7. The Q7 3.0t also delivers surprisingly good fuel efficiency, thanks in part to the 8-speed automatic, and is EPA-rated for 19mpg city / 25mpg highway.
It’s fairly astonishing to find not just a few, but many low-mile Q7 3.0t models for less than the $35,000 mark. One such example, a 2018 Premium Plus, had only 33,000 miles. Compared to the sticker price of around $61,000, that’s a great buy with a ton of value. If there is one weak link in the Q7’s armor, they tend to run through brakes more often than the other cars on this list. Thanks to the FCP Euro Lifetime Replacement Guarantee, those are something you’ll only have to shell out for once.
Overall, the used European market is absolutely filled with some amazing values. As we have seen, Audi is certainly no exception, and there are nearly endless options to choose from, no matter what your price range or preference. If you go up into the $45,000 range, things really start getting interesting, like 4.0T RS7 or SQ5 interesting. Which models do you think we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
FCP Euro's Event Director by day, writer and contributor by night, and wanna-be race car driver on the weekends. Nathan has been working in the VW and Audi performance aftermarket for nearly two decades, and dabbled with Porsche and BMW. He also used to write under the pen-name of Alex Rogan for magazines like Eurotuner, Performance VW, Total 911, and European Car. He has a Cornflower Blue Rabbit Edition GTI daily driver which is surprisingly still mostly stock, and a Mk5 GTI track car which is mostly not. ••• Instagram: @njbrown55