Acid can be dodgy stuff. You really don't want to be drinking it unless it's acetic acid on your chips or citric acid in your G&T. In the days when Mrs Shed prepared jam sandwiches for Shed's lunch he regularly picked up a whiff of stronger, more industrial acids whenever he opened the Tupperware box. He's never been able to prove anything in a court of law but he knows for a fact that she once put neat bleach on the toilet seat just before his morning constitutional. This resulted in some unseemly foaming of the undercarriage and a fair amount of screaming.
Human skin is acidic, thankfully only very weakly so, but when you look at many German cars of a certain age you do wonder about its chemical interaction with the coating they used to put on switchgear and the like. Very much like Mrs Shed, that rubbery stuff seemed to react quite poorly to human touch.
Today's sub-£1,500 offering, an Audi A4 Avant, is a good example of this weird phenomenon. The coatings on pretty much all its touchy feely surfaces - switches, gearknob, steering wheel - have deteriorated badly. The rest of the proposition looks borderline exciting though. Why? Because this is no common or garden 1.8 petrol or 1.9 diesel A4. It's a 3.0-litre 30-valve V6 petrol, which puts it right behind the 4.2-litre V8 S4 in the gen-two A4 pecking order.
When new, you could pair that 3.0 engine up with a 5-speed manual gearbox or a flawed and troublesome Multitronic CVT auto, both of which would be front-wheel drivers. You could have it with quattro all-wheel drive and a Tiptronic auto. Or, if you were a powerfully-built PH director type clambering hard up the greasy pole of life, you could have it with the quattro and a six-speed manual box. Saints be praised, that's the one we've got here today.
You were doing well if you had any sort of B6 A4 Avant as your company motor back in 2003. Even a basic model was regarded as a cool and thoughtful choice. The 3.0 was the IDGAF choice. It poked out 217hp at a lofty 6,300rpm and 221lb ft at a more useful 3,200rpm. That was enough to push its nicely resolved 1,570kg shape along at 150mph, en route to which it would potentially have covered the 0-60mph dash in 7.1sec.
If the B6's famously hard seats could talk, they might now be saying 'told you we were right' because the best part of two decades after this car rolled off the line there's very little wear or bolster subsidence on show. They're not leather, which is a shame, but if they had been the asking price would most likely have been more than £1,490.
Assuming you can afford the running costs on a 3.0 six - the fuel will disappear at the rate of 25mpg if you're lucky, 20 or less if you're not, and the tax is £360 a year - what can you expect to go wrong? Well, if you hear a ticking from the top end it might be that the cam lobes are worn. That mainly affected 2002 cars but wasn't restricted to them. The timing belt, water pump and thermostat definitely needed to be changed every 75,000 miles, and that wasn't an easy or a cheap job. The PCV system could clog up and vacuum hoses rotted for fun. Diffs could leak, coolant temperature sensors and catalytic converters conked out, wheel bearings died and of course coils blew.
At higher 100k-plus mileages you needed to keep an eye on the fuel pump and dual mass flywheel. Generally speaking however the engine is a solid and steady unit that, interestingly, responds well to supercharging. Inside, B6 glove boxes are famous for breaking. Round the back, subframes and floors rust. So do the wheel arches. Handily there has been no mention of corrosion on any of the previous MOTs going back to 2007.
The current MOT on this car is good to the end of August and has just two minor advisories on it, one for a less than perfect steering rack gaiter and one for a non-excessive oil leak, which probably explains the presence of the oil bottle in the boot. That's unusual for one of these actually. The oil leak, not the bottle in the boot. Shed keeps a bottle in the front of everything he drives but in his case it usually contains supermarket-brand brown ale.
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