If you could create an ideal performance car to be used every single day, rain or shine, sleet or snow, that could roast most other performance cars, sound like an Italian exotic and be able to seat four people comfortably, you’d create the Audi S4. Specifically the B7 Audi S4, because V8.
The B7 Audi S4 is probably the last truly desirable S4 in the eyes of enthusiasts. Everything after the B7 has and will have smaller turbocharged engines and the upcoming S4 won’t even be available with a manual transmission. So the B7 is the last bastion of hope for Audi enthusiasts to get their dream S4. There is one, and only one, issue with the B7 S4 and it’s also the S4’s greatest asset. Its engine.
The 4.2 liter V8 in the B7 Audi S4 is one of the all time greats, in terms of power, performance and noise. With 340 hp on tap and a redline of 7,000 rpm and a noise like an exotic sports car. It’s the very same engine, albeit with some tweaks, that’s in the first-gen Audi R8 V8. But for all of the beauty of the 4.2 liter V8, it had one fatal flaw — poorly designed timing chain tensioners.
Audi’s 4.2 liter V8 had its timing chain mounted towards the back of the engine, up against the firewall. This, in combination with poor timing chain tensioners led to big problems. When those tensioners start to fail, they need to be replaced, along with the timing chain. But to do this, the engine must come out of the car, requiring several hours worth of labor with the best of tools and professionals. It could take days to DIY. But to have it done professionally costs thousands of dollars.
Not all of these tensioners go bad, obviously, but the fact that they can should raise eyebrows for any suspecting buyer. The B7 Audi S4 is a fabulous machine with incredible capabilities. But driving one with over 100,000 miles could feel like sitting on a 2-3,000 dollar time bomb waiting to explode. Every time you were to push the car to its limits, you’d be wondering if that’d be the last time you did. Though, knowing something could eventually leave you is no reason to never have it. Would you not ever get a dog because you know that one day it will die and you’ll be sad? Would you not fall in love and get married because one day it could end? No and no, life is too short to worry about what might happen. You must enjoy what does happen while it’s happening. Unless what is happening is your S4’s timing chain going wrong and then you have to turn your wallet upside down.
But to be corny and quote the Avengers: Age of Ultron, “A thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts”. So if you’re wondering whether or not you should buy a used B7 Audi S4, the answer is yes. But you might be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a while if the timing chain goes on you. It’s probably worth it, though.