Porsche and VW are holding on for now, but Audi, sadly, has dropped the manual transmission from the U.S. lineup — even in cars where one would make sense. If you want a smooth-shifting Audi stick, you need to hit the used market. And a rare, definitively weird and perhaps oddly compelling stick-shift Audi just popped up for auction on Bring a Trailer.
It’s a 2004 Audi A4 with a six-speed manual, which is about the most basic used Audi one could find. It has a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. It has a reasonable 97,000 miles for a 16-year-old car.
It also, as you probably noticed from the photograph above, has been converted into what the Australians call a "ute" — in other words, an El Camino.
Smyth Performance, masters of reimagining decidedly un-utilitarian cars like the New Beetle as trucks, provided the kit for this A4 conversion, which includes racy options like a Stage 1 ECU tune, an APR catback exhaust and Rotiform wheels. The vehicle uses the original Audi black paint, though the taillights come from an Acura MDX. (Wondering whether there's an exhaustive message board thread documenting the build? Of course there is.)
Utes are not for everyone; there’s little purpose in having a car with a truck bed carved out, and there’s a reason there are none of them for sale on the U.S. market (and recent attempts like the Subaru Baja went poorly). But for a quite peculiar brand of automotive obsessive, this car might be worlds colliding to create absolute perfection. We would have preferred taking this build in a more trail-conquering direction by leaning into Audi’s all-wheel-drive system and rally roots, but hey, maybe somebody prefers this as-is.