by: George Achorn, photos by: Eric Yeager, George Achorn
Editor’s note: This article originally ran in the Q1_2019 issue of quattro magazine.
Maybe it’s tenor of the Italian language. It almost sounds poetic… maybe as if by destiny…when a guy with the last name “Avantaggio” builds the ultimate OEM plus B8 A4 Avant. You see, the Italian suffix aggio is equivalent to the English age, indicating action but perhaps with a more stylish flair. The translation, “Avantage” then seems about right.
Meet Chris Avantaggio. No, he’s not from Milan. Yes, he’s of Italian descent but Chris is from coastal Maine. Growing up he logged plenty of days skiing and snowboarding at Sugarloaf, so it’s not surprising Chris’ automotive background is steeped with quattros, beginning with a 1986 4000 CS quattro and bouncing through several others before landing on his current 2012 A4 Avant.
Given all of his time on the slopes, it’s not terribly surprising that Chris used to ride professionally for Burton Snowboards. That he went to school at the University of Colorado in Boulder neither hurt his snowboarding career nor his love for all-wheel drive Audi vehicles. Nowadays, Chris operates in advertising as an associate creative director and art director in Scarborough, ME, and also founded the Maine apparel Brand LiveME as a side hustle; add to that being husband and father to three boys, making an A4 Avant seems like the appropriate ride with which to approach a busy life and rural Maine commute.
Before we get too far down the road of the very many things that have come to make Chris’ A4 Avant so exceptional, it’s probably worth defining what the term OEM plus means. Effectively, it’s the choosing of parts found in the vast factory parts bin and creating a car that Audi product planners could have built if market pricing weren’t a factor or if the average consumer had the same tastes as an über enthusiast. The best OEM plus builds delight brand nerds with the rarest and most exotic parts though these modifications are often so subtle thanks to factory parts usage that only those in-the-know are likely spot the differences. By these measures, Chris Avantaggio’s A4 Avant is an exemplary specimen.
The Avant watchers amongst us will quickly point out that Chris’ car is a B8.5. Being a 2012, it shouldn’t be. That’d make it a pre-facelift B8, and all B8.5 Avants that came to the USA were allroads. Obviously then, updating his Phantom Black 2012 Avant to a later B8.5 was one of the first orders of business.
With the intent to update the look, Avantaggio also took the opportunity to upgrade. Front and center to this is the obscure European and late production bumper design from the A4 S-line competition plus, also paired with a matching European rear bumper. Extra points are garnered for added functionality, including parking distance sensors, auto folding mirrors with Ecode asymmetrical blind spot glass, black roof rails, RS 4 upper rear spoiler and 3M Matte Black vinyl added to the window trim to complete the Black Optics look. Lighting was also updated and upgraded, including OEM Ecode facelift headlights with custom black finish by OneEightyNYC and fitted with ZKW-R clear projector lenses and OSRAM xenon bulbs, OEM facelift LED taillights, Hoen Endurance H11 fog bulbs, LED replacement bulbs for reverse lights and license plate illumination.
Very few aftermarket parts have been used on the outside and those that are have precedent. A replica RS 6 style grille with quattro lettering adds a more aggressive tone at the front. Up top, a Thule Aeroblade Edge roof rack adds functionality, including a Motion Dynamic M Roof Box.
Even the rolling stock is OEM, with a set of 19×9 (ET33) rotor design wheels fitted with Michelin Pilot Super Sport 255 35 19 tires. Not surprisingly, given he’s from quattro country, Chris also has a set of gunmetal finished 19×9 Audi tri-five design wheels (a.k.a. peelers) on which he runs Dunlop Wintersport 3D winter tires.
Inside the Avant is more of the same – substantial OEM upgrades top to bottom and from the most obscure corners of the Audi parts bin. All seating has been swapped for partial Alcantara sport seats from an S4 sedan. That’s just the start though, as there’s also an OEM black headliner conversion, an updated B8.5 instrument cluster from an A5 and fitted with B8.5 needles from an S4, an RS 5 piano black instrument surround, a full 3G MMI conversion, also from B8.5, that includes the RS 5’s control panel with satin buttons, an RS 4 flat-bottom steering wheel, RS 4 door pulls, a B8.5-design S-line shifter, RS 5 pedals, piano black door and center console trim, B8.5 switches, vents and HVAC panel, S4 leather door armrests, Bang & Olufsen speaker covers, ambient door pocket LED lighting and under-seat storage bin. Finally, several aftermarket upgrades improve functionality, including a Precision LED interior light kit and a vent gauge from P3.
Deft programming via VAG-com helped with this conversion. Changes include activation of the gear select display, gauge test/needle sweep on start up, activation of the hidden menu, and ambient door pocket lighting.
Audio is one aspect where Chris diverged with the factory parts bin. Even here though, OEM integration was important. A Mobridge DA2 analog pre-amp integrates with Audi’s MMI system. That’s paired with a JL Audio TWK 888 DSP processor, Arc Audio 1200.6 Amp, mid and tweeter speakers from Stereo Integrity, an IDQ10 V.4 D2 sub-woofer from Image Dynamics, and a hidden sub enclosure for B8 Avant from Bayser. A custom OEM-look bass remote knob further integrates the factory look, while additional sound deadening in the doors, rear lockers, and spare tire help focus the audio experience and keep road noise out.
Under hood, the Avant gets more aftermarket punch thanks to a K04 turbo upgrade and intercooler from Unitronic, a pulley from Fluidampr, high cflow intercooler pipe from Eurocode, an aFe Pro Dry filter, and R8 coils. Exhaust is further freed through the use of a high-flow catalytic converter from Eurocode and a 3-inch cat-back exhaust from Billy Boat.
With more power comes greater need for chassis upgrades and so the Avant also got plenty of focus here. It rides on Bilstein B12 suspension. Lateral forces are also managed through the use of H&R sway bars, Moog sway bar end links, a CR-15 strut brace, and Alu Kreuz aluminum drivetrain stabilizer from Eurocode. Further tightening of the drivetrain comes from 034 mount inserts for the transmission, rear differential and rear carrier.
Finally, the brake system was also considerably upgraded, here again, with mainly the best of what the Audi parts bin had to offer. This includes OEM RS 5 from calipers with 365 mm wave rotors at the front and OEM S4 rear calipers with 330mm RS 4 wave rotors at the rear.
2012 Audi A4 Avant 2.0T Premium Plus – S-line Exterior – Sport Package – Phantom Black – Converted to Facelift B8.5 Competition Plus Avant.
Eurocode High Flow Intercooler Pipe
aFe Pro Dry Filter
Eurocode High Flow Cat
Billy Boat 3” Cat Back Exhaust
Bilstein B12 (Sport-line sedan kit)
H&R Sway Bars
Moog Sway Bar Endlinks
CR-15 Strut Brace
Eurocode Alu Kruez
034 Transmission Mount Insert
034 Rear Diff Mount Insert
034 Rear Carrier Mount Insert
Summer: OEM S5 19×9 ET 33 Rotors with 255/35/R19 Michelin PSS
Winter: OEM S5 Gunmetal 19×9 ET 33 Peelers with 255/35/R19 Dunlop Wintersport 3D[/URL]
OEM RS 5 Front Calipers and 365mm Wave Rotors
OEM S4 Rear Calipers w/ 330mm RS4 Wave Rotors
Full Facelift 2016 B8.5 Competition Plus Front Bumper w/ European Avant Rear Bumper
Replica RS 6 Quattro Style Grille
OEM Front PDC Retrofit
OEM Auto Fold Mirrors w/ Ecode Asymmetrical Blindspot Glass
Custom Black Out OEM Ecode headlights by OneEightyNYC w/ ZKW-R Clear Projector Lens + OSRAM CBB D3S Xenon Bulbs
OEM Facelift S-Line Rear Bumper
OEM Facelift LED tail lights
LED reverse bulbs
LED plate lights
Hoen Endurance H11 fog bulbs
OEM Black Roof Rails (as part of black headliner conversion)
3M Matte Black Window Trim Vinyl
RS 4 Replica Hatch Spoiler
Thule Aeroblade Edge Roofrack
Thule Motion Dynamic M Roof Box
35% Tint Front / 20% Rear & Hatch
OEM Black Headliner Conversion
OEM A5 Instrument Cluster Retrofit w/ B8.5 Facelift S4 Needles
OEM RS 5 Piano Black Instrument Surround
B8.5 S4 Alcantara Interior w/ Rear Sunshades
OEM 3G Plus MMI Conversion
OEM RS 5 MMI Control Panel
OEM RS 4 Flat Bottom Steering Wheel
OEM RS 4 Door handles
OEM B8.5 Facelift S-Line Air leather shifter
OEM RS 5 Pedals
OEM Piano Black Door and Center Console Trim
OEM B8.5 Facelift Switches
OEM B8.5 Facelift Air Vents
OEM B8.5 Facelift HVAC Panel
OEM S4 Leather Door Armrests
OEM B&O Speaker Covers
OEM Ambient Door Pocket LED lighting (DavidB8 Mod)
OEM Underseat Storage
P3 Vent Gauge
Precision LED interior kit
JL Audio TWK 88 DSP
Arc Audio 1200.6 Amp
Stereo Integrity TM65 MKII 6.5″ Mids
Stereo Integrity MK25 Tweeters
Image Dynamics IDQ10 V.4 D2 Sub
Bayser B8 Avant Hidden Sub Enclosure
Custom OEM look Bass Remote Knob
Sound Deadened all doors, rear lockers and spare tire well
Turn off amber side markers
Gear Select Display
Gauge Test/Needle Sweep
Hidden Menu Activated
Ambient Door Pocket Lighting