It’s a badge that guarantees you significantly more exciting performance and handling than the mainstream.
Base price: $154,000.
Powertrain and performance: 4.1-litre petrol V8, 331kW/430Nm, 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 10.7 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.7 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4719mm long, 1416mm high, kerb weight 1620kg, luggage capacity 1430 litres (seats folded), fuel tank 61 litres, 19-inch wheels on 265/35 tyres.
We like: Exhilarating performance, surreal handling, sheer practicality.
We don’t like: RS brand not as special as it used to be, the heart misses a manual gearbox even if the head doesn’t.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
One letter can make a big difference in the world of Audi. The German maker’s catalogue is rather well stocked with S-branded models at the moment. It’s a badge that guarantees you significantly more exciting performance and handling than the mainstream.
But an S-car is still mild compared with anything from the highly specialised RS division. Like BMW M and Mercedes-Benz AMG cars, Audi’s RS models remain the ones for buyers who will accept no compromise in engineering and sheer excitement.
The RS 4 Avant certainly has heritage on its side. The first-ever production RS model was the RS 2 Avant in 1994 and the latest RS 4 Avant is very much the modern successor in styling, size and attitude. The previous RS 4 (2006-08) is also regarded as one of the finest RS-cars ever made, so the new version has both a lot of credibility and a lot to live up to.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
European makers are becoming well-known for downsizing: producing small-capacity engines that produce a surprising blend of power and fuel economy. Often with the aid of turbocharging.
Well, none of that is relevant to the RS 4, which has a large-capacity, naturally aspirated V8 that makes outrageous noises. The 4.1-litre powerplant is certainly not low-tech: it has direct-injection, is designed around a ‘high-rev’ concept and is capable of Combined fuel economy of 10.7 litres per 100km.
But it remains old-school in the most pleasing possible way. It would certainly be possible to match this kind of performance and economy (better, even) with a downsized powerplant, but nothing matches the throb-and-thrust of a big V8. Long may it continue.
One potential sticking point for the enthusiast – at least on paper – may be the RS 4’s transmission. While the previous model that we loved so much came exclusively with a six-speed manual gearbox, this new one drives through a seven-speed S tronic robotised dual-clutch manual. There is no three-pedal option.
Problem? In theory, yes. In practice, even the most dedicated performance-car control freaks would have to admit the S tronic does an amazing job. It changes cogs quicker than any mere mortal could, and it’s proven to give faster acceleration and superior fuel efficiency than a conventional manual.
In many ways, S tronic also suits the character of this car, which does so much to maintain maximum performance and handling without putting excessive demands on driving skill. You can choose how to set the powertrain up with Audi’s Drive Select system, the four-wheel drive is biased 60 percent towards the rear and the standard Sport Differential can push more power to the outside-rear wheel during max-attack cornering. Remarkable.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
That’s one of the beautiful things about the RS 4 Avant: the ‘Avant’ bit. It’s a supercar underneath but a practical family wagon on top, so beyond the face-distorting acceleration and a firm ride you get all the practical and quality advantages of a perfectly normal A4 Avant.
Perhaps even more so than before, because the latest RS4 comes sans the so-called Sports Bucket (front) Seats of the previous car. Apparently these racing-style chairs were the subject of some negative feedback from owners of the old car; they were rather narrow, quite aggressive-feeling and robbed the rear seats of some legroom. They were also superb, but no point complaining about that now. Reverting to more conventional chairs has certainly improved the case for the RS 4 Avant as being an everyday car. That includes race day, of course.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
Until very recently, Audi had a policy of only making one RS model at a time. That was how important the credibility of the brand was to its maker.
Things are a little different now. In the last five years, Audi has seen the marketing and profit potential of RS and seems hell-bent on having one in virtually every model range it produces.
So the RS brand is not nearly as special as it once was. But if the RS 4 Avant is anything to go by, the cars themselves are even exciting and accomplished. More to the point, the RS 4 Avant remains true to the spirit of that first RS 2.
Air conditioning: Dual climateAudio
: CD, iPod compatible
Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
Blind spot warning: No
Cruise control: Yes
Driver footrest: Yes
Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
Head-up display: No
Heated/ventilated seats: No
Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
Lane guidance: No
Leather upholstery: Yes
Parking radar: Yes with camera
Power boot or tailgate: No
Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/Yes
Remote audio controls: Yes
Satellite navigation: Yes
Seat height adjustment: Yes
Self-parking technology: No
Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
Steering reach adjustment: Yes
Trip computer: Yes
Find an Audi RS4 HERE