The Audi RS4 Avant is designed as a machine to do it all – supercar power, impeccable on-road manners and wagon-sized practicality.
Of course, such a well-rounded performance car is never so easy to produce, but Audi believes its Euro-chic wagon appeals to drivers who want to combine pace with space, and those who desire to fly under the radar with understated performance.
Completely revised for 2018, the RS4 features fresh looks and tech to meet a new powertrain shared with its RS5 coupe cousin.
Vehicle Style: Premium performance wagon
Price: $152,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 331kW/600Nm 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.9 l/100km
Technology is core to the appeal of luxury cars, and the RS4 doesn’t disappoint. Australian examples are loaded with toys as standard, bringing Audi’s full suite of driver aids (including a semi-autonomous traffic jam assistance mode), 12.3-inch widescreen digital driver’s display, 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo, 360-degree camera and much more.
Local customers also benefit from a torque vectoring rear differential, dynamic dampers, sports exhaust and 20-inch wheels listed as options overseas but fitted to Australian cars as standard.
That strong feature list contributes to a hefty $152,900 (plus on-roads) price which lands the Audi between key rivals in BMW’s four-door M3 Competition and the five-door Mercedes-AMG C63 S estate.
Key options include the Technik package’s head-up display, matrix LED headlights and wireless phone charging for $3900, an $11,900 carbon fibre exterior styling package and an RS interior design pack with Alcantara trim for the steering wheel and gearshifter for $3300.
- Standard Equipment: Nappa leather seat trim, front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, electric driver’s seat adjustment, digital instrument cluster display, auto lights and wipers, LED headlights, cruise control, keyless entry and start, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.2-inch colour display, satellite navigation, WiFi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, USB input, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, CD player
- Cargo Volume: 505 litres to rear seats
Audi’s driver aids are a level beyond what you will currently find in competitors, and its cabin is the best in its class.
Drivers are positioned low in the car, with a near-perfect relationship to key controls reinforcing the sporting theme. Deep-bolstered front seats feature heating and massage functions as standard, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather or faux suede is a delight to hold.
On the electronics front, Audi’s infotainment system is one of the most intuitive gadgets you’ll find, while a bright digital dash combining high-resolution satellite imagery with RS-specific features and clear readouts builds on its appeal.
Factor in the practical pull of reasonable rear legroom, a spacious tailgate and class-leading active safety features, and the result clearly has a lot to offer.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol, 331kW @ 5700-6700rpm, 600Nm @ 1900-5000rpm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Multi-link front and rear
- Brakes: 375mm vented front discs, 330mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electromechanical power steering
Where the previous two RS4 models shared a naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 engine with the original Audi R8, the new machine features an altogether more sensible 2.9-litre V6 boosted by twin turbochargers. As is the trend among German performance brands, those turbos nestle between the engine’s cylinder banks in a compact “hot vee” layout originally championed by BMW.
Pitched into direct competition with rivals such as the much more powerful Mercedes-AMG, Audi made the bold call to produce an engine with not one kilowatt more than its predecessor.
The new car’s 331kW power peak is an exact match for the older car, though that model’s 430Nm peak is crushed by an even 600Nm on tap in the new model. Better still, the old RS4 had to be spun all the way to 8250rpm to muster 331kW, while the new machine delivers the same power from only 5700rpm. Official 8.9L/100km fuel consumption represents an reduction of 16.8 per cent.
That engine drives all four wheels through a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission as opposed to the previous model’s seven-speed dual-clutch unit.
Audi insiders say the brand’s claimed 4.1 second dash to 100km/h is a little pessimistic, as is a top speed limited to 250km/h.
In the real world, the RS4’s surging acceleration makes it feel significantly faster than its predecessors. Massive torque on tap from 1900rpm fires the wagon out of corners with new energy, helped no end by a quattro all-wheel-drive system tearing at the tarmac. The RS4’s fuss-free acceleration contributes to unflappable cross-country pace made possible by sharp steering and surprisingly compliant suspension. Easy to drive at pace, the RS4 does not challenge – or reward – enthusiastic drivers in the same manner as two-wheel-drive rivals.
That sense carries through to an engine that sounds underwhelming, delivering a distant, digitally augmented blare with none of the fire and brio brought by its predecessor. While the Drive team used terms such as “stratospheric”, “magnificent”, “orchestral” and “visceral” to describe V8-powered RS4s and their soaring, supercar-like power delivery, those superlatives don’t fit the latest model. While its ultimate performance is beyond question, the new motor’s flat delivery and uninspired sound leave something to be desired.
Less than exciting when pressed into action, the RS4 wins favour in everyday driving.
That multi-mode suspension system does an excellent job ironing out imperfections, feeling much more comfortable than AMG or BMW rivals.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The RS4 somehow feels less than the sum of its parts. Compromised by inert dynamics and a drivetrain that feels unremarkable, the RS4 doesn’t quite deliver the excitement enthusiasts might expect from a $150,000 performance car.
- Interested in buying Audi RS4 Avant? Visit our Audi RS4 Avant showroom for more information.