► New Audi RS4 Avant first drive review
► Shares 444bhp V6 and platform with RS5
► 0-62mph in 4.1sec, from £61,625 in the UK
The previous-generation Audi RS4 Avant had a rip-roaring naturally aspirated V8 behind its giant grille – but you won’t be surprised to hear the latest, 2018 version of Audi’s medium-size, maximum-pace estate doesn’t. Instead, it’s bang-on-downsizing-trend with a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6, the same unit fitted to its RS5 coupe cousin.
Despite having 1269 fewer cc to play with, the V6 packs near-as-dammit the same power output as the retired V8 (444bhp) and a whopping 125lb ft more torque, while – most significantly – generating a quarter less CO2 on the test cycle, and eking out an extra 5.7mpg.
The 2018 Audi is 0.6sec quicker than its predecessor from 0-62mph, at 4.1sec (two tenths slower than the lighter RS5) and tops out at 174mph, if buyers spec the optional RS Dynamic package. Otherwise, it’s electronically limited to 155mph as standard.
At 1790kg, you wouldn’t describe the 2018 RS4 Avant as lightweight, but it does weigh 80kg less than the outgoing RS4.
As the quattro badges and widescreen wheelarches suggest, all-wheel drive is standard, shuffling the torque split front to rear as required. During typical driving it’s 40:60 front:rear, with as much as 85% of torque possible to be directed to the front or 70% to the rear as the system detects wheel slip.
An electronically controlled ‘Sport’ rear differential is an option in some markets, but will be fitted to all new RS4s in the UK as standard, with the ability to precisely portion more or less torque to each individual rear wheel as required. All cars also feature torque vectoring by braking.
An eight-speed tiptronic torque converter auto is the only gearbox option, in place of the old car’s seven-speed dual-clutch.
Although the two-generations-previous 2005 RS4 was available as a saloon, estate and cabriolet, the current car will be sold only as an estate (Avant in Audi world), just like the outgoing RS4. The not-officially-confirmed-but-almost-certainly-happening four-door Audi RS5 Sportback will fulfil the same role as a saloon.
While 19-inch wheels are standard, the larger of the two options available are 20 inches, machined from a single piece of aluminium and wearing 275/30 Continentals front and rear.
It has to be said, the RS4 has far more presence in real life than it does in pictures – those arches (punched out by an extra 30mm on each side compared with the standard A4 Avant) and those giant oval exhaust outlets manage to make it look lower as well as wider. The dark vents flanking the tail-lights aren’t actually real, disappointingly, but help to add even more visual width.
Audi reckons its wide-arched shape draws design inspiration from the Audi 90 IMSA GTO (check it out in our gallery here) – a good thing to draw inspiration from, even if it’s probably not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when you look at the RS4.
As per the regular A4, cabin fit and finish is hard to fault, and judicious use of aluminium and alcantara trim helps lift the ambience a little.
The now well-established digital ‘virtual cockpit’ TFT instrument panel sits behind the wheel, with extra RS-specific displays available such as boost pressure, tyre pressures, power and torque output, and a G-meter – which is probably the last thing you should be looking at while you’re cornering at any kind of meaningful g.
It’s augmented by a genuinely useful head-up display beamed onto the windscreen, which is pin-sharp, and, helpfully, includes an oil temperature readout along with the usual vehicle speed and sat-nav instructions – and, less usefully, a lap timer.
In finest fast Audi tradition there’s a pair of plush, bear-hug-bolstered sports seats up front, available in varying levels of cushion plumpness for the honeycomb-stitched leather.
As you’d expect, there’s masses of lateral grip and traction, but it’s to the RS4’s credit that it doesn’t feel inert or anodyne like some fast Audis of old. It’s not as involving as an AMG C63 Mercedes, for instance, or a BMW M3 (not available as an estate), and it’s not the last word in driver feedback, but it is a car that can be rewarding to drive when you want it to be, and entirely undemanding the rest of the time – which feels very much in line with the RS4’s ethos.
To exceed the chassis and tyres’ limits you’d have to be going faster than I’d feel comfortable on the public road, but you can subtly adjust the car’s attitude with the brakes and the throttle. Driven normally, there’s plenty of front-end grip and all the traction you can eat.
The two cars we tried were on 20-inch wheels and were fitted with the optional Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), with hydraulically controlled damping. In the firmest Dynamic mode, the ride is really quite choppy on all but the smoothest roads, and you’ll likely quickly tire of it. Comfort mode feels the best option for the majority of circumstances, and on the Spanish roads we tested the RS4 on it felt less ‘springy’ than an RS5 I recently drove (admittedly fairly briefly) in Wales, with less vertical float in the softest setting. For a near-1800kg car, the RS4 controls its mass very well indeed.
I didn’t miss the dual-clutch gearbox, the eight-speed tiptronic shifting unobtrusively in auto mode and supplying gears when requested without fuss in manual mode. The optional sport exhaust makes a theatrical belching noise on upshifts under load, which adds to the sense of occasion but does sound a bit synthetic, as if it’s been carefully programmed to do so. Otherwise the V6 makes a decently characterful sound, a muted rasp with a bassy undertone.
We tried the optional ceramic brakes, which were very impressive – confidence-inspiring bite from cold, decent feedback through the pedal, and easy to modulate. But much of the same praise could also be applied to the standard steel brakes.
One option best avoided is the variable-rate Dynamic Steering, which, although better than previous iterations, still feels odd as it weights up in an unnatural way. The regular steering set-up works well on its own, with three levels of power steering weight to choose from (Comfort, Auto and Dynamic). Regardless of mode, there’s decent feel and feedback (by fast Audi standards, at least, and considering the giant front tyres, impressively so). Good news – RS Audis are becoming less numb (and more comfortable).
You’re looking at £61,625 before options in the UK, rising to £62,175 from January 2018. So the RS4 Avant is very much on a par with the two-door Audi RS5 coupe, which currently starts at £62,900.
There’s also a £72k Carbon Edition, with various option packs bundled in and, as the name suggests, plenty of bits made from CFRP (carbonfibre-reinforced plastic), including details on the front spoiler, sills diffuser, mirrors and interior trim.
The Audi RS5 coupe’s all-weather capability and physics-bashing performance crossed with the Audi A4 Avant wagon’s understated estate body (augmented by just the right amount of wheelarch steroid injections) is quite an attractive recipe.
As a max-performance, minimum-fuss estate car it fulfils its brief perfectly, albeit for a serious chunk of cash.
It’s as much fun to drive as the RS5 (in fact, subjectively, it actually feels better balanced), while enjoying a more unassuming image. It’s not a car that’ll give you goosebumps, but for many buyers it’ll make them very satisfied. Who doesn’t love a fast estate?
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The Hidden Agenda Of Audi A4 Oil | audi a4 oil – audi a4 oil
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