Following announcement and subsequent launch of RS5, Audi has revealed what - for each generation - has been their most anticipated high performance model, the RS4 Avant. Now, much this car’s innards have already been foretold by its two-door coupe sibling, so this unveiling lacked some of the zing the maybe it deserved over said close relative.
Built on the newest generation A4 and its more advanced MLB platform, the new RS4 is a fair amount lighter and more rigid than the one it replaces, but is otherwise quite recognisable just as the A4 is to the older B8-generation car.
Under the skin, though, the RS4 very different indeed. First of all, it makes the return of a turbocharged engine, sending 331kW and a very welcome 600Nm (a 170Nm increase) to all four wheels via their quattro AWD system. It’s a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that, in Audi fashion, is mounted a little beyond the front wheels, reminiscent of the original B5 RS4 which used a 2.7-litre V6 bi-turbo.
Since it was co-developed with Porsche, it’s also - essentially - the same motor stuffed into certain variants of the Panamera and all-new Cayenne. With peak torque available from just 1,900rpm, this new RS4 should prove a much easier car to make go faster. While the older high-revving naturally-aspirated V8 was such a talented vocalist, it needed some real coaxing to reach its potential.
Another fairly seismic shift here is the move away from the company’s S tronic dual-clutch transmission. This was another move portended by the RS5 revealed earlier, which also swapped out their staple DCT for an 8-speed Tiptronic torque converter automatic. Though Audi may not be more forthcoming in their literature about this new gearbox, we understand it to be of a ZF design, a derivative of their widely used and highly-regarded 8HP family.
The RS brand is no stranger to the transmission either, and especially with their larger and more powerful turbocharged models have gone in favour of a conventional automatic rather than the S tronic, perhaps due to possible reliability issues being subjected to such high torque over the long term. Most recently, it was slotted into the RS7 and RS6.
Not here, and that should endow this new model with a kind of immediacy and on-demand speed that would make it seem so much quicker in the real world over the B8. And thanks to the smaller block and two fewer cylinders, aided by the improved underpinnings, this Avant tips the scale at 1,790kg, roughly 80kg leaning than before.
The added thrust, in spite of peak power not climbing by much, results in a delimited top speed of 280km/h, while the century sprint is reduced to a mere 4.1 seconds. The two-turbochargers also result in more efficient everyday fuel consumption. Audi quotes 8.8-litres/100km over a combined cycle and assumptive of a responsible, worryingly law-abiding driver. And by their German maths, this works out to a 17 percent efficiency gain.
The outside of the RS4 is at once the most and least important talking points of the car. We know it’s going to look good, well, because all RS Audis have no struggle in that department - a generally wider, lower, and aggressive take on the car it’s based on. Yes, of course, there’s lots of material and aerodynamic science that informs how the car is styled but, really, we aren’t chasing fractions of fractions of seconds here with a fast estate car, and it’s all about the more sweeping gains.
Interestingly, in a nod to the original 1999 RS4, Audi is bringing back an exterior colour not seen since: Nogaro Blue. As standard, this new RS4 Avant wears 19-inch forged aluminium wheels, though 20-inchers are available as options if you laugh in the face of spinal injury concerns.
Naturally, Audi has fitted the car with Dynamic Ride Control (though apparently optional by selecting RS sport suspension plus), their special name for magnetically-adaptive dampers, but only so much road imperfections can be absorbed by such measures before the inherently firm setup intervenes.
Speaking of options, buyers can again specify as before the Audi’s RS dynamic steer system which uses a variable ratio depending on vehicle speed and cornering ferocity, as well as carbon ceramic brakes.
Inside, the cabin is more or less quite similar to the standard A4, but with a subtle amount of more aggressive visual cues such as those seen in the pictures here - the exposed carbon weave inserts, flat-bottomed steering wheel, RS badges, and very accommodating leather sports seats. Customers will be able to select between styling packages that introduce a gloss black motif, or one with carbon and aluminium, or carbon with black highlights.
The rollout of the RS4 will begin with dealers in Germany and elsewhere throughout Europe from the start of 2018 with a basic price of 79,800 Euros. Other markets such as Asia, North America, and Australia should follow toward the middle of next year.