With three generations of RS 4 Avant, Audi has followed the advice of legendary American NFL coach Vince Lombardi: “Complexity loses games, simplicity wins them.”
Audi simply took one of its most powerful engines, slotted it into a compact wagon and the result was an instant classic. Now the third generation Audi RS 4 Avant has arrived in Australia and the winning formula has not changed.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression and Car Showroom opened the batting in the latest Audi RS 4 over the twists and curves, dips and dives of the roads surrounding Sydney’s Hawkesbury River. Some days this job has high-performance up-sides, the Audi RS 4 Avant garnered our top score and left us wanting a longer acquaintance - read on…
Audi RS 4 Avant Overview
We’d love to sit down for a coffee with Audi’s RS 4 Avant designers and product planners. Our first question would be: “In an industry so migraine-inducingly complex how did you get approval for a high performance wagon which is so ridiculously simple?”
Just take your good-looking compact wagon, search the company inventory for the most powerful engine which could fit under the bonnet, slam it in and get the RS Department to weave its magic. Of course it’s not as simple as that, but we do know from our mates at Audi - and parent company Volkswagen Group – a big reason cars like the RS 4 Avant exist at all is a management team which loves driving.
And that’ll get any car company kicking.
Audi says, at $149,400 the third-generation RS 4 Avant “is more affordable than ever”.
Audi RS 4 Avant Engine
Audi’s stunning 4.2-litre V8 is without doubt one of the world’s best engines.
In the best motorsport tradition it’s a high-revver, delivering maximum power of 331kW at 8250 rpm (no typo there – a perfect 8) and peak torque of 430Nm from 4000 to 6000rpm.
That means a top speed of 280km/h (governed to 250) and zero to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds.
Fuel consumption is rated at 10.7l/100kms which is incredibly 21 per-cent improved over the previous RS 4.
Hand-built and weighing just 216kgs, the 4.2 FSI looks brilliant when you open the bonnet with red-painted cylinder head covers (and you can option a carbon inlay).
The RS 4 Avant employs Audi’s seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic transmission which has been designed to withstand loadings up to 9000rpm. Naturally there are ‘Drive’ and ‘Sport’ modes (the latter with throttle-blipping down-shifts), beautiful steering wheel paddle-shifters and launch control.
And drive is via the latest version of Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system with a self-locking crown gear centre differential and torque vectoring. This is supplemented in the RS 4 Avant with a sport rear differential which in cornering directs the majority of power to the outside wheel.
Audi RS 4 Avant The Interior
Well the Audi RS 4 presents one of the best high-performance interiors of the current era – we can’t be any more precise than that.
It’s all black, the leather/Alcantara sports seats are superb, the Audi S sport steering wheel is just right and the driving position is straight from the DTM (German Touring Car Championship. Lots of carbon inlays and matt brushed aluminium add to the allure.
Instruments have a piano finish to match the centre console and the driver information screen (with an ‘RS’ logo on start-up) contains a mountain of information, including a lap timer.
Rear seat accommodation is surprisingly good and out-back the cargo area runs to a very handy 1430-litres of capacity.
Audi RS 4 Avant Exterior & Styling
A dynamic European sports wagon, the Audi RS 4 Avant signifies its intent immediately – the RS version is 24mm wider and 20mm lower than the standard model and sits on stunning 19- inch or 20-inch alloy wheels.
At the front, the single frame hexagonal grille features a high-gloss anthracite honeycomb insert and matt aluminium-look finish for the frame. LED DRL encircle the xenon-plus headlights, the unique front bumper includes an aero splitter and there are extra air-intakes with honeycomb grilles.
From the side, the flared wheel arches with horizontal upper edges recall the 1908s Audi Quattro rally cars, there are sharp side sills and mirrors and trim are finished in a matt aluminium-look.
At the rear, a large roof spoiler runs an aero recessed centre and there is a matt aluminium-look diffuser.
It must be said the bright ‘Misano Red’ paintwork of our test car set things off nicely.
Audi RS 4 Avant On The Road
Bucketing rain, flooded roads, pot-holes – the excellent driving roads around Sydney’s Hawkesbury River tossed-up plenty of challenges for the Audi RS 4 Avant. Or looking at it another way – perfect conditions for a high-performance wagon with Audi’s acclaimed Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
And ceramic front brakes (a $20,000 option).
And dynamic steering which alters the ratio, making it even more direct.
And Audi ‘Drive Select’, sports suspension with Dynamic Ride Control and a sport differential.
Well we had the ‘whole enchilada’ of Audi technology on our side.
It seems ridiculous to say, but yes, this was one of the drives of the year – the precise, flat cornering, pin-sharp steering, massive acceleration and huge stopping power – well, you get the picture.
But it’s the technology which makes the difference – especially in conditions like we encountered. Headed by the latest Quattro system, just like F1 cars, with the Audi RS 4 you can literally just steer, accelerate and brake…everything is taken care of for you.
Audi RS 4 Avant Challenges
Trust us, there’s no downside to the Audi RS 4 Avant.
Audi RS 4 Avant Verdict
Wow!, Wow!, WOW! Audi has left nothing on the shelf with the latest RS 4 Avant and the result is high-performance driving pleasure of the highest order. Just the sound of the 4.2-litre V8 north of 8,000rpm as you work through the gears is worth the $149,000 price tag.
The shove in the back as you accelerate, the lightening fast shifts of the seven-speed S tronic (and its down-changes with rev-matching throttle-blips which are perfect every time), the ridiculously impressive traction and balance of the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and adaptive suspension (fully tested on those wet roads during our drive)…well it just doesn’t get any better at this price.
And inside is that sports/luxury combination which the Germans pull together better than anyone.
But here’s the smart part: on the outside, unless you’re a car enthusiast, the Audi RS 4 Avant – a compact wagon for crying out loud! - is so subtle, you could drive to your in-laws and they’d never know a 280km/h projectile is sitting in the driveway.
Hey Audi: the RS 4 Avant is so simple in its formula and so brilliant in its execution…please, please don’t ever change the recipe.
Audi RS 4 The Competition
All-wheel-drive supercars are thin on the ground in any form, let alone in a compact wagon. And don’t forget the Audi RS 4 is stickered at $149,400.
Mercedes-Benz has one of our all-time favourite cars, the C63 AMG Estate ($155,900 ‘regular’ or $170,800 ‘Performance Pack’) with a naturally-aspirated 6.2-litre V8 which out-muscles the RS 4 Avant but only drives via the rear wheels.
Similarly we absolutely love the Mercedes-Benz ML 63 AMG but it’s not really an Audi RS 4 Avant competitor. Neither BMW (X5M) nor Porsche Cayenne has arrived in the Car Showroom garage but they’re also out of the picture here.
From left field, Nissan’s GT-R is 404kW/628Nm of twin-turbocharged V6 all-wheel-drive supercar, but it’s a two-seat, two-door coupe retailing for $170,800.