ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: Audi RS4 Avant
Driving on Germany’s unrestricted Autobahns, TOM SCANLAN revels in the performance of the new Audi RS4 Avant during his road test.
If you’re ‘into’ cars – particularly high performance machines – then you’ll recognise the RS4 Avant I’ve been road testing.
Ordinary A4 Avants differ in appearance. Not that the RS4 lacks subtlety; no, there’s nothing boy-racer about it. In a car with such serious performance, there is of course no need at all for that sort of thing.
The usual question arises: what’s the point in a car like this, with a potential of 174 mph (an optional increase over the governed 155 mph)?
I put that very question to the car’s design chief in Germany. His answer would never convince the green lobby, but he made the point at the end that, this car would not save the world nor would it damage it.
It is indeed a clever, if not superlative, piece of engineering.
Being an Avant, there is the practicality of the estate rear end. The boot is of a reasonable size and is fitted out very nicely as is always the case with Audi. So there is quality carpet, flexible floor space and compartments, hooks and so on. There is, though, no spare wheel and, on my journey back to England from Audi’s plant at Neckarsulm, they’d put a spare wheel in the boot, just in case, leaving room for not a great deal else. Of course, if there are only two of you in the car, that’s no great problem, easy as it is to lower one or both of the rear seat backs.
I remember an Audi A4 some years ago in which I just couldn’t find a comfortable driving position. No such problem since and the RS4 Avant’s was excellent for both me and my bigger companion when it was his turn to drive. The standard seats are the RS4 Super Sports while front buckets for even more support are available as an option.
The steering wheel is flat-bottomed and you grip onto perforated leather. Ready to go!
Under the bonnet is the absolutely fabulous 4.2-litre FSI V8 engine storming out 450PS. The gearbox is Audi’s 7-speed S-tronic working through twin clutches. The transmission is Quattro, with the latest development in getting torque automatically to the right end of the car and, through the sports differential, to the appropriate wheel – instead of braking a wheel, more power is fed to the other wheel.
You ride on a sports suspension that that handles a variety of surfaces with aplomb; certainly, there is none of the spine-shattering hardness that manufacturers seemed for a long while to think its drivers wanted in a ‘performance’ car. As an option, an even more sophisticated sports suspension can be ordered.
Care needs to be taken in such a powerful car. My idea is to drive pretty gently to start with, to get the feel of things; the RS4 Avant is as docile and driver-friendly as can be.
After a while, and given an open road, you can start to push a bit. The car remains totally driver-friendly. You begin to realise just what it might be capable of, as twists and bends might just as well not exist – the car is completely at ease and there’s not a trace of roll or pitch or yaw.
There’s a great noise, too. The high-revving V8 is just sensational. You can’t help but grin; if your hands weren’t glued to the wheel, you’d punch the air and shout ‘oh yes!’ It’s addictive: you start to look for every opportunity to hit the 8,500 revs red line.
On unrestricted German Autobahns, the car proved to have phenomenal acceleration even from speeds well over 100 mph. The gear changes are brilliantly quick (0.2 seconds, they say, as, with the twin clutch system, the next gear is always ready and waiting). You can paddle them, lever them or just let the car to it all for you. Going down the gearbox, you also get a lovely blip on the throttle.
The brakes? It hardly needs to be said that they are beautifully smooth and progressively powerful. Maximum push on the pedal from high speed is almost as much fun as the extraordinary acceleration from zero to 62mph in just 4.7 seconds. Eye-popping and chest-shoving.
All of Audi’s digital technology is on board, including Drive Select that allows you a choice of performance configurations.
Although the starting price for the RS4 Avant is £54,925, another 10 or 20 grand can easily be added. And it won’t be cheap to run; although a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 26.4 mpg and CO2 emissions at 249 g/km are quite commendable given the stunning performance, you will certainly be paying for your pleasure.
But what pleasure! Wow!
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THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Audi RS4 Avant.
ENGINE: 4.2-litre V8, 450PS V8 petrol engine, driving four wheels through 7-speed S-tronic gearbox.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 174mph. 0-62mph in 4.7 secs.
ECONOMY: Country: 26.4mpg.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 249g/km.
• All data correct at time of publication.