Performance and practicality are the RS4’s watchwords, and while Audi may have expanded its RS range over the years (with the RS3, RS5 and RS6), the RS4 Avant is undoubtedly the icon.
The family was founded by the original five-cylinder turbo RS2 Avant from 1994, co-developed with Porsche, so the latest B8 model represents the fourth generation of Audi’s high-performance wagon concept.
The new car looks terrific with its distinctive fender flares that echo the Ur-quattro, crammed to the brim with the optional
ten-spoke 20" wheels shod with 265/30 rubber. The lowered and uprated suspension further helps to give the car its hungry stance, like a pitbull, only with tons of room for carrying pitbulls, too…
That said, on these big wheels, the RS4’s secondary ride is not as forgiving as the M3 or C63 AMG, but it might be another story on the standard 19s.
Our test car was also fitted with the firmer Sport Suspension Plus and Sport Differential (both of which are options) but it’s an RS – go big or go home!
What the chassis gives up in low-speed compliance, it makes up for with sheer mechanical quattro grip, and Audi took us to the Red Bull Circuit in Austria to emphatically prove the point.
Formerly the F1-rated A1 Ring, the track was acquired by Red Bull owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, in 2004 and extensively remodelled before opening in 2011 for DTM duty. With its combination of fast- and medium-speed bends along with tricky elevation changes, the Red Bull Ring proved the perfect track to showcase the RS4’s athleticism.
Leaving pitlane with the growling 4.2-liter V8 echoing off the walls, the combination of beefy torque and a free-revving spirit make for truly charismatic combustion.
From 4000-6000rpm, you’ve got 317 lb-ft of torque at your disposal. Paired with traction and launch control, the RS4 is a beast out of the hole, but it’s the 450hp you hit at 8250rpm that makes the RPM worthwhile.
The drivetrain is a lesson in perfection; an area Audi sits above the rest. Power reaches the tarmac in an aggressive motion, and the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission bangs off gears faster than you can say ehrfürchtige (German for awesome).
The RS4 takes 4.7sec to 60mph, on its way to a healthy top speed of 173mph, as long as you request the 155mph governor be removed. And why wouldn’t you?
The car’s impressive stability gave us total confidence to pin the throttle in fourth gear through the long left-hand bend after the pit straight, and our terminal speed at the braking threshold for the subsequent tight right-hander was an indicated 125mph, just short of hitting the rev limiter.
Washing off substantial speed to take the second 180˚ right-hander gave us an insight into two things: Firstly; the new RS4 has very effective brakes, and secondly; unlike previous RS4s, the new car doesn’t suffer significant weight transfer under hard braking. Somehow, balance has been achieved.
Audi has motorcycle-style waves machined into their new drilled brake rotors that save 5.5 lb across the 365mm front and 324mm rear discs. Isolated from the hubs by stainless steel pins to reduce heat transfer, the discs are clamped by eight-piston front and single-pot rear aluminum monoblock calipers. Alternatively, 380mm carbon/ceramic front discs are optionally available. Swing for the hills, these things clamp so hard you pray the asphalt doesn’t peel off the track.
With both a big V8 hanging over the nose and an all-wheel drive chassis, nobody expects the Audi to have ideal weight distribution. However, the center diff can send up to 85% of the torque to the rear-end, and that’s what gets you around a turn, or kicks the tail out instead of the notorious understeer on previous generations.
As you reach the limit of adhesion, the torque vectoring system dabs the brake on an inside wheel, creating a moment that further helps the car go where you point it. And if you want to get sideways while facing the apex, it’ll do that too – just lift off mid-corner and floor it, counter-steer and you’ll be doing lazy all-wheel drifts in no time.
Anyone calling the RS4 Avant a grocery getter is stuck in the past, where wagons weren’t nearly this cool. The RS4 is meant for setting records on the way to the supermarket, and it does that damn well.