Audi RS4 Competition 2022 review – sharpened and ready for the M3 Touring
The RS4 Competition takes a big step forward in some aspects, but has a tall mountain to climb against more powerful rivals
The fast estate is obviously something of an Audi staple. Plenty of others have made quick wagons but ever since the RS2, the four rings have been synonymous with practical performance. So, it must have been a bit galling for Ingolstadt to have its thunder well and truly stolen by Munich when BMW announced the G81 M3 Touring. We’ve yet to drive the BMW but such is the fervour around it that people even seem to be able to ignore the grilles. What’s more, it has xDrive, so Audi can’t claim an all-wheel drive trump card either.
Thus this new RS4 Competition feels like Audi getting in a pre-emptive counter punch. The specs certainly look appealing, so could it be that while everyone is trying to get their name down for an M3 they should really be trying to get hold of one of the 75 RS4 Competitions coming to the UK?
The 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 is unchanged from the regular RS4, with outputs remaining at 444bhp and 442lb ft of torque. However, there is an 8kg lighter RS Sports Exhaust Systems Plus with typically-Audi oval tailpipes. The sound isn’t quite as bombastic as you might expect given the size of those pipes but it does add a bit more bass and some rumbles when you’re pushing on.
The gearbox has received software tweaks for faster shift times and a more aggressive feel to the changes, which has helped shave 0.2sec from the 0-62mph time, bringing it down to 3.9sec. Meanwhile, the top speed has been raised by 6mph over a Vorsprung-spec RS4 (and 25mph over a standard RS4) to 180mph.
While the changes to the drivetrain have been relatively subtle, a lot of work has gone into the chassis. The headline items are undoubtedly the new coilovers with three-way (rebound, high and low speed compression) manually adjustable dampers. You get a small tool kit to help adjust the rebound and the ride height, because as standard there is a 10mm drop but an additional 10mm drop can be applied for track driving (or if you just like the look). There are separate damper tune suggestions for road and track in the bespoke handbook, too.
As well as a spring rate that has gone up by about 20 per cent, the Competition also gets stiffer anti-roll bars - roughly 20 per cent firmer at the front and 30 per cent at the rear – along with new alloys that save 2kg per corner. There is a bespoke Pirelli Corsa tyre but a quick glance at the tread pattern reveals that it’s not the most aggressive we have seen, with Audi favouring something that still works well on the road rather than simply maximising lap time.
The Sport differential has been recalibrated in Dynamic mode and as you’d expect given all the hardware changes, the ESP and ABS have also been adjusted to suit. The final piece of the jigsaw is steering that now has a fixed ratio of 13.1.
The first thing you notice is that steering. An Alcantara-wrapped wheel that feels just the right thickness sets the tone and then the direct ratio instantly gives a greater sense of connection and confidence. It’s something that you can enjoy every day and at any speed too.
The next thing that catches your attention is the suspension. Given that with the full 20mm drop this Avant has the almost questionably low stance of something aftermarket, there is an expectation that the ride might be somewhat compromised, but the opposite is true. The coilovers behave exactly as you would hope such expensive suspension would, making the very most of their travel and delivering a lovely quality feel that rounds-off impacts beautifully. Even over Ronda’s cobbled backstreets the Competition remained unruffled, with no unpleasant structural harmonics either.
Out on some quicker, more entertaining roads, the suspension was arguably too good. Such was the pliancy and consequent grip that it found on the smooth tarmac, the RS4 felt more locked down than ever and it was hard to feel any of the apparently more playful characteristics of the Sport differential. I think it might actually be more entertaining, or perhaps just impressive, on a bumpy British B-road, where the dampers will have more to cope with.
Even when we went to Ascari for a few laps, the Avant was incredibly composed. Such is the rear end grip, that you can happily turn off the ESP, throw the car at corners with momentum and chase the throttle knowing that although the tail will swing, it will remain supremely controllable and stable. To this end it is the quicker corners where the whole car feels more fluid and enjoyable, with the tighter turns still requiring a bit of effort to get the front hooked up and the rest of the car rotating.
Over a quick lap, you find yourself managing the front end of the RS4 but thanks to the extra response in the chassis you can play with it and finesse your lines much more easily. It feels quick too; Despite being over 50bhp and nearly 50lb ft down compared to an M3, it feels like it generates huge grip in the corners and still punches well out of them so you can easily get a relatively clean, neat lap.
Ultimately it still leans into the Audi traits that you probably expect, so it’s not as playful and adjustable as its rivals, but it does have a very polished feel to its performance. And if you have a real appreciation for suspension then you will definitely enjoy the way the coilovers go about their business.
Price, specs and rivals
All 75 RS4 Competitions that will be coming to the UK will be finished in Sebring Crystal Black Paint and will start from £84,600 on the road. That’s all but identical to the starting price of a new BMW M3 Touring.
Other options include Mercedes’ recently announced hybrid four-cylinder C63, which will also be available in estate form. Or you could go down the SUV route to practicality and look at a Porsche Macan GTS, which starts at £68,800 or a Cayenne GTS which starts at £91,700. If you fancy a really good soundtrack and one of the best interiors on the market, then a Jaguar F-Pace SVR is definitely worth looking at – they are listed at £81,510.
Finally, it’s also worth considering that you can get a standard RS4 (but with the same engine) for £16,000 less than the Competition.
Audi RS4 Competition specs
|Engine||2.9-litre twin-turbo V6|