Audi RS4 Avant review – can it hope to compete with the new BMW M3 Touring?
The Audi RS4 isn’t as dynamic or exciting as its rivals, but makes for a brilliant fast daily
The Audi RS4 has long appealed to a very specific combination of elements with varying degrees of success over its four generations. Through the boosty and brilliant B6, V8-powered B7, its unimpressive B8 update and back to turbocharged V6 power in its latest B9 form, the RS4 has rarely been able to match rivals from BMW and AMG for thrills, but as a package, things have rarely been so clear-cut.
The current generation underwent a subtle update in 2020, but didn't change much mechanically, instead focusing on aesthetic updates inside and out, but in 2022 brought out the very limited edition (and subsequently sold out) Competition with changes to the suspension, drivetrain and a small reduction in weight. This joined standard models in the UK, with three distinct trim levels available.
Of course, aesthetics weren’t really the issue last time around, rather its more relaxed demeanor compared to some extremely talented rivals, specifically the thrilling BMW M3 saloon and superb Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Of course, the RS4’s USP was the estate body, which BMW has now muscled in on with its M3 Touring. Yet while the outright performance might be lacking compared to those rivals, its GT credentials, day-to-day ease and superb build quality still make the RS4 Avant a deeply attractive package. It's a recipe that's not long for this world, either – its soon to be replaced by a new model dubbed the RS5 Avant as part of a new naming strategy, which is set to be the last iteration with a combustion engine.
Audi RS4: in detail
- Engine, gearbox and technical highlights – Porsche-sourced twin-turbo V6 effective, but can be a tad flat
- Performance and 0-60 time – Acceleration is faster than rivals only due to Quattro, and it is out-gunned by most direct rivals
- Ride and handling – Supple and yet impressively composed, yet the RS4 starts to falter when pushed right to its limit
- MPG and running costs – MPG is rated in the high-20s range, which is totally doable, and relatively reasonable considering the punch
- Interior and tech – Beautifully built, but a tad dated, the overall interior is only contrived by it’s irritating change of infotainment system
- Design – This is where Audi Sport is leagues ahead of its rivals. The RS4 looks ace, and feels worth the high price tag with its bespoke body, fantastic proportions and delicate detailing
Prices, specs and rivals
UK-specification RS4s are available in four distinct trim levels: basic, Carbon Sport and Vorsprung, with the hardcore Competition variant limited to just 75 units on our shores. These models collate different equipment combinations into individual models that do away with most single-option choices or option packages – an increasingly common occurrence to more easily comply with the new WLTP regulations. All RS4s are well equipped, but prices have gone up slightly starting with the £67,465 basic model. It does feature things like a sports exhaust, sports suspension, Audi’s Sport rear differential and 19-inch wheels. On top of this is a host of convenience features such as Matrix LED headlights, Nappa leather sports seats, full navigation and a virtual cockpit.
Next up at £73,865, Carbon Black models add predominantly aesthetic elements finished in... well you can guess. Carbonfibre is liberally applied to sections within both front and rear bumpers, side skirts and interior trim finishes. The window surrounds, badges, mirror caps and roof rails are themselves finished in black for the full stealth look, set off with a set of black-painted 20-inch wheels.
For the fully loaded Vorsprung model you’ll need to spring a hefty £85,065. Oddly, most of the carbon trim is replaced with gloss black in the Vorsprung, but in its place is a huge spread of extra features, including an RS Sports exhaust, Dynamic Ride Control suspension (we’ll get into detail of this later), dynamic steering and a raised 174mph top speed. It’s also packed with more convenience options such as a panoramic sunroof, B&O sound system, multi-coloured ambient lighting, a head-up display and all the active safety you could ever want (to inevitably switch off).
The limited-edition Competition actually undercuts the Vorsprung by £465, but its mechanical specification is much more serious. There's no extra power, but unique three-way adjustable coilovers come as standard, along with stiffer anti-roll bars and a 10mm ride height drop. The Competition's ride height can be manually lowered by a further 10mm, and forged 20-inch alloy wheels and carbon-ceramic brakes are fitted in tandem with the suspension upgrades. The Competition's chassis electronics, from the Dynamic Steering system to the Sport Differential calibration, have been optimised, too.
Outside of these trim levels, you can specify carbon ceramic brakes at £6150, plus a more vocal RS Sports Exhaust system for £1250 and excellent DRC suspension upgrade for £2000, both of which are standard on the top-spec Vorsprung. If red brake calipers on the standard steel brakes are your thing, they're also available for £460.
If you're interested in anything sporty and spacious, BMW's new M3 Touring would not have passed your conscientiousness. The long-awaited model is a direct rival to the RS4, and despite its more practical mantra will likely channel the M3 Competition's extreme performance without much in the way of compromise. All will be xDrive all-wheel drive, creating yet one more correlation between M3 and RS4. Mercedes-AMG's C63 S estate is no longer available in its current V8-powered state, but a replacement is just around the corner. It is worth noting, however, that AMG's gone in a different direction by making its new C63 S a four-cylinder hybrid. When it does arrive, it'll have some big shoes to fill, and indeed some big rivals to beat.
Looking away from small estates, things get even more complicated, as the BMW M3 and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio make far more convincing compact executive sports models than both the Merc and the Audi. While neither BMW nor Alfa have a direct family oriented model, both do have SUV alternatives. The BMW X3 M is much improved to its inital form, but the Stelvio Quadrifoglio is the better handling SUV, although not to the point of it being a worthy replacement for the Giulia saloon.