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, fast, but ultimately flawed B6, original V8-powered B7, its unimpressive B8 update and back to boosted 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.
Having just undergone a subtle update in fourth-generation B9 form, the 2020 model hasn’t changed much mechanically, Audi instead focusing on aesthetic updates inside and out. UK specifications have also been streamlined, 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 boorish V8 Mercedes-AMG C63 S, thrilling BMW M3 saloon and the superb Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Of course, the RS4’s chip is the estate body, which AMG aside, is unique in the class, and while the outright performance might be lacking compared to those rivals, its GT credentials, day-to-day ease and superb build quality make the RS4 Avant a deeply attractive package. Especially in green.
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 three distinct trim levels: basic, Carbon Sport and Vorsprung. 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 with the £69,275 basic model costing around £5000 more than in 2021. 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 £75,675, 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 £87,470. 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).
Outside of these trim levels, you can specify carbon ceramic brakes at £6150, and the Vorsprung's more vocal RS Sports Exhaust system for £1250 and the excellent DRC suspension upgrade for £2000. 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.