The fourth installment has taken the RS4 full circle, reverting to a smaller capacity twin-turbocharged V6 like the one in the original car, in place of the naturally-aspirated V8(s). 444bhp (the same as in the previous RS4) is on tap courtesy of the 2.9-litre motor also used in the Audi RS5. Torque is rated at 443lb ft, some 125lb ft more than the previous generation RS4 could manage. The extra mid-range twist has slashed the 0-62mph time to 4.1sec, sixth tenths quicker than the preceding RS4. Top speed remains limited to 155mph, although the RS dynamic package will lift it to 174mph.
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It is based on the current A4 platform which provides the new RS4 Avant with a very good starting point, for the standard model and the current S4 are night and day improvements over their predecessors. Ostensibly due to Audi’s weight reduction programme, it has allowed the chassis and dynamics boys and girls to finally nail the A4’s ride and handling. The weight loss – the new car is 80 kilos lighter – has brought an alertness and responsiveness to each model unexpected from Ingolstadt products. The damping is so much cleaner, crisper and better suited, too, that there is more to recommend about an A4 and S4 than its quality, looks and impeccable interior quality.
Being an RS model the new RS4 Avant’s bodywork is suitably enhanced. Its front and rear arches are 30mm wider and it sits 7mm lower than an S4 thanks to the standard-fit RS sport suspension, which can be upgraded to RS sport suspension plus with dynamic ride control, better controling body movements reining-in pitch and roll. The optional are larger air inlets at the front, too, with an Audi RS trademark honeycomb structure incorporated within the single piece grille. LED Matrix headlights will be optional for the full “get out of my way, I’m an Audi” effect. The rear features a bespoke diffuser, a pair of oval tailpipes for the RS-specific exhaust and there’s a spoiler for the trailing-edge of the roof, too. RS4 traditionalists will be pleased to hear that Nogaro blue paint will also be available.
The eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the old car’s twin-clutch unit directs drive to all four corners where the Quattro all-wheel drive system does its work. Shuffling torque to maximise performance in varying conditions, it can divert up to 85 per cent to the front-axle and 70 per cent to the rear. To further optimize power deployment a rear-differential is offered as an optional extra.
Inside it’s all 21st century Audi with black leather, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and slick-sports seats. A virtual-cockpit will be standard and will feature RS-specific displays that will indicate the G-force you’re pulling, tyre pressures and the torque being used.
With no estate version of BMW’s M3 or Alfa’s Giulia Quadrifoglio the RS4 Avant’s big challenge will come from the more powerful, rear-wheel drive Mercedes-AMG C63 S estate. With 503bhp and 516lb ft produced by its 4-litre twin-turbocharged V8 we know the AMG doesn’t want for muscle. Its 4.0sec 0-62mph time may only be a tenth quicker than that claimed for the new RS4 Avant, but we already know the C63 S gets there with a thunderous and intoxicating V8 soundtrack. The AMG is 10kg heavier despite having two fewer driven wheels and currently costs £70,325. It’s going to be an intriguing twin-test when we drive them back-to-back at the beginning of 2018.
The last RS4?
On the future of the RS4 and where it sits within Audi Sport’s plans, Winkleman said: “The RS4 Avant - and RS6 Avant - will also be part of Audi Sport. These models, the RS4 in particular is very important to us, it’s perhaps our most recognisable product. It’s the car many of our customers know us for. We will also fight to do these cars.”
With the growth in SUVs and more niche SUVs – including both electric power and performance models – traditional sports saloons and estate cars don’t always have such a certain future. “In some markets we know cars like the RS4 are not volume sellers, but this is the first time we will sell it in China, a market that traditionally doesn’t buy estate cars. But there is a demand for it, just like there is a demand for Audi Sport to produce an SUV, so the new Q8 will offer an Audi Sport model, but not at the cost of there being no RS4 or RS6. These models are too important.
“As with all our cars, not just Audi Sport but Audi AG too, we will have to look at how we can build them to meet any legislation – I’m talking about emissions – without compromising our core principles of what makes an Audi Sport car: Usability, performance and design.”