Audi is turning back the clock for the next generation of RS-badged A4s by restricting the new RS4 to a five-door Avant bodystyle only.

The reasons are threefold: hot Avant models have historically outsold saloon versions, the S5 Sportback offers a performance four-door alternative and the market is moving away from hot four-doors. “We will continue with the RS4 Avant, which has traditionally accounted for the majority of European sales,” says the boss of Audi’s quattro division, Stephan Riel, "but our research suggests the market for a saloon version is now rather limited."

The decision also chimes with Audi’s heritage of hot estates. In three-generations only the last model included an RS4 saloon.

Set for launch at Geneva, the new RS4 Avant uses the RS5’s 4.2-litre V8, developing 444bhp and 317lbft. The same engine powered the last-gen RS4, although it developed 28 fewer bhp. Also new to the RS4 is a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, optional instead of the standard six-speed manual. The quattro four-wheel drive system is also the latest version with torque adjustable across the rear-axle.

New ‘wave-style’ discs are added to the braking system. Eschewing conventional design, they feature small indents in the outer edges of the discs that together are claimed to reduce the weight at each corner by around 1.5 kg, reducing unsprung mass.