Fast RS models have propagated throughout Audi’s range, but the Audi RS4 still holds a special place in the memory of enthusiasts.

The RS2 estate of 1994 was the first Audi to wear the RS badge, and it was a corking car to drive. It was succeeded by the second Audi RS model, the RS4, in 2000. That was less rewarding but incredibly usable, and really kick-started the RS spawning process. The RS4 of 2006, however, still shines brightest, and is remembered for its fluid ride, engaging handling and superb powertrain.

There are some things you can predict about an RS Audi. That it will have monster performance and traction will be a given. That it will retain all the interior furnishings of its lesser siblings is taken as read, too.

But just what kind of dynamic demeanour it will take on is harder to imagine. Some RS models have ridden well, some dreadfully, some have been engaging and some utterly inert, while some are a complex mix of all the aforementioned. All of which goes to make a test of the new RS4 a particularly intriguing one.

Promisingly, RS Audis of late have been getting more consistent, and getting better. More promisingly still, the best of the breed has, to date, been the previous-generation RS4 – a car that many of our testers would have chosen over a BMW M3 at the time.

And now it’s back, in its third generation, retaining a high-revving, naturally aspirated powertrain rather than following the rest of the industry’s inevitable progression towards blown motors. That was one of the high points of the most recent Audi RS4, so it sounds promising again. Let’s see if it delivers.

Top 5 Super saloons

  • Jaguar XFR
    Not only is the XFR the class leader, it is also exceptional value compared to rivals

    Jaguar XFR

    1
  • Mercedes-AMG C 63
    Mercedes-AMG C 63 saloon is priced from £59,800

    Mercedes-AMG C 63

    2
  • BMW M3
    The M3 packs a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six that produces 425bhp and 405lb ft

    BMW M3

    3
  • Mercedes-AMG E 63
    The old 6.2-litre V8 has been dropped in favour of a twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8

    Mercedes-AMG E 63

    4
  • Jaguar XJR
    The Jaguar XJR offers monstrous, relentless performance

    Jaguar XJR

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Audi Q2 1.4 TFSI 150 S tronic
    First Drive
    29 May 2016
    We head to Havana to find out how the new Audi Q2 is shaping up ahead of its November launch
  • Seat Leon 1.4 EcoTSI FR Titanium
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    High-spec new Titanium FR trim is temptingly good value, particularly on the semi-enthusiastic 1.4 EcoTSI petrol
  • Kia Niro
    First Drive
    27 May 2016
    The Kia Niro will be one of the greenest cars in the compact crossover class when it goes on sale later this year. We drive it to see what else it has to offer
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    Can the turbocharged successor to the 458 raise the bar again?
  • Car review
    27 May 2016
    The big-in-every-way Bentley SUV lands. We assess the impact