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.

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • BMW's prototype fuel cell concept is based on the 5GT
    First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Fuel cell-powered 5 Series GT concept previews a revolutionary storage and refuelling system which could pave the way for hydrogen to become the alternative fuel of choice
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    There's another BMW 2 Series variant on the horizon; we drive a late-stage prototype plug-in hybrid Active Tourer
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Wagon version of Skoda's cut-price limo is relaxing to drive, vast inside and great value, provided you avoid the range-topper
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Hyundai's new crossover has great potential and a winning character that should have Nissan and Ford worried
  • Car review
    30 June 2015
    Expectations are high and the competition fierce. Can it deliver?