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 2013-2015

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

    Mercedes-AMG C 63

    2
  • BMW M3

    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

Explore the Audi range

Driven this week

  • Mini Countryman Cooper S
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    All-new bigger Mini continues to make a curious, flawed crossover hatchback, though it’s more compelling to drive than some and more practical than it used to be
  • Porsche Panamera 4 E-Hybrid
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    Plug-in petrol-electric Panamera makes a better case than ever to supplant the diesel best seller, but it still appeals more to the head than the heart
  • MX-5 RF 2.0 160
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    The distinctive 'retractable fastback' roadster promises typical MX-5 dynamics coupled with better refinement. It achieves the former, but the latter isn't quite there yet
  • Hyundai i30 1.4 T-GDi Premium
    First Drive
    17 January 2017
    Facing increasingly formidable opposition, the Hyundai i30 has been overhauled for 2017. The result is a recognisably mixed bag
  • 2016 Infiniti Q50 Country Road
    First Drive
    12 January 2017
    Infiniti’s premium mid-sized saloon packs a serious punch, but lacks the dynamic prowess of European rivals