Numerically, the RS4 promises much and the pay-off is administered with crushing finesse. The inertia and listless response of one too many faceless Audi engines is expunged from the memory banks by the rapacious revolution of the Avant’s eight cylinders. Doubtless there are other big-capacity powertrains in circulation capable of replicating the RS4’s raw figures, but few measure up to the ever-ready, ruthless proficiency of Ingolstadt’s 4.2-litre V8 option.
Despite shouldering the burden of two well fed road testers – not to mention the RS4’s own well furnished 1880kg bulk – that engine, and its launch control-equipped seven-speed S-tronic accomplice, recorded an average 0-60mph time of 4.4sec. Tellingly, the car feels as though it could repeat the gut-punch recital ad infinitum, and never miss a fraction.
Even more impressive are the in-gear results. With a wide-open throttle from low revs in third, the RS4 will canter from 20 to 40mph in 3.0sec. Several heartbeats later, in the same gear, it will get from 70mph to 90mph in 3.1sec. Certainly there are pyrotechnics to savour at the far end of the 8250rpm limit, but it’s the sheer consistency of the performance and its choke-hold on the business of going fast that lingers in the mind after you’ve arrived, early and slightly bemused, at your destination.
Best of all, the RS4’s aluminium fist is shrouded in a refined glove. It may spark into life and hit its limiter like a WRC privateer, but treat it gently and the V8 disappears into the backdrop. The super-wagon – again, aided by its free-flowing dual-clutch ’box – is supremely civilised at slow speeds, and the default mode offers a sympathetically mapped accelerator pedal to get around lawfully. Clearly this is also meant to stretch the car’s stride towards Audi’s optimistic 26.4mpg combined economy mark, but you’ll have to work harder than we did to stop yourself tapping its mind-warping potential; we only managed an average of 19.8mpg.