Numerically, the Audi 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.

Nic Cackett

Road tester
Fourth gear is ‘the one’. Slot it at a little over 20mph and it’ll take you to 120mph in little more than half a mile

Despite shouldering the burden of two well fed road testers – not to mention the Audi 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.

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

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport Edition 40
    First Drive
    25 May 2016
    The new Clubsport fits the anniversary GTI mould perfectly - but it's still not the best Golf on sale
  • McLaren 570GT
    First Drive
    25 May 2016
    The entry-level McLaren perfected for the broadest audience. Brilliant to drive, with impressive cruising manners and enhanced usability
  • JE Motorworks Defender automatic
    First Drive
    24 May 2016
    The king is dead, long live the king. Are upgrades the best way to breathe new life into your Defender?
  • Car review
    23 May 2016
    Jaguar takes a typically sporting approach to its first SUV
  • Audi RS7 Performance
    First Drive
    20 May 2016
    Did Audi's RS7 need an extra 44bhp and 37lb ft? No, it didn't. Regardless, this Performance model has just that – and we've driven it in the UK