Audi has stamped a specific identity so firmly on its RS-branded cars that the broad strokes of the Avant’s character barely require preamble. You know you can expect iron-willed grip and staggering all-weather traction, more often than not with benign and prudent dynamics that make the business of going fast all but idiot-proof.

To a degree, the latest RS4 repeats the formula. Drive without regard 
for anything other than the safety 
net of all-wheel-drive forgiveness and it will detach itself from the road at the front and groan wearily around a corner. But adjust your own attitude, respect the 444bhp fighting its way to the floor and the weight around your ears, and there’s plenty more in this car’s repertoire to gratify.

Matt
Prior

Road test editor
The RS4 is rigorously stable in all but the most testing conditions

As you might imagine, it’s the improvements underneath that tell. Redistribution of a fat man’s mass from the nose has left the RS4 discernibly pointier. There’s better balance now – despite a continued lack of genuine detail from the steering – and an enhanced change of direction. Such agility would be a worthy augmentation on its own, but it’s the newly fettled quattro system and that locking rear diff that help deliver more of the oft-promised rear-wheel interaction to the experience.

The result is still not as immersive as, say, an encounter with the C63 AMG estate, but equally that car is not capable of getting around MIRA’s sodden wet track in such a deployable surge of aggressive, grasping supremacy. Here, amid the standing water, the crown gear centre diff reveals not only a natural inclination for finding frankly momentous levels of grip, but also a flair for delivering outbursts of opposite-lock levity.

Admittedly, away from such extreme challenges, the RS4 can still feel a mite cumbersome. The most belligerent settings for its adjustable dampers and variable steering ratio are simply too hardcore for road use, and it lacks the animated feel some of its rivals manage to convey at everyday pace. But these demerits, such as they are, are difficult to square fairly.

Select the right options from the on-board menus and the Avant will ride reasonably, steer faithfully, grip manically and get from A to B like nothing else in the class.