The Audi RS4 is making a comeback after a four-year hiatus — and like the original introduced in 2000, it will be sold in estate form only. The third incarnation of Audi’s hot load hauler has made its first public appearance at the Geneva motor show.
Right-hand-drive cars should arrive in the UK this autumn. Exact UK pricing has yet to be finalised, but insiders hint that the RS4 Avant will come in at around £55,000, pitching it into direct competition with the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG estate, which costs from £56,765.
Audi has given three reasons for offering the RS4 in Avant form only. It says its hot estates have always traditionally outsold their saloon equivalents, the market is moving away from hot four-doors, and the S5 Sportback has sufficient power for those wanting a performance Audi four-door in the segment.
At the heart of the new RS4 Avant is the same naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 found in the RS5. The four-valve-per-cylinder unit kicks out 444bhp at 8250rpm. This is up by 30bhp on the previous RS4, but torque remains as before at 317lb ft between 4000 and 6000rpm.
By comparison, the C63 AMG estate’s naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 delivers 451bhp in standard trim, rising to 480bhp in combination with an optional performance package, together with 442lb ft of torque.
Audi has not revealed a weight for the RS4 Avant prior to Geneva, although it’s almost certain to be beyond the 1725kg of the RS5. It does, however, claim 0-62mph acceleration of 4.7sec, which is 0.2sec faster than the old second-generation model and just 0.1sec slower than the rapid RS5. Top speed is limited to 155mph in standard trim, but a performance option can raise that figure to 174mph.
Drive is channelled, as in the RS5, through a specially calibrated version of Audi’s seven-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It has a manual mode that can be controlled via steering wheel-mounted paddles or the gear selector lever. Launch control is standard.
A quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is also standard. At the heart of this is Audi’s self-locking crown-gear centre differential, a fast-acting power split that can send up to 70 per cent of power to the front wheels and up to 85 per cent to the back. An active Sport rear differential is optional, with two ‘super-position’ stages to actively distribute power between the car’s individual rear wheels. Without it, the car’s traction control-based torque vectoring system juggles power asymmetrically across both front and rear axles.
The RS4 Avant rides on a heavily revised version of the A4 Avant’s chassis, with a 20mm reduction in ride height and extensive use of aluminium in its multi-link suspension. Adaptive damping and an advanced electro-mechanical steering system can automatically apply a small degree of opposite lock during all-out cornering for what Audi describes as “more stable handling”.
New 19in alloys wrapped in 265/35 tyres are standard, with 20in alloys shod with 265/30 rubber as options. Reining in the performance is the same brake package as that of the RS5, with ventilated and cross-drilled 365mm front steel discs grabbed by eight-piston calipers. The discs have wave-like contours within their outer edges that help to reduce heat build-up and temperature peaks under continued braking, according to Audi. As an option, there are larger 380mm front carbon-ceramic rotors in combination with six-piston calipers.
The new RS4 Avant has a series of subtle but effective styling changes — all aimed at differentiating it from its lesser A4 and S4 Avant siblings. Included is a more prominent grille with a matte aluminium frame and high-gloss black honeycomb insert, LED headlamps, a deeper front bumper with large air ducts to cool the engine and an integral splitter for improved airflow along the underside of the car.
Also evident are aluminium-look exterior mirror housings, beefed-up sills under the doors, flared wheel arches, a discreet tailgate spoiler, a distinctive new rear bumper and sizeable chromed oval tailpipes.
Inside, up to 1430 litres of load capacity is offered with the rear seats folded down. The interior design is all in black, featuring sports bucket seats, a special thick-rimmed steering wheel, RS badging and a lap timer incorporated into the infotainment system.