An even faster and more focused Audi RS4 will make its debut at next March’s Geneva Motor Show. Caught here in prototype guise undergoing high-speed handling tests at the Nürburgring circuit in Germany, the second-generation four-wheel-drive saloon represents an important change in Audi’s performance-car portfolio by foregoing traditional turbocharged power for a highly-tuned naturally aspirated engine.
The about-turn is part of a broader plan instigated by chairman Martin Winterkorn that aims to focus greater attention on Audi’s engineering prowess and further boost the image of its fledgling Audi Sport operation in the face of stiff competition from BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG divisions.
Based around the German car maker’s existing five-valve-per-cylinder 4.2-litre V8, the new RS4’s engine gains a host of lightweight internal components as well as modifications to the inlet and exhaust systems to help extend its top end and increase power. An impressive 425bhp is rumoured – some 44bhp more than the first-generation turbocharged 2.7-litre V6 RS4 launched in 2000 and 61bhp up on the recently facelifted S4 (see gallery).
‘We want to show that we can deliver a high-powered naturally aspirated engine,’ Audi engine boss, Wolfgang Hatz, told Autocar’s German sister publication auto motor und sport.
As with its predecessor, the new car channels its power through a six-speed manual gearbox and four-wheel-drive system. A dual-clutch DSG gearbox could be an option.
Despite tipping the scales at over 1600kg, the new car’s straight-line performance should be more than a match for the likes of the BMW M3 and Merc C55 AMG. Ingolstadt insiders hint at a 0-60mph time below the original RS4’s mark of 4.9sec and a top speed likely to be limited to 155mph, although the recent RS6 Plus is said to be good for 175mph before the limiter cuts in.
To ensure it is able to cope with the added power, Audi has brought some substantial changes to the standard S4’s chassis. Autocar’s scoop photographs reveal it gets wider tracks, a lowered ride height and 18-inch wheels among other more detailed changes. An estate is also expected.
Meanwhile, Hatz has ruled out that the evocative RS badge will be applied across the Audi line-up in the future. ‘The RS name is reserved for the A4 and A6,’ he says.