First spy pics of Audi's hot new 444bhp V8 estate in testing at the Nurburgring
30 March 2011

Audi’s wave of high performance new saloons and estates shows no sign of slowing with scoops of the new RS4 leaking out while testing at the Nurburgring.

Given away by the outrageous extended wheelarches, this RS4 Avant is understood to use the same running gear as the RS5 coupe.

That means a 444bhp 4.2-litre V8 pushing out 317lbft of torque and mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission.

See the spy pics of the new Audi RS4

The RS4 is tipped to appear only in a five-door estate bodyshell, with the RS5 to continue as the hot, two-door coupe and the forthcoming 440bhp S6 to cover the market niche for a hot four-door saloon.

With the RS4 and S6 in the development pipeline for launch next year in the UK, Audi is covering all corners of the market with a hot S7 version of its executive-sized five-door fastback and an S8 version of its A8 luxury saloon. The S6 is tipped for spring sale in 2012 followed by the RS4 in the summer.

However, the S6, S7 and S8 trio will feature more restrained styling than the RS4 and be tuned to offer a more refined and relaxed high performance driving experience. The S6 will be available in both saloon and Avant form, the latter expected to take around 60 per cent of sales.

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Audi A4

The Audi A4 is an improvement over the previous version, but isn't good enough to topple the BMW 3 Series

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Power for the S-models will come from a new 4.0-litre V8 boosted by a single-turbo. A higher output 555bhp twin-turbo version of this new engine will appear first in an entry-point Bentley Continental GT later this year.

When and if Audi decides to launch an RS6 version of the A6, this powerful lump can expect to offer Audi an M5-rivalling super-saloon.

In a bid to match the launch impact of the M5 at this September’s Frankfurt Show, Audi has been planning to launch the S6, S7 and S8 at the same show, although whether the RS4 will appear, too, is unclear.

Julian Rendell

See all the latest Audi A4 reviews, news and video

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Our Verdict

Audi A4

The Audi A4 is an improvement over the previous version, but isn't good enough to topple the BMW 3 Series

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week