What is it?
The Audi RS4 Avant operates in a rare old sphere of fast compact executive estates that involves only it and the Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate. There’s no BMW M3 estate and, as yet, no sign of an Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio with a square back, either. So if you want a fast, smallish dog carrier for £60k or so, here you are.
Now in its fourth generation, the RS4 also leaves the C63 as the only V8-powered car in this class. Like the RS5, the new RS4’s engine has been downsized to a 444bhp 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6, rather than having the previous generation’s charismatic naturally aspirated V8.
This drives through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox, to all four wheels, in a body given a bit more chunkiness and cooling and 30mm-wider wheel arches.
The quattro four-wheel drive system puts 60% of power to the rear wheels under normal driving, but can put as much as 70% to the rear, or, 85% to the front. This is the kind of system intended to make the RS4 more agile. To that end, there’s a ‘sport differential’, an electronically controlled rear differential that can apportion as much power as it likes to either side, as standard.
There are other suspension options, too: hydraulically linked dampers, a bit like those in a McLaren, to reduce roll and pitch. There's also dynamic steering, which adjusts the steering ratio depending on speed, and ceramic brakes. All were fitted to our test car. Other options include a carbon pack at £10k (clue’s in the name). Wheels are 19in or 20in (guess what we got) with 275/30 R20 tyres.
This generation of RS4 is (up to) 80kg lighter than the old one (deep breath: the body by 15kg, engine by 31kg, front and rear axles 6kg each, steering system 3.5kg, sport differential 1kg, quattro driveline 12.5kg, ceramic brakes 8kg and, if you spec them, milled wheels 8kg), but is still a 1715kg car; about the same as the C63.
The two are also within a centimetre of length, with the RS4 at 4781mm long. This is one of those ultra-competitive classes where all of the key numbers are gnat’s widths apart, including a boot of 505 litres (to the C63’s 490).