What is it?
The fourth-generation Audi RS4 Avant comes with a base price the far side of £60,000 and substantial mechanical changes to the underwhelming car it supersedes. We’ve driven it before – on the occasion of its international launch, in Malaga – but now it’s in the UK, with first deliveries scheduled for late March.
Much of the new stuff is from a template set down by the latest RS5. As such, gone is the characterful 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 of the old model, replaced by a twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 TFSI. It marks a return to the twin-turbo V6, in fact, though this 2018-spec engine is slightly larger than that of the original B5 RS4 of 2000. The upshot is that combined fuel economy is up by roughly a fifth and carbon dioxide emissions are halved.
That, of course, is only part of the story. Downsizing has taken a good measure of weight from the nose too. This V6 is 31kg lighter than the V8 and employs the ‘hot-vee’ architecture pioneered by Mercedes-AMG. The theory is that by placing the turbos within the valley of the cylinders, you truncate the engine’s respiratory tract and consequently trim turbo-lag.
It is a mighty device too; small but explosively potent. The headline figure of 444bhp isn’t perhaps the most breathtaking but 443lb ft between 1900rpm and 5000rpm hints at brutal and sustained acceleration. The sprint to 62mph takes a claimed 4.1sec, with top speed capped at 155mph unless you pay Audi £1450 to have it extended to 174mph.
There are further weight savings beyond the engine. Audi has shaved 15kg from the body, 12kg from the axles, 3.5kg from the electromechanical steering, 12.5kg from the quattro driveline and finally a solitary kilogram from the sport differential in the rear axle. You can take the diet further with optional carbon-ceramic brakes (8kg) and a set of beautiful 20in aluminium milled alloys (another 8kg), which together reduce that all-important unsprung mass. All in, the B9 RS4 is up to 80kg less than the car it replaces, which with any luck will be the start of a trend of lighter RS-badged creations.
The options list, meanwhile, is long in a way that only an Audi options list can be, but your chief concerns are whether to go for dynamic steering (£950) and the sports suspension (£2000). You might also consider the sports exhaust (£1200), though we can tell you that while Audi is correct in its claims that the exhaust note of this new RS4 is reminiscent of the old V6 in the B5, that car’s song always was a bit blunt.
And then there are the looks, the overall impact of which is hugely dependent on spec. This generation of RS4 is more aggressive than the car it replaces, however, with acute angles, deep creases and a penchant for ‘sporty’ detailing that extends even to air vents that shadow not only the headlights but the rear lights too. All but indistinguishable from the Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate in terms of its footprint, in the metal the RS4 has a hard, technocratic edge to its compatriot’s more demure curves.
Back to that dependence on spec. In a conservative colour such as Navarra Blue (£645), the RS4 creates only a few more ripples among traffic than a well-equipped 3.0 TDI, and that’ll suit many of you just fine. Opt for something more unusual, such as splendid Sonoma Green (also £645), with privacy glass and the Black Styling pack (£550), and your mid-sized estate will take on a distinct air of menace.
However, crack on with pearl-effect Vegas Yellow (£2400), fit the 20in anthracite twin-spokers (£2400) and top it off with the Carbon Black pack (£5000), and you’ve got the practical equivalent of a Pagani Zonda. And something that’s arguably far more effective in the real world…