Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

You’d bet your last tank of unleaded that a new Rennsport model would pack more power than the car it replaces – and, in this case, you’d be running on fumes.

The B9-generation RS4’s 444bhp remains unchanged from its predecessor, although because this 90deg V6 is so different in character from that car’s V8, the same can’t be said for the way in which that power reaches the road.

The loaded front axle could struggle with aquaplaning a little under braking on our wet handling track

It comes as no surprise that this car has the chassis to deploy that power. On a damp day at MIRA’s proving ground, with ambient temperatures low enough to warrant a thick coat, our test car blitzed a 3.9sec sprint to 60mph on one particular run and took less than 10sec to reach triple figures. A Table Mountain torque curve illustrating 443lb ft between 1900rpm and 5000rpm did hint at that kind of pace, but it’s quite exceptional that the accelerative punch of an often docile, mid-sized family car only begins to taper at about 130mph.

This engine has delectable breadth too. Hitch fourth gear at 20mph and you’ll have doubled your speed in the time it takes to say ‘cylinder-selective adaptive knock control’.

Rather than going for a second clutch, as was the case for the B8-gen RS4, Audi has fitted an eight-speed torque converter. Perhaps our test car would have gone quicker with a dual-clutcher, but this engine develops quite a bit more twist than can be reliably put through Audi’s S-tronic transmission and, in truth, an effortless torque converter better suits the RS4 as an everyday car. 

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Critics might contend that this is where too much of the focus lies. Peak power arrives at 5700rpm and is still on tap at an agreeably high 6700rpm, although using that end of the rev range is more often a matter of convenience than enjoyment and not strictly necessary.

This engine is clinical: obscenely potent and largely devoid of turbo lag but also capable of blending into the background and hauling the RS4’s 1790kg bulk along a motorway with the trip computer reading north of 35mpg. And despite all that, we’d prefer the old V8.