The weight Audi has taken out of the nose of this car is apparent pretty quickly. We’ll come on to the various driving modes in a moment, but the overriding impression this car imparts on the driver is one of crushing agility. So far, so quattro. It’s a manufactured agility rather than a natural one, certainly, and dominated by grip and traction rather than any overt balance and adjustability.
Chiefly, though, it’s an agility that allows you to splice through even the most awkward corners without a second thought, and that is the appeal of the RS4. Sharp direction changes feel preordained in their security, even if this car’s steering rack is significantly slower and less feelsome than the one you’ll find in an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
The B9-gen car isn’t entirely devoid of humour, mind. With the sport differential set to Dynamic, through longer (and preferably damp, and tightening) bends, it can be coaxed into steering from the rear, with the mid-setting of the three-stage ESC being lenient enough to reward you for chasing the throttle.
It doesn’t like surprises, though, and using enthusiastic weight transfer to initiate the kind of antics that are second nature for an AMG too often results in seatbelt pre-tensioning, puffed-up bolsters and the scramble of electronics. It’s a car from which to derive satisfaction from calculation rather than exuberance, for sure.
On a chilly, damp MIRA dry handling track the RS4 Avant did what you’d expect it to do: it gripped, it turned, it handled with much better balance and more fun than many would believe, and it set a very creditable lap time.
Audi’s drivetrain makes for simpler and straighter-laced on-throttle limit handling than some of the latest rival systems, but that doesn’t mean the RS4 can’t be stable as well as lively and adjustable when conditions are just so. Leave the electronics active and the car is as sure-footed as they come, but fast, grippy and decently agile with it.
Turn them off and you can trail the brakes on turn-in, carrying plenty of attitude as you home in on the apex, and keep that attitude in the car even as you accelerate out – provided you keep a bit of positive steering angle dialled in. The RS4 is quick to straighten up as soon as you start to countersteer in a slide, but that doesn’t make its handling boring.
Dauntingly broad as the brief is for this sort of car, many RS4s will be optioned with the £2000 Dynamic Ride Control, which includes adaptive dampers. Having tried cars with both DRC and the standard passive set-up, we’re not convinced the extra expense is worthwhile. With dampers set to Comfort, the ride is laudably fluent but the chassis is robbed of that final portion of composure. Dynamic improves body control but introduces an element of brittleness, hampering the RS4’s sense of security.