Strange car, the Audi RS4. On the surface it would appear to be capable of doing just about anything you’d ever want from a car with five seats, five doors, four wheels and 444bhp.
Its performance is even more monstrous than you’d imagine when the V8 is revved beyond 6000rpm (it’ll scream all the way to 8500rpm before the limiter intrudes), its seven speed gearbox can swap cogs faster than you can blink, and on the limit its chassis is quite phenomenally well balanced.
The four-wheel-drive system is also so clever that it can actually tell when you’ve made a mistake and are running wide, at which point – so long as you are brave (or stupid) enough to keep your foot down – it will tickle the brakes of the inside wheels, send a bit more power to the loaded outside rear wheel and, hey presto, the car pulls itself back into line, towards the apex that you were about to miss. Clever stuff from what is, in certain circumstances, a very clever car.
Away from the wide open, relative smooth arena of a full blown race track, however, the hot Audi is far less satisfying to drive. On normal roads, ie ones with a few scars on their surface, its ride is somewhere between very firm and ridiculous, even with the electronic dampers set to Comfort.
The new electric steering may well be accurate and precise but it contains not so much as a whiff of anything you’d describe as feel.
The whole driving experience feels far too digital, in fact, and the slower you drive it, the less connected it feels somehow.
For some, the combination of titanic performance, macho good looks, fine build quality and undeniably excellent handling on or around the absolute limit will make the new RS4 a no brainer. But for me, given how good the previous version was, given how communicative it was at all speeds and not just at Mach 6, I’m disappointed by it overall.
The ride alone would send me round the twist. Which is a shame because, last time round, the RS4 was an absolute peach.