UK drive: Audi RS4 Avant
Hot on the heels of the 'bahnstorming RS5 Coupe, Audi's launched its practical sibling - the RS4 Avant. AOL Cars takes it for a drive to see how it copes with UK roads.
What is it?
This is the latest incarnation of Audi's renowned RS4 Avant. It's lighter, faster and more powerful than ever, and combined with its practical estate body it promises to be pretty much all the car you could ever want or need.
It's even more practical than the old car, and – thanks to a downsized twin-turbo V6 engine – it's more efficient too. Drivers who don't want to trade performance for practicality ought to be queuing in their droves.
Though the styling is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, some big changes have taken place under the skin. There's a new, twin-turbocharged V6 engine rather than the previous generation's V8. It offers up even more performance than before.
Despite the similar looks, this is actually longer, wider and lower than the older RS4 Avant – but it weighs less, which should aid handling and fuel economy further.
Inside, it features Audi's latest cabin architecture, including its Virtual Cockpit digital dial pack – one of the best available now. Everything feels fresh and modern, and it's somehow more characterful than the RS5 Coupe.
What's under the bonnet?
The new RS4 Avant is powered by a 2.9-litre V6 engine, with twin turbochargers to make up for the loss in displacement. It produces 444bhp and an incredible 600Nm of torque – that latter figure helping to contribute to the car's deeply impressive 3.9-second 0-60mph time.
Power is sent via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to all four wheels, ensuring excellent traction in all conditions.
Despite the impressive power output, Audi claims the RS4 will return 32.1mpg on the combined cycle – not at all bad for something this powerful. CO2 emissions stand at 200g/km, though, which ensures an expensive first year's road tax.
What's it like to drive?
As you'd imagine with so much power on tap, the RS4 is electrifying to drive. Power delivery is smooth and predictable, and you'd hardly notice the engine was turbocharged if you didn't already know.
The eight-speed ZF automatic is smooth when left to its own devices, and impressively sharp when you flick it into manual mode.
Of course, there's lots of traction too, thanks to the quattro all-wheel drive – an Audi speciality.
One negative is the ride – in standard form, at least. However, this is where the RS4's impressive options list comes into play. We tested a car with optional dynamic chassis control, and it transformed the car, making it supple enough for a British B-road. It's a box well worth ticking in our eyes.
How does it look?
The Audi RS4 has, to our eyes, always been a masterclass in how to make a car look purposeful yet understated. The latest car is just the same, with only a few exterior touches making it look different to standard A4s.
Though the RS4 is considerably more beefy than the standard car, it doesn't look over the top. It gains a large splitter at the front, while the rear sees a gloss black diffuser between the two large oval exhaust pipes.
It certainly looks its best in darker colours, and now comes with the option of milled alloy wheels – something you'll only find on high-end supercars.
What's it like inside?
As you'd expect from any Audi, the interior of the RS4 is very well made indeed. Super-high-quality materials are beautifully screwed together, and the design is slick and straight-edged.
The seats are comfortable and very supportive, plus they have enough adjustment to sit you nice and low.
Rear seat legroom is pretty good, even behind a taller drive, while the high estate roofline means rear headroom is good too. There's no reason why anyone should complain when sitting in the back of the RS4 during a long journey.
Meanwhile, the boot is class-leading, and lowering the seats gives even more flexible storage.
What's the spec like?
Given the RS4's starting price of £62,175, you'd hope for a good level of standard equipment. Thankfully, Audi's delivered on this front. The firm's Virtual Cockpit is standard, as is a 10-speaker sound system. The front sports seats are trimmed in Nappa leather, too.
Audi is launching with an optional Carbon Edition specification from launch, which adds matrix LED headlights, RS sports exhaust and a range of carbon fibre styling additions – though it bumps up the starting price to £72,175. We'd advise adding the £2,000 Dynamic Chassis Control, too.
Any RS Audi needs to be practical, blisteringly fast across all surfaces and understated enough to blend in. The RS4 Avant ticks all of these boxes, and provides an invigorating drive alongside genuine everyday usability.
It's also very well-made inside. With just a few additional options, the RS4 Avant can quickly become the ideal day-to-day sports estate. It's certainly a purchase you wouldn't regret making.
Facts and figures
Model: Audi RS4 Avant
Price as tested: £77,720
Engine: 2.9-litre turbocharged V6
Power (bhp): 443
Torque (Nm): 600
Max speed (mph): 155
0-60mph: 3.9 seconds
MPG (combined): 32.1
Emissions (g/km): 200