Audi RS 4 Avant review
The fourth generation RS 4 replaces V8 with turbocharged V6, but its all-weather pace and ability are better than ever
While the Audi RS 5 isn't the most exciting sporting coupe around, the estate-only Audi RS 4 Avant makes a much better case for itself. It manages to combine serious straight-line performance with unrivalled all-weather, cross-country ability, thanks to its quattro 4WD system. It handles better than the previous RS 4, too, although it lacks the fun factor of its main rival, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate.
The RS 4 Avant makes up for this slight lack of sparkle by being easier to live with than almost any rival, with impressive refinement and a ride that’s barely any less comfortable than the standard A4 Avant. Combine that with one of the best interiors in the business, a usefully large boot and even decent fuel economy, considering the performance on offer, and you’ve got a car with a real Jekyll and Hyde personality.
Fast estate cars like the Audi RS 4 Avant are a rare breed. The only true rival to the RS 4 for sale today is the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate, and both are very expensive cars that offer astonishing performance combined with the ability to carry five people and their luggage.
With a price tag that's north of £60,000, the RS 4 Avant is more than just a flagship estate, as it's the halo model for the entire Audi A4 range. It features a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 (replacing the naturally aspirated V8 seen in past RS 4s) that packs 444bhp, an eight-speed Tiptronic auto box, the ubiquitous quattro four-wheel drive and a chassis that's been developed by Audi Sport, the same division behind the Le Mans-winning sportscars and the R8 supercar.
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As a result, it can accelerate from 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds (consistently, too, courtesy of standard-fit launch control) and on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph (which can be lifted to 174mph by adding an upgrade pack). Yet the addition of the 8-speed gearbox means the engine can be relaxed when you want it to be, while official fuel economy of 32mpg is reasonable when you consider the performance on offer.
As already mentioned, the RS 4 Avant's main rival is the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate, but there are other options available if you can forego the estate car body. The C 63 also comes in coupe, convertible and saloon guises for starters, while the RS 4's running gear can be had in the RS 5 Coupe and Sportback body styles. Elsewhere, the C 63's running gear is also offered in the GLC 63 SUV.
Beyond that, the BMW M3 and M4 offer similar performance in saloon and coupe/convertible guises, and the Alfa Romeo Giulia and Stelvio Quadrifoglios are a saloon and SUV with a bit of Ferrari magic thrown into the mix. Or there's the Porsche Panamera, which also comes in the Sport Turismo shooting brake body style, or you could choose a Macan or Cayenne SUVs if you need the practicality.
But if you desire an estate car that can match a supercar for acceleration and offers acres of grip, then the RS 4 Avant is a fairly unique proposition. Just ask yourself if you can justify the additional outlay the car demands over the nearly-as-fast S4 Avant, or the more efficient diesel versions of the standard A4 Avant. For some people, the RS 4's menacing looks, blistered wheelarches and sense of occasion over the standard A4 Avant is more than enough reason to take the plunge.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe fourth generation RS 4 replaces V8 with turbocharged V6, but its all-weather pace and ability are better than ever
- 2Engines, performance and driveThe RS 4 is very fast in any conditions, but it's comfortable and refined when you want it to be. It just lacks a bit of character
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsGiven the performance on offer, the RS 4 is remarkably fuel efficient. It’ll be pricey to insure, however
- 4Interior, design and technologyRS 4’s pumped-up exterior looks good, while cabin is as slick and solidly built as any Audi
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe RS 4 retains the impressive roominess of the A4 Avant, while it’s almost as comfortable despite the performance
- 6Reliability and SafetyA wide spread of assists and safety features are reassuring, but Audi’s recent Driver Power performances left something to be desired