BUILDING YOUR DREAM GARAGE COMES AT A PRICE D
AUDI INVENTED the science of turning basic fleet wagons into very fleet wagons, starting with the Porsche co-developed RS2 nearly 25 years ago.
Their latest effort is the $152,990 Audi RS4 Avant and, while I was looking forward to my time with the latest Ingolstadt bruiser, I was also trying to rationalise the $50,000 premium over the S4 Avant.
After all, the S4 Avant is no slouch. In fact it’s only 0.8 sec slower 0-100km/h than the RS4 and just as practical and a personal favourite.
So… I figured that after a week or so behind the wheel of the RS4 Avant I’d be able to come to a balanced, well-thought out rational conclusion.
Then I arrived at the dealership and that plan immediately flew right out the window.
I was like a kid in a lolly shop as soon as I clamped my eyes on the gleaming Misano Red RS4 Avant – I just wanted it.
And that was before I dropped into the superb diamond pattern stitched leather sports seat and cautiously wrapped my fingers around the alcantara D-shaped steering wheel. On looks alone the price tag is worth every cent.
And I reckon that’s how Audi sells plenty of them.
Backing up its masculine looks is a deep well of substance that has been honed and perfected over the past quarter century starting with the RS2.
The RS4 Avant is a blisteringly fast family hauler that corners like a slot car, yet is both practical and comfortable for daily use, while pampering you in a refined, sumptuous cabin.
The key to its volcanic power is a bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 that makes a bitumen searing, 331 kilowatts and 600 newton metres, from a low 1900rpm, as I discovered the first time I glanced at the throttle.
Its colossal grunt is permanently fed to the road through all four wheels, via a slick-shifting eight-speed tiptronic gearbox, with sport and manual modes and paddle shifters along with an electronically controlled torque-vectoring rear differential.
Further enhancing its dynamic ability are the Dynamic Ride Control and Audi Drive Select (auto, comfort, dynamic, individual) letting you tailor its ride, handling, steering, gear shifting and ferocity of power delivery. For the brave or skilled or both, the traction control can be switched off. Good luck with that!
The acceleration is unbelievable, like you’re actually inside a football that’s been kicked. It pins you back in the seat and as the scenery blurs by, the two huge exhausts poking from the rear diffuser delivering a high-tech bark. It’s an intoxicating note that I just had to play over and over again, courtesy of some gentle twitching by my right foot. And I mean gentle.
If you nail it 100km/h is a memory in 4.1 seconds and top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h. I’d love to know the unlimited number… 300?
BODY 5-door Wagon
ENGINE 2.9lt V6 bi-turbo
POWER & TORQUE 331kW/600Nm
PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 4.1 seconds
TOP SPEED 250 km/h
TRANSMISSION 8-speed tiptronic
BRAKES Discs all round
PRICE $152,900 + orc
WHERE Audi dealers
Equally powerful are the RS4 Avant’s brakes courtesy of enormous ventilated and drilled discs and beefy six-piston calipers. Stomp hard on the left pedal and you swear your eyeballs are about to get up close and personal with the head-up display on the windscreen.
Pitch the RS4 Avant at some challenging bitumen and its physics-defying lateral grip; pin-sharp steering, pliant suspension, slingshot acceleration and surefootedness leave you in awe of its capabilities. It’s enthralling to drive quickly, an effortless long distance cruiser and still joyful when ambling along in traffic.
Sitting on a new 80 kilogram lighter chassis, the RS4 Avant’s broad stance is exaggerated by a wide, gloss-black grille, ground hugging front spoiler and low ride height. Tucked under the sculptured 30mm wider front and rear guards – that take inspiration from the Audi 90 IMSA GTO racer – are steamroller wide, low-profile 20-inch Pirelli tyres on milled five-spoke alloys. A sizeable roof spoiler enlarges its silhouette.
Inside, the crafted and well-appointed black cabin bristles with tactile surfaces, soft leather, alcantara, carbon fibre and chrome.
The front sports seats are powered, heated, with three-way massage functions and sport adjustable bolsters. You sit low in the RS4 Avant with everything in easy reach and the alcantara wrapped D-shape wheel is so nice to hold. Black seatbelts with red piping add a nice touch.
The rear passenger area is surprisingly roomy and the tailgate is both motion and motor operated, opening to a reasonably large cargo area, hidden under a cargo blind.
Audi’s intuitive and easy-to-use infotainment system houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto plus DAB+ digital radio and a host of apps that play through 19 speakers, to keep you entertained. Bluetooth phone and wireless charging will keep you connected and satellite navigation that’s also embedded in the virtual cockpit instrument panel, will get you to where you want with a minimum of fuss. Reversing is helped by the 360-degree and rear-view cameras and you can even connect to the internet.
Audi has dumped its entire driver assist and safety catalogues into the RS4 Avant which comes with eight airbags, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, exit warning system, rear cross traffic assist, blind spot warning, pre-sense basic – if an emergency is detected, autonomous emergency braking with turn assist, collision avoidance assist, auto high beam and self-parking and more.
Needless to say it’s as safe and secure as it is swift and has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
And it wouldn’t be an Audi without a heap of option packs to choose from with prices ranging from $1000 for the gloss black style pack, to $3900 for the Technik pack, both fitted to the test car.
After returning the Misano red amigo, what is deeply etched into my mind is the overall completeness of the Audi RS4 Avant.
All-rounder is a much-overused term so let’s just say it does everything you could ask of it… and much, much more.
BASED ON THE Audi 80 and built on the B4 platform, the RS2 was a co-development project between Audi and Porsche in 1994. Powering the RS2 was a Porsche-modified 2.2-litre 5-cylinder 20-valve turbocharged engine, with a decent 232kW/410Nm. Bolted to it was a six-speed manual gearbox and all wheels were driven. Audi made most of the underpinnings with assembly at Porsche’s Rossle-Bau plant in Zuffenhausen, Germany, which also produced the famous Porsche 959.
The RS2 could accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds and top speed was 267 km/h. According to an Autocar magazine road test in 1995 the RS2’s time of 1.5 seconds from 0 to 48 km/h was quicker than a McLaren F1 roadcar and Jacques Villeneuve’s Formula one car of the time.
The Brembo brake calipers were inscribed with the word Porsche and the wheels and exterior mirrors were shared with the Porsche 964 Turbo. Completing the package was a three-spoke leather steering wheel and Recaro sports seats. Approximately 2200 RS2s were to be built initially, but due to demand the total increased to 2891.
Of these, only 180 were right hand drive cars. The RS2 sold in New Zealand but not Australia. More’s the pity.