M in its Sights : Audi RS 4 [review]

Car Specifications
4163cc, 32-valves, FSI
Cylinder Layout: 
Top Speed: 
250km/h (electronically limited)
6-speed Manual
4.8 seconds
420bhp at 7800rpm
430Nm at 5500rpm

For Audi, the RS 4 does not just represent the pinnacle of high performance, it ushers in a new ideology for the brand. We take a fast drive through Tuscany to ascertain the changes at the top.


Audi has been quick to realize the benefit of ultra performance cars built from the more mundane executive sedans like the A6 and A4. Though it is relatively new at the game compared to some of its competitors it has shot to the top with a 420bhp V8 engine. To deliver this level of performance requires state-of-the-art development and has without a doubt taken the entire resources of its performance development arm, quattro to deliver the goods.

Audi has long favoured turbo charging in order to obtain the power that would best the opposition. However the huge power developed by turbo charging is too blunt in its delivery to be used in a precision performance car like the RS 4 especially if it wants to take the game to stalwarts like the BMW M3 or Porsche 911.

With experience garnered from owning and developing new generation Lamborghinis, Audi has managed to develop a new high power 4.2L non-turbocharged V8 that reaches the requisite 100 bhp per litre benchmark to produce a stunning 420bhp and 430Nm. To be able to turn out such high figures, the engine has to spin beyond the normal 7000rpm limit to an incredible 8250rpm before it stops.

The engineers have put in a reasonable effort to reduce the RS 4’s weight but have only managed a still moderate 1650-kg. However propelled by 420 bhp and a brilliant six-speed manual gearbox, the RS 4 will blaze past the 100km/h mark in just 4.8 seconds and in 16.6 seconds it will punch through the 200km/h barrier, which puts it squarely in supercar territory.

Like most German supercars, its top speed is electronically capped at 250 km/h. However the large engine allows the driver to be “lazy”, without the need to constantly shift down a gear or two as the low speed flexibility of the V8 lugs the RS 4 around with consummate ease. This makes the RS 4 easy to use in heavy city traffic.

Equally adept is its uprated suspension. It is undoubtedly firm but yet possesses a cushioned step over rough tarmac. The lowered suspension rests on large, sticky Pirelli tyres and together with the Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) combines confident handling with decent ride characteristics over a wide range of road conditions.

To enhance steering feel it has speed sensitive assistance that quickly firms up once on the move but at parking speeds it is easy to twirl taking the chore out of parking duties There always is a gentlemanly characteristic to how the RS 4 responds despite its towering ability, more like a slight aloofness when one is at the helm despite wringing the RS 4 to within an inch of its life on a race track like we did in Milan.

The overall package delivers an unflappable performance over almost all road conditions and its cool and collected nature always allows the driver to arrive unruffled.

At the moment Audi is the only manufacturer concentrating on high-performance all-wheel drive automobiles and is confident enough to allow us to pilot it through a soaking wet test circuit.

While there is debate as to whether all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive is better, manufacturers have now exceeded what power that can safely be deployed by just one pair of tyres.

As they find even more power with each passing upgrade, it will be obvious that all-wheel drive is the only solution. While it is true that rear wheel drive endears itself better to enthusiasts, most drivers if not all will agree that all-wheel drive feels safer and more sure-footed especially in the wet and over unfamiliar roads.

Currently Audi offers no Tiptronic transmission, but the 6-speed manual is a gem to use and the clutch is remarkably light for something that has to deal with 420bhp.

Externally it is not obvious that the RS 4 is a supercar but look carefully and one will detect small clues like the slightly flared wheel arches, subtly lowered suspension, bigger brakes and larger air openings for the powerful engine.

In Germany, it is also likely that new owners will order the RS 4 sans badges, so that only the cognoscenti will recognise the RS 4 for what it is and the ignorant masses will not have their sensibilities offended until one blitzes past them at 250km/h on the autobahn. In the absence of new contenders from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, there is no better wolf in sheep’s clothing than the RS 4, at least for the moment.


Engine: 4163cc, V8, DOHC, 32-valves, FSI,
Max Power: 420 bhp @ 7800 rpm
Max Torque: 430 Nm @ 5500 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, quattro all-wheel-drive
Steering: Power assisted rack and pinion system

Brakes: Ventilated steel discs all round
Suspension: f: Independent four-ling struts, r: Double wishbones

Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds
Top Speed: 250 Km/h (speed governed)

Fuel Consumption: City 19.7 L/100 km, Combined: 13.7L/100 km

We waited a long time for Audi to come up with something that could shame the M3. The RS 4, with its evocative 420bhp V8 engine, seems like just the thing. The subtle yet noticeable steroid injections are a masterstroke in styling. The future for Audi suddenly looks very bright indeed and the RS 4 has garnered a following of enthusiasts who recognise a good car when they see one. - AL
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