M in its Sights : Audi RS 4 [review]
Thu, 01/21/2010 - 05:09 — admin
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.
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.
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.
FAST FACTS : AUDI RS 4
Engine: 4163cc, V8, DOHC, 32-valves, FSI,
Brakes: Ventilated steel discs all round
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds
Fuel Consumption: City 19.7 L/100 km, Combined: 13.7L/100 km