RS-ing Around : Audi RS 4 Avant

Car Specifications
Engine: 
4163cc, 32-valves
Cylinder Layout: 
V8, Naturally Aspirated
Top Speed: 
250km/h (electronically limited)
Transmission: 
6-speed Manual
0-100km/h: 
4.8 seconds
Power: 
420bhp at 7800rpm
Torque: 
430Nm at 5500rpm
Features: 
  • Charismatic V8 note
  • At its launch, the RS 4 was Audi's best RS in a long time
  • Still capable of showing-up a lot of newer 'talent'

Cult Car Central revisits the Audi RS 4 Avant
Vital Statistics
Car: Audi RS 4 Avant 'Exclusive' edition
Owners: 2
Original Registration: 21st Nov 2006
Mileage: 18,396km
Revisited: 14th May 2010

As a brand, many regard Audi to be the 'thinking man's BMW', but as far as performance vehicles are concerned, BMW's 'M' still ruled the roost as far as enthusiasts were concerned; that is, until the arrival of the RS 4 in 2006, in both sedan, wagon (or Avant, in Audi-speak) and convertible guises.

To the average Joes who only think they know better, wagons are a breed of vehicles better relegated to soccer moms and house-husbands. Unfortunately, doing so would be selling this sweet RS 4 Avant short, since the original Audi 'RS' model, the Porsche-fettled RS2, was only available in Avant guise.

Even the first generation RS 4 following the RS2 was available exclusively as an Avant before the introduction of this second generation car, which incidentally brings with it sedan and convertible counterparts.

Bizarrely enough, despite how ingrained the concept of a performance wagon is in Audi's RS lineage, pockets of detractors continue to wrinkle their noses pug-like in disgust when one mentions this 'dirty word' in mixed company.

As with many of the cooler things in life, it's either you get it... or you dont.

However, it's just a pity many of today's enthusiasts remain woefully ignorant of the RS' illustrious forebear, not knowing and in worst cases, not caring about the true roots of Audi's M and AMG rivals. (Read a little more about Audi's RS range HERE)

People bandy about the term 'Q-cars' when they refer to stealthy super-sedans whose looks typically belie their devastating performance prowess.

Most notable about the RS 4 is the fact that it was the first in the compact executive segment to fire the V8 salvo. At the time, the V8 equivalent M3 from arch-rival, BMW, was still in the wings.

However, to us the definitive 'stealth machine' still has to be an über-wagon... which brings us to this RS 4 Avant.

From decision to purchase, the current owner was often lambasted for choosing an older 'RS 4' over a shiny and spanking new S4, since to most people, the latest is necessarily the greatest...

Besides, how do you argue with, "the supercharged Six cylinder engine in the S4 can be as quick as that 'old' naturally-aspirated V8."

Well, I reckon many of these haven't had a chance to properly enjoy the sheer satisfaction that comes with a hearty engine at the beck-and-call of one's right foot before.

Unfortunately, it's also a case of attempting to compare apples with oranges since to most minds, 'S' and 'RS' are used interchangeably with a disconcerting amount of regularity, which as most real enthusiasts will tell you, could not be further than the truth.

Most petrolheads regard a well-sorted naturally-aspirated engine to represent the pinnacle of tuning proficiency and certainly, things don't get any more special than the charismatic and vocal V8 that is found at the heart of the RS 4.

The 4.2L V8 is a familiar character that also sees service in the R8 and S5 coupe (the S5 convertible ditches the V8 for an efficient but less intriguing supercharged 6-cylinder). Pushed hard, the V8 displays a vivid vocal spectrum that ranges from throaty to outright bellow... and mind you, this is from a stock exhaust and air-intake set-up.

At its introduction, the petrol V8 in this car was the first time a manufacturer was combining direct injection with high-revving capabilities (8250rpm yo!). Having said that, the lusty V8 is an eager redline rapist capable of trundling around town in 5th or 6th gear on its wedge-like brick of torque or screaming its lungs out as it blitzes down the Grandstand straight at the Sepang circuit.

Stock to stock, the RS 4 makes the M3 sound like a mewling kitten; at the moment, the only other V8 in the market to surpass the RS 4 in the aural orgasm stakes is the C 63 AMG, but the Mercedes-Benz has an additional 2+Litres of 'singing' power!

Visually, the RS 4 Avant is a stunner, with subtle fender flares and an aggressive phat stance that clearly brooks no disrespect. (Read more about the RS 4 in the original press release HERE)

Even if one was not specifically familiar with the 'RS' variant in the Audi line-up, there's just something quietly aggressive about the car; pretty refreshing when viewed in light of many of today's performance offerings, which seem to place a higher priority on flashy, OTT aesthetics... we guess this is just a reflection of the changing times.

crackle-red cam-cover hints to the RS 4's racing pedigree
With the RS 4, less definitely is more, with the tasteful application of flares, bulges and a discreet body-kit (including a barely noticeable roof-spoiler), which go towards accommodating the hardware and cooling functions that are required in such a performance vehicle.

crackle-red cam-cover hints to the RS 4's racing pedigree
Shod in 19-inch alloys, the sticky 255/35 R19 Michelin PS2 rubber are more than capable of keeping the RS 4 Avant on the straight and narrow in all kinds of surface conditions, especially when coupled to quattro, Audi's legendary all-wheel drive system.
The interior is a masterpiece in Red leather. The 'Audi exclusive' tags on the side panels tell you this particular car has been fully factory customised. The car's 'Black' isn't the usual RS 4 black; the ex-owner preferred this shade versus the original RS 4 black and commissioned Audi to get it done.

Couple the car's brooding black hue to the silver-finish wing mirrors and we arrive at a rather striking combination indeed.

Even the Scarlet-liveried interior is not part of Audi's normal palette for the RS 4. Side-panels, front and rear seats boast 'RS 4' are clad in the same Red and boast 'RS 4' embossing.

The front sports seats grip you snug and even feature electronically-adjustable thigh and side support. 4-way lumbar support is also available on both front seats. As should be the case for proper performance cars, adjustments for height and seat-back are manual, which means it's pretty easy to find a perfect fit for your driving style.

Thumb the starter button in centre console and the V8 rumbles quietly to life - no fanfare, no fuss, no frills. The clutch pedal is deceptively light for a sports car and first gear snickts into place easily and precisely, with none of that notchy, over-weighted feel that results from some aftermarket short shift kits.

The steering wheel is reassuringly thick-rimmed and steering feel is meaty and perfectly weighted (unlike the latest TT RS, for instance, which feels overly assisted). Even in the thick of town traffic, the RS 4 Avant affords great visibility and is easy to drive in start-stop conditions.

In contrast, there are some sports cars of a similar practical nature that feel 'grumpy' trundling around at low speeds. It's almost as if their gearing, aerodynamics and cooling vents were designed only to work above 100km/h, so everything feels highly strung when you're doing 40-60km/h in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

As the roads open up, give it a bootful of gas and the car's seemingly docile nature takes on a harder edge. The transformation from sheep to wolf is seamless and one is continually amazed at the car's ability to ride the wave in gear after gear.

Amazingly for a 3+ year old car, the engine and controls still feel tight, with only some wear on the driver-side seat bolster. Acceleration is of the head-snapping variety and the beauty of it is the fact that everything is executed in an effortless manner with none of the drama you might encounter in forced-induced vehicles.

On paper, 0-100km/h comes up in under 5 seconds and the 200km/h barrier is breached in 16.6 seconds.

On the move, the soundtrack is nothing short of incredible, but I'm sure the complete aural potential of the engine can be released with an even freer-flowing exhaust system. An added performance feature is the rather nondescript 'S' button on the steering wheel.

This changes the throttle-mapping to serve up even more immediate responses, gives the exhaust an even nicer note and causes the driver's seat bolsters to tighten around the driver to provide even better lateral support.

Even the quattro has been engineered to provide driving enthusiasts with more rear-biased characteristics (about 60 per cent is shuttled to the rear wheels), which lets us enjoy a more dynamic and competent package.

The ride is firm, yet never hard and the body control is sublime; no mean feat considering it's not a dedicated sports car. It's easy to point and squirt the RS 4 Avant down your favourite series of corners with confidence.

Another feature, DRC (Dynamic Ride Control), helps impart even more agility into the already-capable chassis.

However, newer RS variants like the TT RS feature AMR (Audi Magnetic Ride) instead, which provides better damping control. Also, there have been instances of the RS 4's DRC leaking over time.

With such low mileage on this car's clock, it was no big surprise that PA gave all the components, including the DRC, a clean bill of health during a recent once-over check-up.

On normal roads, one is unlikely to ever breach the car's stupendous limits of adhesion... that is, unless you're being really stupid behind the wheel.

photos by dk

Summary
Simply said, we still find this a winner in so many ways. Not just for re-energising Audi's performance line-up, the RS 4 Avant bundles daily functionality with brute awesomeness in a smartly-cut package. With the RS 4 Avant, Audi has successfully combined potent track-ready performance, practicality and panache in one fell swoop that allows for comfortable long hauls up the North-South Highway, before hitting the Sepang Circuit for half-a-day and then back again in time for dinner with the family. - dk
Photos: 
crackle-red cam-cover hints to the RS 4's racing pedigree
crackle-red cam-cover hints to the RS 4's racing pedigree
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