Are there any other manufacturers that do the whole super-fast estate thing as well as Audi? Certainly none have been at it for as long, with the first seriously rapid RS Audi wagon dating back to the RS2 of 1994 (even if it was co-developed with Porsche).
Next in line, in 1999, was the very first RS4. Powered by a twin-turbo V6 with 382bhp it delivered monster performance, and looked the part too thank to its wildly flared arches and dropped ride height. However, it was the later B7 generation RS4 from 2006 that is widely regarded as the best of the breed, in part because its 414bhp V8 is an absolute gem of an engine, but also because the handling shattered stereotypes of fast Audis only being fun to drive in a straight line.
Another V8 RS4, known as the B8, followed in 2012, but come the launch of the latest model earlier this year it was clear that the case for big, naturally aspirated engines no longer worked. So it was that when Audi pulled the wraps off the latest RS4 it did so knowing that under the bonnet the engine was back to being a V6, this time 2.9 litres in capacity and with two turbochargers to produce a very healthy 444bhp and 443lb ft of torque.
‘Effortless’ is perhaps not the first word you expect to associate with an ultra-high performance Audi, but that’s exactly the impression given off by the new RS4. That’s what having maximum torque from 1,900rpm through to 5,000rpm will do for you, ensuring there’s instant and easy pulling power regardless of which of the eight ratios the torque converter automatic gearbox happens to be in.
That’s all assuming you leave the car in one of its softer driving modes, where the throttle response is normal, the steering is light and the gearbox works with an eye towards fuel economy (more of which in a minute). Switch to Dynamic in the Drive Select menu and things become much more serious. That V6, quiet until now, is encouraged to rev out (particularly so if you take control with the steering wheel-mounted paddles), the steering becomes firm, and the quattro all-wheel-drive system does its utmost to tear chunks out of the road surface below. Driven properly the RS4 is rapid and then some, firing from 0-62mph in just 4.1 seconds and piling on speed thereafter with ruthless efficiency.
In its more aggressive chassis modes the RS4 also offers a truly absorbing driving experience, and while it majors on grip rather than toasting its rear tyres with big slides, that’s not to say it’s not still an awful lot of fun. Plus, when the road is wet there’s very little indeed that would see which way a well-driven RS4 went, regardless of whether you’re exploiting all that power in a straight line or flicking the car from one turn to the next.
A SENSIBLE SIDE
If this all sounds like you’re reading about some trick four-wheel-drive supercar, it’s because you are. It’s just that this one happens to have room to seat five people and a 505-litre boot that’ll accommodate the family hound (travel sickness permitting).
Being an Audi the interior is a delight, not too flashy, perfectly functional and beautifully screwed together. That doesn’t mean plain, though. RS Audis after all come with such embellishments as heated RS Super Sports seats, bespoke badging and plenty of standard equipment, including the company’s Virtual Cockpit digital dials (pictured below), three-zone climate control and an 8.3-inch central infotainment screen.
On the subject of being sensible we should also talk about the fuel economy, which compared with the old V8 RS4 has improved from 26.4mpg on the EU Combined cycle to 32.1mpg, with a corresponding drop in CO2 emissions from 317g/km to 299k/km. Of course, the RS4 will still guzzle super unleaded if you nail the throttle, but equally should you want to ease off it can be a genuinely (sort of) sensible family car. That’s particularly so if you track down one with the optional Dynamic Ride Control adaptive suspension, which in its softer setting offers decent levels of comfort.
WHY BUY A USED AUDI RS4?
With the 2018 Audi RS4 now available to buy used as well as new it is possible to save yourself not only a long wait for your car to be built, but also a four-figure sum off what is a new list price of more than £62,000. These are cars, remember, that should still be well within their original three-year warranty, although do always confirm this prior to purchase.
What’s more, just like when ordering new, used buyers have a choice between the ‘standard’ RS4 and the upgraded Carbon Edition. To buy new the latter would be £72,000, and yet Audi Approved Used examples with less than 10,000 miles on the clock and all the usual Carbon extras available (think 20-inch wheels, sports exhaust and plenty of carbon trim) can be found on CarGurus for several thousand pounds less than that.
Of course, if buying used your name won’t be the first on the car’s registration document, and nor will you be able to choose the precise specification. But as a quick way into one of the fastest estates of all, buying used can make a lot of sense – particularly when you’re armed with dealer ratings and the reassurance of CarGurus Instant Market Value technology to tell you if a particular price represents a fair deal.
See examples of the new Audi RS4 Avant for sale on CarGurus
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