RS4 Avant: Audi’s family wagon with a rebel soul
Audi’s new 331kW RS4 Avant is the king of practicality-with-pace
Audi’s fast-car line up in SA was recently boosted with the addition of two new pulse-quickening RS variants. They’re both powered by a 2.9l TFSI V6 twin turbo engine with outputs of 331kW and 600Nm, fed through an eight-speed tiptronic gearbox, and they grip the road with quattro claws.
You can order this muscular powertrain installed in one of two bodies: the RS5 Sportback or, if you want to haul 30l more luggage, the RS4 Avant which is the subject of this test.
Priced at R1,211,500, it is the fourth incarnation of Audi’s speedy station wagon since the RS4 replaced the limited-edition (and rather legendary) RS2 Avant that was jointly developed by Audi and Porsche in the mid 1990s.
I fondly remember blasting along the German autobahn at 260km/h (legally) in the RS2 at the car’s international launch back then. Though it generated a paltry-by-today’s standards 232kW, it was fast and full of character and left a lasting impression. Mostly I liked the dichotomy of it being a station wagon, that most sensible of family-focused body shapes, endowed with rebellious fire-breathing performance.
Audi RS4 Avant quattro Tiptronic
WE LIKE: Performance, practicality, dual character
WE DISLIKE: Expensive cost of extras
VERDICT: The family sports car
I like the latest RS4 Avant for the same reason, although modern tech now allows it to be a part-time rebel.
Drive it in comfort mode and it feels almost watered-down in character; fast but sanitised, filtered through a suburbia-cruising sheen of smooth and well-mannered propriety.
Switch to dynamic mode in the Drive Select menu and the devilish side quickly awakens. The filters are metaphorically cast aside as the car adopts an aggressive attitude with its quicker throttle, sharper steering and more sinister growl — all the stuff that makes the skin tingle and hikes the heart rate, which is why you’re buying a car like this after all.
Dynamic mode’s ultra-sensitive throttle makes for a twitchy and high-strung driving experience in urban confines that can become tiresome, but on an open road or curvy mountain pass — or on a racetrack if you get the chance — it’s the setting that sprinkles the Tabasco on the drive.
With its sports suspension and low centre of gravity the RS4 Avant carves corners with a pinned-down feel and excellent traction. The quattro permanent all-wheel drive defeats dreaded understeer by being a rear-weighted setup that by default sends 60% of the torque to the rear axle, but can direct up to 70% forwards or 85% rearwards to compensate for any wheel spin.
The RS 4 Avant crouches 7mm lower than the lesser-powered Audi S4 and the drive select system comes as standard, but for extra money you can specify RS sports suspension with Dynamic Ride Control, ceramic brakes, RS-specific dynamic steering, and a sports differential.
The V6 twin turbo engine lays on the speed with great enthusiasm, sprinting from the starting blocks with barely any lag and reaching 100km/h in a claimed 4.1 seconds. Top speed is the usual governed 250km/h, or 280km/h if you opt for the RS dynamic package.
All this performance is packaged in a car with fairly comfortable space for four and a roomy 505l boot that expands to a giant 1,510l with the rear seats flipped down — and the boot can be opened with a foot gesture if your arms are full.
Flared wheel arches, drain-sized oval tailpipes, and a black honeycomb grille are some of the exterior features that set a racy visual scene in this top-of-the-range A4. The unusual nardo grey colour also gives the car an exotic vibe.
Inside, the RS4 proclaims its sporty credentials with Nappa leather RS sports seats with diamond stitching, black headlining, a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and stainless steel pedals.
Standard kit is fairly plentiful and includes navigation, an all-digital instrument panel (known as the virtual cockpit), a rear-view camera and ambient lighting with 30 colours.
There’s a long list of rather expensive options that cost extra, including things like decorative carbon fibre (R75,355), Matrix LED headlamps (R13,013), head-up display (R15,182) and a driver assist package that includes adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping (R16,039). Dynamic Ride Control, which allows the suspension to be adjusted for firmness, is also an optional extra at R31,877.
Our test vehicle was specced-up with many of these and other options which nudged its price to nearly the R1.5m mark.
Those who can afford it will find it’s a uniquely practical high-performance machine; a roomy family station wagon with a rebel soul.
Type: V6 petrol
Type: Eight-speed Tiptronic
Type: Quattro permanent all-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 4.1 seconds
Fuel Consumption: 8.8l /100km (claimed); 12.0l/100km (as tested)
Virtual cockpit, 20-inch alloy wheels, navigation, LED front and rear lights, RS sports seats in Nappa leather, climate control, Bang & Olufsen sound system with 3D sound and smartphone interface, Audi drive select, flat-bottomed multifunction RS steering wheel, ABS brakes, six airbags, electronic stability control, remote central locking, electric mirrors, electric windows, onboard computer, rain sensor, automatic headlights, height/reach adjustable steering, cruise control, electrically adjustable front seats
Warranty: one year/unlimited distance
Service plan: Fiveyear/100,000km Audi Freeway Plan
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
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