Purposeful looks hint at performance available
Audi's RS models are halo cars for the brand and amongst a bulging back catalogue it is the compact-sized saloon and estates based on the A4 and previously the Audi 80 that have been some of the best in its history. Now the latest generation has arrived with the RS4 Avant to crown the A4 range.
As a high performance vehicle previous Audi RS4s have brought the security of Quattro four-wheel drive and the practicality of a saloon or estate to make them more usable on an everyday basis than some of its coupe rivals. The Quattro layout also gives it a link with the larger RS6 all the way up to the R8 supercar, and this combination of attributes has been a big part of the appeal.
In contrast to the outgoing RS4 which came in saloon, Avant estate and convertible forms, the latest model reverts to the previous arrangement of only being available in Avant form. Although this potentially limits sales for those who are looking for alternative bodystyles, the Avant layout means it is usable as a family vehicle and can carry a combination of passengers and luggage whilst still delivering impressive performance.
The RS4 is clearly distinguished from regular A4 Avant models and even the S4 version by virtue of dramatic and menacing exterior enhancements. Most obvious are the large alloy wheels, 19-inch as standard with 20-inch versions also available, a large and bold front grille with a lattice finish and a tasteful bodykit. It also has bulging wheelarches to accommodate a wider track, something of a key signifier from RS models of the past.
Mechanically the RS4 follows a largely similar layout to the previous model, with a 4.2-litre V8 naturally aspirated engine at the front driving all four wheels. However the powerplant has been further developed, giving extra power and torque yet with reduced fuel consumption, and instead of a six-speed manual the RS4 is now seven-speed S tronic dual clutch only.
The latest RS4 had a hard act to follow but it is a remarkably complete car in so many areas. It is highly desirable, very fast in all conditions, comfortable, very well specified and practical too. It justifies its existence as an everyday car and yet it can deliver exceptional thrills in the right conditions.