Engine / Transmission: 2.9 turbo petrol – 8 speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 9.5L/100km combined
Price: From $162,235 drive away
In a nutshell:
It’s a weapon, but now just might be the time to go electric.
Like its big brother, the RS6 Avant, the RS4 Avant is a legend. It is a model that is perpetually on the wish list of mums and dads the world over that value both Audi’s superb build quality, badge appeal and a level of performance that will show a clean pair of heels to just about everything else on the road.
In the flesh, it’s an addictive and compelling proposition. I mean, at $160k it’s not exactly a bargain, but it is reasonably good value. This is especially so for families that might be pooling the funds previously used for a ‘family car’ and a ‘fun car’ into just the one weaponised wagon. With brakes like dinner plates and tyres like rubber bands, servicing an RS4 is never going to be cheap, but resale is strong and one less rego/insurance might just swing things in the Audi’s favour.
Besides the technology required to propel a 331kw/600nm family wagon down the strip in a four-second sprint to 100kph, the RS4 is loaded. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard, of course, however, dynamic steering and Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) is optional. The former promises a more compliant ride (the standard RS Sport Suspension is definitely on the firm side of plush) while the latter can reduce the number of turns required at low speed. The purist in me suggests avoiding both. Still, I might be tempted to plumb for the ceramic brake option though.
Inside you’ll find a full suite of the latest and greatest in active and passive safety tricks. Importantly, the subtle nature of Audi’s lane keep assist shows how far some other manufactures still have to go in this regard. Audi’s huge screen Virtual Cockpit is as impressive as ever, but I am looking forward to a time when the car’s blind spot is projected on the screens.
The Bang & Olufsen branded stereo is of high quality and supports wireless charging and wireless CarPlay. Massage seats have never been my kind of thing, but they’re here if you want them. Much more impressive is the active bolsters, squeezing and hugging you in while softening and widening while you get in and out of the car.
You can’t talk RS4 without talking about performance. It’s a weapon of a car. However you imagine the RS4 to be, I can almost guarantee that it is better – it really is that good. Unfortunately, after a while, given the value I place on a healthy licence, the performance, or rather an inability to exploit this performance begins to irritate.
For example, when you’re in the mood for it, hit the steering wheel mounted RS button and all hell breaks loose with pops and bangs from the exhaust and the lightning-fast gear changes slam home on each change. It’s great fun. But, it’s less fun when you are getting your nine-year-old a drive through COVID test.
On startup the engine revs and the exhaust pops and the nurse yells at you – it was awkward. I love it, but sometimes it’s just a bit too much. Am I just getting old? (Editor: Yes, yes you are Flipsy!)
Not So Impressive:
I mean, it’s not cheap. $160k is big coin in anyone’s language, but the real kicker for the RS4 is it’s two sisters – the V8 four-litre twin-turbo RS6 and the full electric e-Tron Sportback. Both alternatives offer a vastly different driving experience, yet both offer huge swathes of Audi goodness.
For an additional $70k you can have everything that is good about the RS4 but turned up to eleven. The RS4 is brilliant; the RS6 is otherworldly.
For the same coin, you can have a full electric zero-emission uber coupe that provides near RS4 levels of performance but in a way that only an electric car can deliver. The e-Tron looks spectacular, is a great drive and provides that point of difference that many RS4 owners are looking for. Is it as sporty as an RS4? Of course not – it’s a different kettle of fish, but it is also unlikely to have the COVID nurse cursing the day you were born.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
Do not, I repeat DO NOT be tempted to ‘try’ the RS6 – it will result in you walking out another $70k poorer.