The merits of a sharp-suited, business-like Audi Avant and the muscle of a high-revving Audi V8 combine again in classic Jekyll and Hyde fashion in the third generation RS 4. Available exclusively in the attractive and accommodating Avant body style, and expected in the UK in September, the RS 4 contradicts its distinctly business-like first impressions with extreme sub-five-second zero to 62mph pace, 174mph capability and exceptionally tenacious quattro all-wheel-drive handling.
The Audi RS 4 Avant uses the same high-revving, naturally aspirated V8 engine that powers the RS 5 Coupe. The hand-built 4,163 cc unit with its distinctive red-painted cylinder covers produces 450 PS at 8,250 rpm and maximum torque of 430 Nm from 4,000 to 6,000 rpm, and powers the RS 4 Avant from 0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds on its way to a governed top speed of 155 mph, which can be increased to 174 mph if required. No less impressively, it achieves all this while at the same time potentially returning up to 25.7mpg according to the combined cycle test.
With its impressive efficiency and long top gear, the standard seven-speed S tronic transmission makes a significant contribution to this uncharacteristic fuel economy. Drivers can let the lightning-fast dual-clutch transmission shift automatically or change gears manually using the selector lever or the paddles on the steering wheel. For explosive starts, drivers can also activate Launch Control, which manages the engagement of the clutch to achieve an optimum starting speed with minimal wheel spin.
quattro drive with crown-gear centre differential
In common with every Audi RS model, the RS 4 Avant features quattro permanent all-wheel drive, which is bolstered here by the advanced crown-gear centre differential. This compact and lightweight component can vary the distribution of power between the front and rear axles rapidly, smoothly and over a wide range, with up to 70 per cent flowing to the front or as much as 85 per cent to the rear. The default 40:60 ratio of the rear-biased configuration favours agile and precisely adjustable handling. The sport differential familiar from the S4 quattro and the RS 5, which actively distribute the power between the rear wheels, is available as an option.
The self-locking crown-gear centre differential works together with a torque vectoring system, which acts on all four wheels. If the load on the inside wheel is reduced too much in a corner, the torque vectoring system brakes it slightly before it begins to skid. The electronic stability programme (ESP) also offers a Sport mode and can be fully deactivated.
The chassis of the Audi RS 4 Avant is a very complex design, with a five-link set-up at the front and a self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear assembly, a high proportion of which is crafted from aluminium to reduce unsprung weight. The new speed-dependent power steering is a highly efficient electromechanical system with a direct steering ratio for highly precise road feel. It helps the driver stay on course by making slight steering corrections when braking on surfaces with different levels of grip.
Polished 19-inch, ten-spoke forged aluminium wheels shod with 265/35-series tyres amply fill the arches, particularly as the taut RS set-up positions the body 20 millimetres lower than a standard A4 Avant. For an even more extreme stance 20-inch five-V-spoke design wheels with 265/30-series tyres, or 5-arm rotor design wheels with two different finishes, can be specified as an option.
High performance wave disc brakes
Mounted behind the large wheels are internally vented wave disc brakes with high gloss black-painted callipers. The front callipers with their eight pistons and prominent RS logos measure 365 millimetres in diameter. The steel friction rings with their wave-like outer contour are perforated and connected to the aluminium brake caps via pins. This concept reduces tensions, quickly dissipates heat and prevents transmission of temperature peaks. The new shape of the friction rings shaves a total of roughly three kilograms off the unsprung weight.
For the front axle, Audi offers the option of 380-millimetre carbon fibre ceramic discs and six-piston callipers in anthracite grey. The ceramic brakes are especially lightweight, robust and durable.
The Audi drive select driving dynamics system is a standard feature of the RS 4 Avant. With it, the driver can switch between three modes – comfort, auto and dynamic – to determine the characteristics of the steering, the S tronic transmission and the throttle response. Audi drive select can even vary the sound of the exhaust system, double-declutching when downshifting in dynamic mode. If the car is equipped with an Audi navigation system, a largely driver-configurable ‘individual’ mode is also available.
In addition to the sport differential, another component available for Audi drive select is dynamic steering. It varies its steering ratio by nearly 100 per cent depending on speed and automatically countersteers slightly at the cornering limit for even more precise and stable handling.
Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) will also be available as an extra cost option in this latest generation RS 4. The system connects diagonally opposed pairs of shock absorbers by way of oil lines and a central valve, and promotes even greater stability and composure at speed. The three damping modes it offers will also be controllable via the Audi drive select system.
The exterior design of the RS 4 Avant leaves onlookers in no doubt about its very special capabilities, without overstating the case. Its hexagonal single-frame grille is set in a frame with a matte aluminium-look finish and its honeycomb insert is finished in high-gloss anthracite. LED daytime running lights encircle the xenon plus units like a clasp in the wedge-shaped headlights. The air flows through large openings divided by crossbars and embedded in a distinctive bumper featuring a motor racing-style splitter edge.
When viewed from the side, the chiselled sill extensions and flared wheel arches enable the RS 4 Avant to strike a powerful pose even in profile, and give a nod to the pioneering Audi quattro from back in 1980. The side mirror housings and trim strips have a matte aluminium-look finish, and a discreet roof spoiler ensures the necessary downforce.
The distinctive bumpers and the two oval tailpipe caps of the dual exhaust system dominate the rear end and are integrated into an upturned diffuser. A sports exhaust system is available as an extra cost option to deepen the tone of the already deep-seated exhaust note, and where this is fitted the exhaust pipes feature matte black caps.
The Audi RS 4 Avant is 20 millimetres longer, 24 millimetres wider and 20 millimetres lower than the standard A4 Avant. It will be available in a choice of eight colours: one solid and one metallic finish, four pearl-effect colours and two special ‘crystal-effect’ colours: Panther Black, which is available from launch, and Prism Silver, which will be available to order later this year. The extensively clad underbody integrates air vents for the seven-speed S tronic transmission and the front brakes.
The interior of the RS 4 Avant is finished completely in black, with the exception of the roof lining, which is optionally available in Moon Silver. Chrome clasps subtly accentuate switches and control elements. Carbon inlays are standard, with brushed matte aluminium, Aluminium Race, piano black finish or a light stainless steel mesh available as options.
The standard heated front sport seats with integrated headrests are power- adjustable and covered in a combination of black leather and Alcantara. Fine Nappa leather in either Black or Moon Silver accentuated with Stone Grey piping is available as an option. Other options include bucket-style ‘super sports seats’ or luxurious, climate-controlled comfort seats with a ventilation function. The thick ring of the leather multifunction sports steering wheel is flattened at the bottom, and it features shift paddles in an aluminium-look finish.
The Driver’s Information System (DIS) with colour display includes an RS menu with a lap timer and an oil temperature gauge. Both it and the MMI monitor display a special RS welcome screen when the car is started.
The instrument cluster bezel is finished in gleaming piano black, and the design of the selector knob of the seven-speed S tronic is unique to the RS. Typical of all RS vehicles, the door openers are two delicate bars. The pedals, the footrest, the air vents, the shift paddles on the steering wheel, the MMI buttons and other controls have an aluminium-look finish. Aluminium inserts also adorn the door sill trims, which are accentuated with RS 4 badges.
In-car online services
Audi offers exclusive high-grade leather packages for all seating options, including a design package with honeycomb quilting for the RS 4 bucket seats. Rounding out the list of optional equipment is a broad range of state-of-the-art driver assistance and communication systems, including the Mobile Phone Preparation – High option that connects the RS 4 Avant with the Internet and brings Google Earth satellite navigation mapping when specified in conjunction with MMI navigation plus
Options for the luggage compartment, which offers up to 1,430 litres of cargo space, include a rail system with load securing set and a power-operated tailgate.
Exact pricing and specification details for the new RS 4 Avant have yet to be finalised for the UK, and will be confirmed nearer to the point when orders can be taken.