An extravagant package that's set to turn heads
Powerful and pricey, Audi’s high-performance RS4 Avant may only sell to a handful of diehards in Ireland, but it will bolster Audi’s image
TO DESCRIBE the new Audi RS4 Avant as a niche car is an understatement. Its statistics speak for themselves: a 4.2-litre petrol engine producing 450bhp; a 0 to 100km/h time of 4.5 seconds and a price tag of €101,782 are just some of the things that make this car radical and unique. And expensive.
It’s a motoring icon, a halo car for the Audi brand, but you would be right to wonder, given the times we live in, why a manufacturer is even producing cars like this.
Yet German car companies such as Audi and Mercedes compete in a global market where these cars are sought out like incredibly expensive hand-built watches. As importantly, such cars serve to raise brand awareness and bolster the image of the cars that actually sell in big volumes and therefore generate big profits.
Audi has been building cars like this for decades now and the original RS was a radical departure back in 1994, when Audi, in co-operation with Porsche, created the first performance station wagon for the German market. The success of the Quattro four-wheel drive system in rallying had created a lasting impression of ability and almost unbeatable grip in difficult situations, and this was another departure based on that success.
Still, in today’s market, the RS4 Avant does represent a flight of fancy. It is wider and longer than the standard A4, but much lower, and has a profile that suggests performance over practicality. From the rear, the massive exhaust pipes tell their own story and the front and side are dominated by a big grille, LED lights, big air inlets, flared wheel wells and that slightly squat profile that has been a Quattro feature for over 30 years. If you look at the version fitted with huge ceramic brakes, you are minded to think that this car might have the capabilities of a high-performance tank.
The interior is black. Very black. The relief is from the chrome instruments and steel pedals, and the combination of the two has been well-honed to create a real performance environment. When you press the start button you experience a minor earthquake, as if the car is vibrating on some unseen tectonic plates. The rev counter needle does a full lap before settling into an idling speed way north of the average.
That makes you want to get out and have a look under the bonnet, where you will find the same hand-built engine that went into the Audi RS5. The cylinder covers of the V8 are painted red, as if you needed reminding of just how powerful this car is. The sound it produces is not something you hear too often. When you move off, the car gives a subtle response through a near-perfect seven-speed S-tronic gearbox with the appropriately named “launch control” giving excellent traction. And a launch, rather than a start, is exactly what you experience. We drove the car on a track initially, where the RS revealed its abilities quickly. After all, it is on the track that this car was developed under Audi’s motor sports development programme.
The combination of the vast engine resources, the gearbox, the engine growl and the permanent Quattro four-wheel drive system make for a memorable experience. The power to the wheels is normally split 40 per cent to the front wheels and 60 to the back, but the Quattro technology allows it to vary depending on the conditions. The result is a drive that challenges the driver to challenge the car more than the car can challenge the driver. The high-revving engine just keeps on giving and the combined technology governing transmission and grip just takes over to ensure near-perfect control. Back on the road the RS burbles along and reverts back to something near normal, although the engine sound will never let you forget you are driving something out of the ordinary. You do, however, have to be a true enthusiast to live easily with it in average conditions. Ride is harsh and you will feel vibrations and road noise in a way that many drivers would not want to.
Audi says the car will do 100 kilometres using an average of 10.7 litres of fuel, which is an impressive figure for a car that packs this sort of punch. However, one suspects you would need a very light right foot indeed to achieve this.
The RS4 is an extravagant package and only a handful will sell in Ireland, almost certainly to those with previous Quattro experience and who are diehard fans. Audi insists the car is a sports car with everyday capabilities and, yes, it does have a pretty generous load capacity. But making a trip to the shopping centre is something very far removed from what this car was designed or engineered for.
OUR RATING8/10 for performance rather than practicality
ENGINE4.2 V8 petrol engine producing 450bhp
PERFORMANCE0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds
ECONOMYOfficial combined figure of 10.7 L/100km (26.4mpg)
EMISSIONS249g/km (Band G – €2,258 motor tax)
FEATURESQuattro full-time four-wheel drive, 19” wheels, dynamic ride control, LED running lights and sports seats and more technology than you can shake a stick at.
PRICE€101,782 (of which more than €46,000 is made up of tax)
RIVALMercedes C63 wagon