The Audi RS4 Avant will easily keep up with supercars costing twice the price
The 2019 RS4 Avant is probably the best version of a station wagon Audi has everengineered. We answer your pressing questions about it
It seems like years since you last drove an Audi RS4 Avant
It has been - six to be precise. And how things have changed since then. Back in 2013 the RS4 Avant was powered by a 4.2-litre V8: a naturally aspirated peach of a motor revved up to 8,250rpm and also saw action in the Audi R8. I adored that motor. Not just because it was so smooth and willing but also because it lent the RS4 Avant - a wagon - an air of comical automotive lunacy.
Times have changed and performance cars now have to be more sympathetic to the environment. Consequently that eight-cylinder engine has been tossed and replaced with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 that makes no more power than its predecessor but does produce a healthy wodge of extra torque (+170Nm). It also weighs 31kg less (beneficial for handling) and drinks less fuel. I saw a saving of 3.3l/100km compared to the V8.
But it doesn't sound as good. Audi has done an admirable job in artificially engineering a soundtrack from an engine configuration unwilling but man, when I squashed the throttle I missed the hard-edged bellow of the old motor.
But with those turbos on song and all that extra torque it must be faster?
It definitely is. There might not appear much between them on paper but in real-world performance - particularly in the Highveld - the V6-powered RS4 Avant is noticeably more rapid.
In gear acceleration it is especially impressive as maximum torque is available from just above idle all the way to 5,000rpm, so you seldom need to stir the cogs of that eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. The latter may be a dirty word in this age defined by dual-clutch technology but, honestly, the shift times here are so rapid you'll hardly notice the difference. The Tiptronic should do better in terms of longevity too.
So, yes, to answer your question, this RS4 Avant is brutally quick and will have no problem staying with supercars costing twice the price.
How does it handle - any good?
I threw the RS4 Avant down some of my favourite driving roads around the Hekpoort area and was amazed at how unflustered it was through the curvy bits at high speed. Though not the most engaging performance car you have driven (the steering is pleasingly accurate and direct but lacks feedback) this Audi is easy to place and clings to the asphalt with reassuring bite.
FAST FACTS: 2019 Audi RS4 Avant
• ENGINE: twin-turbo V6
• POWER: 331kW from 5,700 to 6,700rpm
• TORQUE: 600Nm from 1,900 to 5,000rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed Tiptronic
• 0-100 KM/H: 4.1 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 250km/h (limited)
• FUEL: 15.2l/100km (achieved)
• PRICE: From R1,211,500
As such you're encouraged to use as many of those kilowatts as possible when threading together a string of corners.
I mentioned that the V6 engine is lighter than the V8 and you can certainly feel the benefits of this weight shedding on initial turn in: that nose changing direction better than in the old car. So though the latest RS4 Avant may lack that sonic drama, it makes up for it in pace and handling.
Braking performance also seemed better. Ceramic brakes are optional but come at an eye-watering R99,767.
Is it comfortable?
For what it is, yes, very. My test car came fitted to optional (R15,635) 20-inch Audi Sport forged alloy wheels and coped admirably with the grizzled asphalt that haunts my daily commute. Indeed, set the Audi Drive Select to comfort mode and the RS4 Avant rides no harder than a Golf GTI.
The interior is a work of art with materials and build quality that could survive the apocalypse. Finding your optimal seating position is fuss-free and the exquisite nappa leather RS sports seats are comfortable and supportive.
The standard equipment list is fairly comprehensive and includes automatic climate control, MMI Navigation Plus with Audi virtual cockpit, Audi connect as well as a fantastic Bang & Olufsen sound system. Kind of disappointing, however, is that front-seat heating on the RS4 Avant is a R5,860 option.
I was expecting the cabin to be a bit more capacious. Rear accommodation seemed particularly pokey and I'd always have to compromise my seating position with passengers. At 505-litres the boot isn't the biggest I've seen (particularly in a wagon) but fold down the rear seatbacks and you've got 1,510-litres - enough for my mountain bike.
So I'm guessing you'd still recommend one of these things?
Absolutely. I've always had a soft spot for the RS4 Avant (who doesn't love a ludicrously fast wagon?) and this is probably the best version Audi has engineered. I wasn't expecting to be as impressed by it but that turbocharged V6 has morphed the RS4 Avant into a better car with sharper handling, improved tractability and more frugal fuel consumption.
As a do-it-all everyday performance car that lurks beneath the radar I would pick one over the BMW M3 as well as the Mercedes-AMG C63 - rivals it manages to undercut in price too.
A word of caution though - be careful when playing around with the options list as it's easy to send that price tag skyrocketing. My test car had R163,192 in extras on it - you can buy a new VW Up! for that.
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