Imperfectly Perfect | Audi RS4 Avant

BY Azfar Hashim

The latest RS4 Avant is not exactly a perfect car — it's uncomfortable and loud. Read on...

Photos by Azfar Hashim

I am still amused as to why there’s no USB point for me to plug in my iPod. But it’s ok Audi, that’s forgiven as, after all, this car is a driver-focused tool – all that matters is (a) how it drives and (b) the noise it makes.

Let’s start with how aesthetically pleasing the RS4 Avant is to the naked eye: for a start, tastefully flared wheel arches on all four corners to accommodate the fat 19-inch alloys (wrapped in 265/35 R-19 Toyo Proxes T1 AO tyres) — lovely. Then, the highly detailed front bumper that looks all ready to swallow whatever lies ahead — yummy. Aggressive rear bumper matched to a pair of blackened exhaust tail pipes and a subtle spoiler — sleeper, indeed. Oh, and those pair of roof rails somewhat add more style to the already oh-so-sporty persona of the car.

The interior, although largely still your typical A4 fare, does feel special — firstly because of the black/red colour combination of the entire cabin. Then, both driver and front passenger get to enjoy the snug sports seats; however while the driver may appreciate this, the passenger on the other hand may find it unnecessary for the daily drive. It does feel a little hard and then uncomfortable when you’re going over bumpier roads (like the KPE); erring on the side of bone-jarring particularly when driven in Dynamic mode. Thankfully, you can still opt for regular seats.

Rear passengers sit comfortably low and thanks to that, headroom would not be an issue even if you are slightly on the taller side. That said, you might want to think twice about fitting a third adult in the centre — unless he happens to be a hobbit. Due to the intrusive transmission tunnel, you may want to refrain yourself from being too kind to your colleagues; you would end up being quietly cursed at instead…

This being a wagon, boot space should not be an issue to most family men: already useful with the rear backrest up, it can expand to 1,430-litres when required. If you still need more, perhaps you should consider buying a pick-up.

Lying under the hood is the glorious 4.2-litre V8 powerplant, similar to its RS5 sibling - which means you do get proper muscle, equating to proper firepower. Close your eyes, add a bit of throttle and you hear proper V8 noise; instant aural relief to any ears tired of the muted murmur of four and six-pot lumps — this one’s heavyweight, gruff and on the right side of scary sounding.

But scary is the last thing this car is. Power and torque from the 4,163 cc engine are not in any short supply, with a massive - get this - 450 bhp at 8,250 rpm and 430 Nm from 4,000 rpm. But the linear, strong chested power delivery means it will haul on from just 1,000 rpm even in seventh gear. So unlike a turbocharged car, or a peaky straight six or high revving trillion-valve four-cylinder, the V8 just gets on with it any engine speed, any gear. Any ankle flex results in entirely predictable responses.

The RS4 is governed to a maximum 250 km/h (although we all know you can bypass this at your friendly tuner), reaching 100 km/h in a scanty 4.7 seconds. To be honest, it's at its best between second to fifth gear, where you can really appreciate (a) the torque, (b) the overtaking power and MORE importantly (c) the soundtrack, which really hardens once past 4,000 rpm. But swap the S-tronic 'box into seventh (oh by the way Audi has officially announced the death of the six-speed manual for the RS range) and the RS4 settles to a relaxed cruise.

That's the best thing - it will happily handle the mundane monotony of expressway mileage without taxing you. However, as soon as you depart in search of twisties, the car comes back to life.

Despite the size and all that power, the RS4 feels rather nimble and agile, the front two wheels feeding the steering with all the information. Just how did Audi manage to achieve all these? The tried and proven way: throw in quattro all-wheel drive system, add a sports differential to actively deliver power between the rear two wheels, highly alert traction control system - just to name a few - and… tadaa… immense amount of grip; the sort that leaves a BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and even Lexus IS-F toughing out just to match up.

And if you’re the sort who loves a weighty helm, then ‘Dynamic’ mode is definitely your cup of tea — Audi’s electromechanical power steering put into good use here for the RS4.

You do need to get used to the additional width though: it is longer and wider than the regular A4 Avant thanks to the additional bodywork, hence attacking apexes with gusto or even parallel parking needs some careful observation from the driver.

Now we all know how important good anchors are for our roads, looking at the number of “perfect” drivers our population has. With Audi’s high-performance system featuring carbon ceramic cross-drilled discs (by the way those are 380 mm front and 324 mm rear discs / six piston front, single piston rear calipers), braking power is one of the RS4’s strongest suits. Well I was fortunate (or is that unfortunate?) enough to really test them out, and I’m glad to report that it performs brilliantly at bringing this 1.8-tonne wagon to slow down massively from speeds when you least expect it.

So, if all you need is a driving tool dressed up in a practical body that can still be called upon for other more mundane tasks (the school run or help the in-laws shift), then the Audi RS4 is all yours. Just keep this in mind: do not expect too much comfort.

But here’s one thing to ponder on: Why did Audi decided to lay the manual transmission to rest and not make it an option even? After all, we’re sure they somehow do have access to Porsche’s part bins, and adopt the seven speed manual this time around — that would certainly be interesting…