Pros: Thrilling performance, practicality and comfort, standout style
Cons: Lacks V8 character, expensive with options
Few cars mix performance and practicality quite like a super estate. This is the new RS4 Avant, the latest in a line of scorching hot Audi RS models that mixes supercar performance with enough boot space for a trip to IKEA. The new RS4 is quite a departure from its predecessor too, as the thunderous V8 engine of old has been downsized to a new turbocharged V6 unit. While the RS4 Avant's rivals are few and far between, the latest Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63 Estate puts up a good fight. We recently spent eight days with the RS4 Avant on Irish roads to see what it is like to live with and how it has changed for 2018.
What is it like?
The RS4 Avant demands attention in a way that few other estate cars can. Everything from the sharply-shaped front splitter and grille, to the pronounced rear arches and dual oval exhaust system show it is a force to be reckoned with. As standard, it is fitted with 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, RS-specific body styling and LED headlights and rear lights, while our test car is equipped with a range of optional upgrades including 20-inch anthracite wheels, a carbon fibre styling package, a sports exhaust system and it is finished in striking Navarra Blue. The RS4 is strictly available in Avant guise, and it is one of the most eye-catching estate designs on the market right now, alongside its stablemate, the RS6 Avant.
Although the RS4 Avant is performance-orientated, it is still very practical and spacious inside. Open the boot and there is 505 litres of room with the rear seats in place, which is more than the Mercedes-Benz AMG C 63 Estate. There is lots of usable storage space up front too with enough room to seat four tall adults in comfort on long journeys. RS logos on the gear lever, a leather-wrapped flat bottomed steering wheel and body-hugging sports seats lend the RS4 a sense of occasion, and Audi’s superb virtual cockpit digital driver's display and MMI infotainment systems are featured as standard. Our test car even has optional piano black inlays and an upgraded storage and luggage package for holding luggage in place during spirited drives.
The 4.2-litre V8 petrol engine in the last RS4 has now been replaced with a leaner 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbocharged unit like the latest Audi RS5. Despite the downsizing exercise, the new RS4 generates 450bhp like its predecessor and an increased torque output of 600Nm. This means it can sprint from 0-100km/h in around four seconds, while the Quattro all-wheel-drive system grips and the eight-speed automatic gearbox shifts with pinpoint precision. Employ the standard launch control function and the RS4 feels even faster than the stated figures.
But does the RS4 lose character with two less cylinders in its arsenal? The new six-cylinder engine howls with enthusiasm and burbles during downshifts, particularly with the optional sports exhausts system, though it doesn’t create a soundtrack quit . Performance is ultimately king however, and the RS4 delivers more oomph than ever before thanks to the new approach. The downsizing exercise of course helps economy and emissions too, so annual motor tax is now rated at €1200, and we achieved circa 10l/100km in fuel economy during our test (28 MPG).
Out on the road, the RS4 Avant corners with tremendous composure. The new six-cylinder engine is lighter than before, so it turns with added pace and the steering is well-weighted. It is hugely reassuring to drive in wet conditions and on less favourable road surfaces, while different driving modes can be selected using a switch on the centre console, including Comfort, Dynamic and Individual modes. In the most focused Dynamic setting, the suspension stiffens and the sport differential kicks in to make it the most accomplished RS4 yet. While the RS4 offers incredible handling, it isn’t quite as fun to drive as certain Mercedes-AMG or rear wheel drive BMW M models however.
Prices for the new Audi RS4 Avant start from €102,350 in Ireland, which is similar to the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Estate (€103,730). Standard equipment includes 19-inch Audi sport wheels, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, electric sport front seats, front and rear parking sensors, nappa leather upholstery, a reversing camera, dual zone air conditioning, Audi’s Smartphone Interface and all of the usual RS styling upgrades. Our test car is equipped with over €27,000 of options, including 20-inch wheels, wireless phone charging, a carbon styling package, Matrix LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof and lots more.
Carzone verdict: 4.5/5
The new Audi RS4 is an immensly capable super estate, with performance to thrill and space to lug large loads. While the new V6 engine lacks character compared to its predeccesor, there is no doubting its performance. The new RS4 is also more refined than before with great new technology and comfort suited to Irish roads too. So accomplished is the RS4, that it isn't quite as exciting to drive as some of its rear-wheel-driven rivals however. With optional extras, it proves rather expensive too. That said, if you're looking for a blisteringly fast estate, there are few better options on the market right now.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Audi RS4 Avant
Prices from: €102,350
Price as tested: €128,549
Annual Road Tax: €1200
Engine: 2894cc six-cylinder twin-turbocharged petrol