Audi’s RS models have a proud history – and it began with the RS2 Avant, co-developed with Porsche and based on the Audi 80 B4. Audi extracted 315 horsepower from the 2.2-liter turbo five – and thus, the RS2 Avant started the trend of powerful station wagons. It was succeeded by the RS4 Avant, powered by a turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6, then by two generations with a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8 engine. Now the RS4 Avant is reverting to turbocharged power – with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6.
This powerplant is part of Audi’s and Porsche’s jointly developed V6 and V8 engine family, and it makes a full 450 horsepower; maximum torque, served up from 1900 to 5000 rpm, is rated at 600 Nm. The engine is mated to the great ZF 8HP eight-speed automatic, replacing the previous model’s seven-speed dual-clutch box. The six-speed manual is long gone; it has already been purged two generations ago, which is an actual shame.
The engine works almost entirely without turbo lag; the engine sound is largely determined by the selected driving mode. We approve of “dynamic” mode; it’s throaty and metallic at the same time. And the exhaust emits a beautiful crackle when upshifting at the limit or downshifting.
Our test car came with the RS Dynamic package, including the “sport differential”, dynamic steering, and a governor reprogrammed to allow for a 280 kph top speed. The sprint from 0 to 100 kph takes just 4.1 seconds.
To put this awesome power onto the road, the RS4 Avant is fitted with a lowered suspension and stands on 265/30 R 19 or 275/30 R 20 tires. The steering is precise and perfectly weighted. The sport differential helps to turn the car into corners aggressively, but it makes it feel slightly artificial. It takes a bit of practice to correctly interpret the signs when the RS4 Avant reaches it ultra-high limits. “Dynamic” is a bit too harsh for uneven surfaces, and makes the steering feel artificially heavy; we recommend you play with the “Individual” settings.
The driver’s seat puts you in perfect command, offering plenty of lateral support. The dashboard is styled in a slim, crisp and futuristic manner, with a large TFT screen in front of the driver. It lets you put the gages in the corner to display a larger map, but there is the option of a large tach as well, flanked by more or less useful “power” and “torque” indicators.
Painted in Nardo Grey, a color that evokes military vehicles, the wide-bodied RS4 Avant leaves a powerful impression. And at EUR 79 800 on its German home market, it represents a surprisingly good value. If you want a station wagon in this class, there is only on alternative: The Mercedes-AMG C63 station wagon, with its V-8 biturbo. Similarly fast, the two cars are so distinct in character and style that customers will quickly make up their mind one way or the other.