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Audi RS 4 Avant review

Understated Estate Car Is Also A Hot-Rod
Audi RS 4 Avant review 2012
Practical Utility Vehicle, Blindingly Fast

How Much Would You Pay To Raise Top Speed To 174 MPH?
rating: **** out of 5

“The engine seems to sense when you’re thinking about accelerating, giving off a rumble indicating readiness for action”

For – supercar and load-lugger combined
Against – not understated enough to fool white-van man

NECKARSULM, Germany – A couple of things stick in the mind after storming across Europe in the lightning-fast Audi RS 4 Avant.

I’d underestimated the visual appeal and general fame of what I had considered to be an understated, almost anonymous and limited-edition estate car. A white-van man in heavy, slow traffic south of Brussels leant across with a broad grin and gave the thumbs-up sign, responding to the tell-tale silver wing-mirrors, enlarged air inlets, bulging wheel arches and big twin exhausts. He was ecstatic a bit later when we pulled alongside, and gave him the benefit of a foot-to-floor move which ignited the 4.2 litre V8 into a magnificent roar. (Just briefly, and very responsibly. The traffic was too heavy for anything else). I’ve only noticed that happening before on an early drive of the Audi R8, the supercar with looks to die for. School children were hanging out of buses trying to get a look. Crowds gathered at motorway service station car parks. But the R8 looks like something from outer space, while the RS 4 Avant might be a Volvo Estate at first glance.

Audi RS 4 Avant review 2012And the options list on this machine, where the price starts at £54,925, includes an intriguing item – “top speed restriction increased to 174 mph (from 155 mph) – £1,300”. You need to be awash with cash to think that is a good idea, even in Germany where there are still large sections of motorway free of speed limits. And what would that do to the cost of insurance, when the buyer confesses to be an irresponsible speed freak?

I didn’t test the newly liberated top speed on a drive to Neckarsulm, Germany, but I did have plenty of time to appreciate the qualities of this high-tech machine. At the heart of the latest RS 4 is the same high-revving V8 which powers the RS 5 Coupe and Cabriolet. The engine produces 444 hp, which slingshots the car from 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. It cruises effortlessly between 100 mph and 120 mph. If you ask for acceleration, the reaction is immediate, effortless and impressive. The engine seems to sense when you’re thinking about accelerating, giving off a rumble indicating readiness for action.

No Manual
Audi RS 4 Avant review 2012There’s no manual gearbox option on this latest iteration. You have to make do with the 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which pings its way up and down with a speed and accuracy few humans could match. The top gear is very high to help fuel consumption, said by Audi to average 26.4 mpg. On a section of motorway which included heavy traffic around Brussels and higher-speed cruising at around 85 mph later, I managed 24.0 mpg. You can override the automatic using the selector lever or change gears manually using paddles on the steering wheel. The four-wheel drive promises safe adhesion in the rain. The test car had ceramic brakes as a £4,000 optional extra. The steering felt unnaturally light at slow speeds, but progressively tightens as speed increases.

The interior is classic Audi RS, with the key indicators very logical and easy to communicate with. And there’s the flat-bottomed steering wheel, carbon inlays, and sports seats with integrated head restraints. (“RS” stands for the English equivalent of Racing Sport.)

If explosive starts on race-tracks are on your menu, you can activate Launch Control which will achieve optimum starting speed with minimal wheel spin. The four-wheel drive system has been improved with a new rear differential which allows up to 70 per cent of the power to flow to the front or as much as 85 per cent to the rear. Much aluminium is used throughout the car to cut weight.

Among many technical gizmos on offer, you can select your preferred driving style from either comfort, auto, dynamic and individual. Buyers can spend £2,250 on a Sport Package which includes another level called Dynamic Ride Control. This promotes even greater stability and composure at speed. I wonder who would notice if this level of difference had been achieved?

Standard equipment includes SatNav and entertainment systems and online traffic information. Also included are automatic parking, three-zone electronic climate control, cruise control, adaptive swivelling xenon headlights, the Bluetooth interface and Audi Music. You won’t pay more for a through-load facility, Driver’s Information System with rest recommendation function, a panoramic tilting sunroof, tinted rear windows, shades for the side rear windows and a storage package. Audi also throws in side assist blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control and slow speed collision avoidance. You can pay a little more for a rail system in the boot with load securing and go for a power-operated tailgate.

Audi RS 4 Avant review 2012

The Sat/Nav system was very clever in pointing out severe congestion on motorways way ahead of the route. One day it will include the capability of admonishing the driver who thinks problems will disappear if you wait long enough. “Don’t expect that this will have cleared by the time you get there. Take a new route NOW”, it will say. That would have saved a couple of hours on the journey to Neckarsulm, in northern Baden-Wuerttemberg, near Stuttgart. Surprisingly, there was no Start/Stop system to save fuel in traffic. Audi thinks this is an “inappropriate” option.

174 mph value
The Audi RS 4 Avant is a brilliant machine, combining a high degree of practicality with its supercar performance. Unlike previous RS 4 iterations, you can only have an RS 4 estate. The Mercedes and BMW equivalents are fine machines as well, and it would be almost impossible to say one was better than the other.

I do have one mischievous final thought though. If all fast Audis are fitted with devices which limit their speeds to 155 mph, how long would it take, and how much could it cost to change it to 174 mph? 10 seconds? £1,300? Come on.

(Audi supplied flight, hotel)

Audi RS 4 Avant review 2012

Neil Winton 

 Audi RS 4 Avant
Engine:4.2 litre V-8 petrol
444 hp @ 8,250 rpm
430 Nm @ 4,000-6,000
7-speed automatic
Acceleration:0-60 mph 4.5 seconds
Top Speed:174 mph-280 km/h
Fuel Consumption:
claimed combined – 26.4 mpg-10.7 l/km WintonsWorld test 24.0 mpg-11.8 l/km
CO2:249 g/km
Emissions class:
E.U. 5
Length:4,719 mm
1,795 kg
five link/self-tracking trapezoidal
Service Intervals:2 years/19,000 miles
Insurance Group:
2 years unlimited
Boot capacity:
490/1,430 litres
Competition:Mercedes C63 AMG Estate, BMW m3 Coupe
For:supercar and load-lugger combined
Against:not understated enough to fool white-van man

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