29 Mar 2013

Driven - 2013 Audi RS4 Avant

Thomas Brown reviews Audi's monster estate, the RS4 Avant

So, the new Audi RS4: Menacing isn’t it? With a 4.2 litre naturally aspirated V8 producing a whopping 450bhp and a thunderous soundtrack it’s hardly slow. It’s a cold and wet wintery day but this car is right at home. This is what the RS Audis are all about – massive performance in every weather condition.

Where the rivals from BMW and Mercedes fall short with their widow-making rear end issues, the RS4 pulls you through and powers away. The Quattro system is utterly superb, especially in these conditions, giving you the confidence to plough your foot into the carpet, knock your head back and laugh because you are having so much fun.

I wasn't particularly sure what to make of driving it initially as this test car has the optional dynamic steering rack equipped. Other well-published reviews have complained about this feature, claiming that it diminishes the feedback to the driver. I also found this to be the case. In ‘dynamic’ mode the steering was too artificially heavy and felt numb (here we go again grumbling about the electro-mechanical power steering systems!)

On the other side of the coin, however, in ‘dynamic’ mode the flaps open up in the exhaust system and when you take the car above five thousand revs, the noise is nothing short of intoxicating. Doing this though, you can actually see the fuel gauge drop. I never saw more than 15mpg. I suppose if you drove the car sedately and maturely you might reach the claimed 26.5 mpg.

Realistically though, how can you drive a car that makes a noise like this sedately?

The power plant releases 317lbs ft of torque but this is only significantly noticeable above five thousand revs.  A nice thud in the back to accompany the glorious bellowing shriek from the 4.2 FSI V8. Fair enough.  The RS4’s rivals may perform better and feel quicker – especially the Mercedes C63 with 443lbs ft of gut-wrenching torque on offer but, on a wet day, you are likely to find yourself making friends with a hedgerow and a few squirrels.

The RS4 is a heavy car compared to the BMW M3 and this is why the M3 has the legs but it’s the shortfall of torque that puts it at the mercy of the C63. The fact you have to keep revisiting however is that the RS4 performs the way it does in the wet too and this is where it plays its big fat trump card. The seven-speed, dual clutch (DSG) gearbox is utterly awesome. The changes are lightning fast and very smooth indeed. VAG have got this ‘box perfected.

Again, when the car is in ‘dynamic’ mode the changes are even quicker making the power delivery fall straight back into the power band. On downshifts the throttle blip resonates through the exhaust and all the way up your spine making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end and a grin make its way from ear-to-ear.

For four thousand beans you can have carbon ceramic brakes. This car did not have them and it may have benefitted from a set to help with the weight transfer under heavy braking. The steel brakes are more than adequate though - not forgetting the awesome wavy design adding to the superb appearance of the motorcar. Pedal feel was good and gave a good impression of how much stomp was required and, of course, where the car would end up.

As you would expect, the interior quality was just sublime. I am the biggest critic imaginable on this factor. If the cabin is not an inviting and pleasant place to sit, I’m not interested. It is safe to say I was not let down. The plastics were soft-touch and of incredibly high quality.

It is a well known fact Audi has the leading edge on interiors.  There are subtle giveaways that this is an RS model. The carbon trim inserts for example. Yet, they still manage to make it look like a quality item. The standard RS seats are decent and provide a good amount of support, but I cannot help imagining what the optional Recaros would be like.

Overall, this car is an absolute monster. Personally, I would pick the RS4 over a Mercedes C63 or BMW M3 purely because I wouldn't be frightened to tickle the throttle pedal in a bit of drizzle.

After realising that the car does not twist its face at some moisture the package all starts to make sense. The Quattro system is indeed superb and Audi certainly have it licked. The way it hangs on through the corners and powers out is amazing, especially when those corners are dusted with sleet.  An absolute hoot, a workhorse with an incredibly strenuous engine delivering the most euphoric exhilarating eight cylinder scream. Still not a fan of that dynamic steering rack though...

Review by Thomas Brown

Thank you to: Tim Peyton & Teesside Audi