The new Audi RS 4, a real Jekyll and Hyde characterBy Chris Walsh
February 23, 2012
Ah, the merits of a sharp-suited Audi with the muscle of a supercar. Audi’s notorious RS 4 continues to epitomise the whole Jekyll and Hyde persona that is now synonymous with the top end of the German motoring fellowship. Available exclusively in the Avant body style, the RS 4 contradicts its distinctly business-like first impressions with a ridiculous zero to 62mph time, unthinkable top-end and exceptionally tenacious all-wheel-drive handling.
The RS 4 uses the same high revving, naturally aspirated V8 engine that powers the sexy RS 5 coupe. The hand-built 4.2-litre unit produces a blissful 456bhp at 8,250rpm and has a maximum torque of 430Nm around the 4,000 to 6,000rpm bracket. That translates to a 0 to 62mph of 4.7 seconds and top speed of 174mph. However, it achieves all this while returning up to 25.7mpg combined.
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With its impressive efficiency and long top gear, the standard seven-speed S tronic transmission makes a significant contribution to this uncharacteristic fuel economy. Drivers can let the lightning-fast, dual-clutch transmission shift automatically or change gears manually using the selector lever or the paddles on the steering wheel. For explosive starts, drivers can also activate Launch Control, which manages the engagement of the clutch to achieve an optimum starting speed with minimal wheel spin.
The Audi drive select driving dynamics system is a standard feature of the RS 4 Avant. With it, the driver can switch between three modes – comfort, auto and dynamic – to determine the characteristics of the steering, the transmission and the throttle response. Audi drive select can even vary the sound of the exhaust system, double-declutching when downshifting in dynamic mode.
Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) will also be available as an extra cost option in this latest generation RS 4. The system connects diagonally opposed pairs of shock absorbers by way of oil lines and a central valve to promote even greater stability and composure at speed. The three damping modes it offers will also be controllable via the Audi drive select system.
In common with every Audi RS model, the RS 4 Avant features quattro permanent all-wheel drive, which is bolstered here by the advanced ‘crown-gear’ centre differential. This compact and lightweight component can vary the distribution of power between the front and rear axles rapidly, smoothly and over a wide range, with up to 70 per cent flowing to the front or as much as 85 per cent to the rear. The default 40:60 ratio of the rear-biased configuration favours agile and precisely adjustable handling.
The exterior design of the RS 4 Avant leaves onlookers in no doubt about its very special capabilities. Its trademark hexagonal grille is set in a frame with a matte finish and its honeycomb insert is finished in high-gloss anthracite, just to make sure.
Prices for the new RS 4 are yet to be announced but deliveries are expected to be around September.