Some would say that it’s a myth or impossible even but I’m here to tell you that somewhere in the far off land of Vorsprung, there’s a place where high-performance, adrenaline pumping satisfaction meets with out and out practicality and Audi New Zealand gave me keys to get there. It’s called the 2020 RS4 Avant and it really hits that sweet spot.
Audi Sport is the performance arm of German auto-maker Audi. With S and RS monikers, it takes their already well-appointed range of vehicles and elevates them in terms of looks, performance, sight and sound. Level 1 is S-line which is mainly cosmetic, ‘S’ raises the power and sportiness levels to a solid 5, while ‘RS’ turns all dials up to 11, so let’s start there.
The Rennsport (Racing Sport) RS version of the Audi A4 first hit the highway at the turn of the century and now, twenty-years later, it welcomes its fourth generation facelift. As with the RS6, the latest RS4 is only produced in Avant (wagon) style, but don’t think for one moment that this means ‘tamed’, quite the contrary, it just means that with all that extra space (upto 1495L) you can now invite your friends along for the ride.
Under the bonnet (quite-rightly) remains the 2.9L V6 twin-turbo engine that produces 331kW and 600Nm of torque, Sure it’s not the original V8 but has a 31kg weight advantage that when connected to it’s 8-speed tiptronic gearbox and in turn to the legendary Audi quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, it races this near 1.8-tonne wagon from 0-100km/h in 4.1seconds (it seriously feels even faster) and up to a restricted top speed of 250km/h.
The latest RS features Audi’s new design language and showcases a wider and flatter single frame egg-crate grille with a 3D honeycomb centre, sorry design. It has large lateral air inlets, LED matrix headlights, dynamic indicators, an RS specific spoiler and splitter, 20-inch alloys, an RS exhaust system (with an exquisite note under high revs) and heaps of gloss black accents all over – phew.
The cabin is Audi premium with upmarket fixtures and fittings, and piano blacks and chromes for additional touches. Audi’s MMI system is relayed on a central touchscreen that’s very smartphone-like in its functionality and houses the B&O sound system, massage seats control and an RS specific area where you set up your RS1 and RS2 modes – two performance driving configurations that adjust the ferocity and speed of things like steering and acceleration and in turn are linked to RS button on the sports steering wheel. And then there’s the Audi Virtual Cockpit that takes up residence in the instrument cluster with a 12.3-inch high resolution LCD screen and can be personalised to suit.
My RS model came in Nardo grey and it suits the wagon well. There are a number of routes that I prefer to take my performance reviews on and opted for the most challenging one, the one with more twists and turns, for the RS4. Simply put, the Avant drives like a champion. Behind the scenes, well below them, is a magical suspension and traction control system that keeps you firmly rooted to the tarmac. Unknowingly to the driver, the Audi’s wheel selective torque control set up applies pressure to the brakes on the inside of the curve and the RS’s dynamic steering is ultra-responsive, giving a neutral handling feel throughout. Yes it goes fast in a straight line, and sounds great too, but it’s when you hit the bends that you really get to know how good this performance wagon truly is.
But it’s not all performance without practicality. Yes the RS4 is an exciting drive but it’s a family wagon too. The luxuries are aplenty, did I mention the heated massage seats, the stereo, the USB points, the wireless charging, the Google maps, the active and passive safety and the room? The rear seats split-folded 40:20:40 to offer maximum stowage space, the kicker tailgate means loading and unloading is a breeze and the luggage compartment lid opens and closes in tune with the tailgate.
Then there’s the S4 Avant. Of course the S4 offers a little less in comparison, but it too has a 2.9L V6, however, it only (I joke) produces 260kW/500Nm and a 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds.There’s a little bit less luggage space (-5L), 1-inch smaller alloys, the suspension misses out on the dynamic ride control… but it still comes with sports damping control, sports exhaust, leather throughout, latest MMI system and $30k off the price tag.
The Audi New Zealand S4 and RS4 Avants are both everyday useable and virtually track ready, depending on the variant, they are all out guns a blazing or simply damn fast yet both cater to the needs of family – they live in a sweet spot and have done for the past twenty years, and here’s to twenty more.