Audi has seen fit to update its RS 4 Avant – but how have these changes helped the overall package? Jack Evans reports from Morocco
What is it?
We’ve already seen how successfully Audi has reinvigorated its flagship RS 6 Avant, bringing added poise and performance to a car that was already held in high esteem. Now it’s the RS 6’s little brother – the RS 4 Avant – which is getting a bit of nip-tuck.
This is a far more understated affair, mind you, with the RS 4’s mechanicals left largely unchanged over the car that it replaces. No, the edits come into force more in terms of the car’s visuals, as well as its in-cabin entertainment.
As we’ve already mentioned, this is more of a facelift than an outright new car.
Whereas the RS 6 now benefits from mild-hybrid technology and a cleaner – albeit still quite thirsty – V8 engine, the RS 4 makes do with the same V6 biturbo as found in the older car. That said, the eight-speed auto has been ‘optimised’ for better changes.
It’s outside where you’ll notice the most variation over the previous-generation RS 4. The front end has been sharpened up with larger air intakes, while the rear has been beefed up, too.
What’s under the bonnet?
With 444bhp and 600Nm of torque, the power outputs of the RS 4’s 2.9-litre biturbo V6 remain unaffected from the previous car.
That’s right, there’s no bump in power, and drive is sent through the same eight-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro system.
A sport differential comes as standard, which can alter the amount of power sent to the rear wheels to help improve cornering.
What’s it like to drive?
Although the updates to the RS 4 have been reasonably minimal, we’re quite glad about that because it still drives superbly well.
There’s an inherent lightness to the car, which means that cornering is undertaken with a minimum of fuss – although a faster entry speed and a trailed brake can result in a pleasing amount of rotation. However, drive it neatly and the RS 4 will cover ground exceptionally quickly.
How does it look?
We always liked the look of the older RS 4; it managed to appear purposeful enough to be worthy of the RS badge, yet understated enough to appeal across the board.
This latest model has done little to dispel those thoughts, with the newly implemented air intake above the front grille representing a neat touch in terms of both adding some drama to the front end of the car, while bringing it closer in line with other Audi-group cars such as the R8 and A1.
It’s not as striking as its big brother RS 6 – the front arches are only increased by 3cm over the standard A4 Avant – but it’s still a well-rounded design. It might have been good to see a more comprehensive series of updates over the old car, though.
What’s it like inside?
Again, it’s a case of mild updates in the cabin. The new central screen looks more appealing than it did in the older car, but it’s still not quite as well integrated as the systems you find in other Audi models. That said, the level of fit and finish is excellent.
What’s the spec like?
Given its place at the top of the A4 range, it’ll come as little surprise that the RS 4 has plenty of kit as standard. The most notable addition is the new 10.1-inch infotainment screen, which sits in the centre of the dashboard.
It’s more integrated into the overall cabin design than before but still appears to be perched atop the dash, so doesn’t look quite as seamless as the systems in other Audi models. The Virtual Cockpit system ahead of the driver remains – and it remains excellent, too.
Audi’s excellent matrix LED headlights come as standard as well – they’ve been redesigned for this model – alongside 19-inch alloy wheels. Plus, the RS 4 still ticks the boxes when it comes to practicality, which it needs to as a performance estate car. As such, there’s 495 litres of seats-up space, rising to 1,495 litres with those seats folded down.
What do the press think?
Auto Express said: ‘The new Audi RS 4 Avant is a great fast all-rounder that’s easy to live with.’
PistonHeads said: ‘The car remains a model of composure and cross-country pace, even when it involves actual countryside.’
What do we think?
Although the interior may lag a touch behind rivals – despite the update – the RS 4 still feels like a car that you’d happily get behind the wheel of time and time again.
Model as tested: Audi RS 4 Avant
Engine: 2.9-litre biturbo V6
Max speed: 155mph
0-60mph: 3.8 seconds
Emissions (CO2): 210g/km
Those who want performance and practicality in equal measure from their car.
BMW M340i Touring,
Mercedes-AMG C63 Estate,
Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
KEY SELLING POINTS:
1. Dynamic drive.
2. Surprisingly pliable ride.
3. Excellent build quality.
Already excellent performance estate has undergone a nicely judged refresh.