Driven: 2019 Audi RS4 Avant
The Audi RS4 Avant is a very interesting vehicle in the South African market. Both Mercedes-Benz and BMW have stopped bringing high-performance station wagons into SA, so it’s a rather bold move for Audi to still offer it. We got to spend a week with the new Audi RS4 Avant to see what all the hype is about.
Let’s start with the design of the Audi RS4 Avant, which is arguably one of its strongest points. It looks very intimidating, especially in the interesting Sonoma Green colour that our test unit was finished in, and the gloss black styling pack adds another dimension of sportiness to the exterior. The last few generations of RS4 were notorious for their voluptuous curves, particularly the flaired-arched B7 sedan, but the new RS4 is all about sharp lines and edges. The LED headlights up front are made up of straight lines, housing the daytime running lights and sitting on either end of the wide, black radiator grille. Below the grille is an interesting lower bumper that features an intricate front splitter and two large air inlets on either side, mirroring the air inlets on the headlights. A set of sporty 20-inch alloys are complemented nicely by the 30mm lowered Audi RS Sports Suspension, which is equipped as standard on the RS4, and complete the sleek side profile of the Avant. At the rear you’ll find a subtle boot spoiler above a set of LED taillights which also feature Audi’s mesmerising dynamic turn signal indicators. A sporty diffuser with a large, oval exhaust on either side completes the lower rear end. I should mention the impressive 505-litres of boot space that lurks beneath, which can go up all the way to 1510-litres with the rear seats folded down.
The interior is a bit less exciting. The sport seats are excellent because they look the part but simultaneously remain practical through the offering of lumbar support, seat heating, and some classy diamond stitched leather. The Audi RS flat-bottomed steering wheel is another one of my favourite features in the RS4 Avant, coupled with a pair of metal paddle-shifts. The rest of the interior is functional and focused around the driver but it just doesn’t feel as captivating as some of its competitors. I appreciated the simplicity of the cabin, but things like the Audi MMI screen and the wheel to control it feel very outdated. Thankfully Audi’s virtual cockpit was there to brighten things up. Speaking of brightening things up, the Audi Drive Select impressed me yet again. Dynamic mode turns the RS4 Avant into a slick sports car, but then at one click of a button, Comfort mode unlocks the calm cruiser personality of the station-wagon.
The loud grunt of a naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 is absent on the new Audi RS4 Avant, being replaced by a 30-kilogram lighter twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine. In addition to reducing weight, the new engine also produces more torque and is, according to Audi, almost 20% more efficient than the V8. The performance figures certainly check out with a maximum power output of 331kW and 600Nm of torque. The 0-100km/h sprint happens in 4.1-seconds thanks to quattro permanent all-wheel drive and launch control through the 8-speed automatic transmission. Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h, but Audi will bump it up to 280km/h should you tick the box for the optional Audi RS Driver’s Pack. Audi also claim that the RS4 Avant will do 8.8-litres/100km but this was nowhere close to the 16-litres/100km that I achieved.
I struggled to figure out why someone would buy an Audi RS4 Avant. If you want a performance car, you could go for the Audi RS5 Coupe. There’s even an RS5 Sportback for the added convenience of a bigger boot and four-doors. It took me a few days to figure it out, but eventually I did. This is not a car you buy for absolute performance or absolute practicality. The RS4 Avant is car you buy because you can. It’s one of the last few cars available that capture this degree of individuality and during my time with it, I didn’t encounter another car as expressive as this. If you love standing out from the crowd, this is the car to have.