SINGAPORE (Sept 17): A wolf in sheep’s clothing. That would be an appropriate way to describe the Audi RS 4. It looks like an everyday family car, a stylish estate. But start up the engine and drive away, and you’re in for a real surprise. For the RS 4 is no ordinary estate car. To put it bluntly, it’s a beast.
With most cars, you know what you’re going to get just by looking at it. You expect a sporty experience from a Porsche 911 and a refined ride from a Rolls-Royce or a Lexus. But the Audi RS 4 Avant truly belies its appearance. On the outside, it is a family-friendly and practical station wagon; on the inside is the heart and performance of a supercar. It sounds unbelievable, but trust me on this one.
Audi makes no secret of its power and performance, calling it a “practical sports car”. The real secret is that not many motorists in Singapore know just how fast this family car can go. I was lucky enough to test-drive the third-generation RS 4 a few years ago and it blew my mind. I really did not expect to experience so much raw power from a sedate-looking station wagon. So, with the launch of the fourth-generation RS 4, I was prepared this time around. But is one really prepared?
Under the bonnet hides a weapon of mass destruction — a 2.9-litre, V6 twin-turbo engine that produces a blistering 450bhp and 600Nm of torque. And it gets you from 0 to 100kph in just 4.1 seconds. Its top speed is 250kph, but with the optional RS dynamics package, this increases to 280kph. This raw power is supplied to the permanent all-wheel drive via Audi’s sporty eight-speed tiptronic transmission. The stats speak for themselves, but that really is only half the story. The RS 4 is all about explosive power, akin to an American muscle car such as the Mustang or Ford GT — but in the unexpected shape of a station wagon.
If you know a thing or two about Audis, you will know the RS 4 takes a lot of its design cues from Audi’s motorsport division, namely, the 90 Quattro IMSA GTO. The front of the car features solid air intakes with a honeycomb structure typical of an RS, along with the wide, flat single-frame grille. And the chunky 20-inch wheels nicely finish off this rugged and sleek-looking machine.
The black interior emphasises the sporty character of the Audi RS 4 Avant that comes with RS sports seats, a flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel and the Audi virtual cockpit.
The black interior emphasises the sporty character of the Audi RS 4 Avant. There are the RS sports seats, the flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel and the Audi virtual cockpit. The electronic display provides information on G-forces, tire pressure and temperature, as well as power and torque.
It doesn’t take long to realise the sporty aspirations of the RS 4. But let’s not forget this is an estate car, so there’s acres of space inside to accommodate the family and much more, like a couple of bikes and the pet dog. In the basic configuration, the luggage compartment offers 505 litres of storage space, while 1,510 litres of volume is available with the seats folded down.
The drive itself is nothing short of blistering. It’s like being on a roller-coaster ride if you take it on a highway and then come off a very bendy exit without slowing down. It can handle itself very well at such high speeds. And from what I remember from the third-generation RS 4, the pick-up and response of the throttle has improved a lot. It was always fast but feels even more punchy.
As I speed along the PIE, I try to imagine what made Audi build such a wolf in sheep’s clothing: a sports car hidden inside a family vehicle. The RS 4 Avant story began in 1994 with the RS 2 Avant, which started a new trend — the world’s first high-performance sports car with five seats and large luggage space. Porsche supplied parts such as the brakes and wheels. Then five years later, the first Audi RS 4 was born. Demand was so high that Audi doubled production figures from its original plans.
Then, in 2005, we saw the second generation of the car, powered by a newly developed V8 engine and, seven years later, the third generation was born. People loved the car, so Audi was just giving them what they wanted, but improving it gradually over the years. The arrival of the fourth generation of the RS 4 Avant should bring in even more converts to this unique model.
While station wagons are rare to see in Singapore, this could change with cars like the RS 4 Avant. It doesn’t just break the myth that station wagons are slow and boring; it smashes it. A supercar hidden inside a station wagon is not an overstatement.
Audi RS 4 Avant
Engine: 2894cc, V6, turbocharged
Fuel consumption: 8.9L/100km
0 to 100kph: 4.1 seconds
Top speed: 250kph
Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast.