In Review

Audi RS4 Avant 2018 review: supercar fun for the whole family

This practical-looking estate packs some serious punch

The new Audi RS4 Avant is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Based on the company’s middle-of-the-range A4 Avant, the RS4’s practical proportions make it a perfect choice for families - but this vehicle has a wild side too. 

Tuned by the company’s racing division, Audi Sport, the RS4 is one of the most powerful mid-size estates on the market, with a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 engine that can hit a top speed of 174mph. 

The Week Portfolio got behind the wheel of the new £62,175 car to see what else it can do.

Step inside

The RS4’s interior is largely based on the regular A4, but a few key changes set the sports model apart. 

The new car gets a racing-inspired flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather sports seats and RS4 badges scattered around the cockpit. Fit and finish is also top drawer.

And nobody does in-car infotainment systems like Audi. The Virtual Cockpit system, which is standard fit on the RS4, sees the covenantal analogue dials on the dashboard replaced with a digital display that can be controlled using buttons on the steering wheel. There’s also a small panel located above the centre console, which can be accessed using a scroll wheel and buttons. 

What sets this system apart is the way it allows the user to customise the dials in front of the steering wheel. You can choose from a series of layouts, such as a view where the rev counter or satnav display takes up most of the digital dashboard. You can even split the display to have the speedometer in the centre of the screen, with the satnav tucked to one side. 

All the information you need is right behind the wheel, allowing you to focus fully on the road. Going back to a car with an analogue display will feel like stepping back in time. 

There’s also plenty of room for passengers, with even 6ft-tall types able to comfortably sit in the front and rear seats, while the boot is a generous 505 litres with the rear seats in place. 

On the road

Tap the start button on the centre console and the RS4 growls into life. 

The burble you’ll hear from the exhaust comes from the RS4’s new 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which replaces the much-loved naturally aspirated V8 motor in the old model. 

With the new V6, you’ll have 444bhp and 443lb-ft of torque at your disposal when you pin the throttle to the floor. Audi claims the RS4 can do 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds, but it feels much faster than that behind the wheel. 

The engine note, meanwhile, sounds good when the car revs closer to its 6,500rpm red line, but we suspect Audi may have enhanced the noise of the motor using the cabin’s speakers. It’s a trick several manufacturers have adopted to make the sound of a turbo engine more exciting, but the RS4 doesn’t sound quite as vocal from the outside as it does in the cabin.

That said, most RS4 buyers probably won’t mind the subdued engine note, given that this is a five-seat, four-wheel drive estate. And if the engine sound becomes a little too intrusive, you can switch the RS4 into comfort mode. This closes small valves in the exhaust and softens the suspension. 

Whichever driving mode you’re in, the RS4 is always a comfortable place for passengers. Comfort mode is ideal for cruising on the motorway, but we’d recommend switching the car into Dynamic, more commonly referred to as sport mode, if you’re driving on bumpy rural roads. 

We also found the RS4 to be surprisingly economical for a high-performance super estate. Pottering around on rural roads and motorway cruises gave us a fuel economy of around 24mpg, but expect that to drop when you put your foot down hard on the accelerator. 

The verdict

With supercar levels of performance and enough space to comfortably fit a family of five, the RS4 seems to be one of the few cars that really can do everything. 

The only issue we had with the car is that it doesn’t have the brutish appeal ofered by the old V8-engined RS4. The new V6 certainly packs a punch, but we’d recommend ticking the optional sports exhaust option for those on the hunt for a more visceral sound. 

There aren’t many cars that can rival the RS4’s blend of supercar performance and practicality, as most manufacturers give their sportiest cars saloon or coupe silhouettes. The one true rival to the RS4 is the Mercedes-AMG C63 estate, which is around £3,000 more expensive and is only available in rear-wheel drive form. 

For drivers on the lookout for a family car that will give most supercars a run for their money, the new RS4 is a clear winner.

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