After a brief hiatus, Audi has finally brought the latest RS 4 Avant (station wagon in Audi parlance) to our shores, continuing to meld performance with practicality in a package that remains purposeful yet beaming with sporty undertones. The latest model, though, dispenses with the previous model’s 4.2-litre V8 in favour of a smaller, 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo in the interests of better efficiency and weight saving. And, consequently, the model is said to have also shed 80 kg of weight over its predecessor, which translates to a fleet-footed dynamic performer as we’ve come to discover.
Whenever a new Audi RS 4 Avant is unveiled, it always manages to pique my interest. The reason? It all dates back to 2007 when an auspicious yellow B7 Audi RS 4 docked into my garage for a week-long review. Ask anyone who’s had the privilege of piloting that generation RS 4 and many will regale you with terms that engender feelings of endearment to no end.
From how its stocky, iron-pumping flared wheel arches made it look like a street brawler to the dual big-bore exhausts that emitted a hairy-chested, battle war cry that wouldn’t be out of place in a highly-modified American V8 muscle car, thanks to its atmospheric 4.2-litre V8 that revved to 8,250 r/min. It was also the last RS 4 to come exclusively with a sneaky six-speed manual gearbox – a definitive recipe for driving nirvana.
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While the B8 RS 4 Avant that followed still featured that fruity sounding 4.2-litre V8, it was exclusively offered with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic, which removed a layer of driver enjoyment and engagement that was so integral to the preceding model’s appeal. It is 2019 and the engine downsizing phenomenon continues in earnest as the latest B9 RS 4 now features a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that thumps out 331 kW and 600 Nm allied to the company’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Much like its predecessors, the latest RS 4 Avant still boasts that sporty wagon silhouette that makes any petrolhead worth their salt pant and pore over it for hours on end. From the front visage with its gloss black honeycomb grille and Quattro insignia on the front valance to the flared wheel arches that are home to 20″ alloy wheels and the rear with its elegant LED taillights and dual RS exhaust outlets. It is purposeful without being flamboyantly decked out in outlandish spoilers to drive home its sporty disposition – understated is perhaps the most apt term in this instance.
Optical delights continue inwards with form-hugging, diamond quilted leather pews and a minimalistic yet classy centre console interspersed by a variable digital instrument cluster. There are subtle RS logos peppered about the cabin to firmly remind you of where you’re sat, while the metal inlays add a quota of sporty veneer to further elevate the cabin ambience. There are various nooks and crannies to fit one’s oddments, while the boot is commodious enough to lug a family’s luggage and then some.
Nestling up front in a fairly midship setup, just behind the front axle, is the aforementioned 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo that, while mustering some healthy numbers of 331 kW and 600 Nm to aid the sporty wagon to scoot from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds, it is not a particularly characterful engine.
A tad subdued in how it barks its intentions, the V6 note never quite reaches an intoxicating crescendo when stretched to the upper echelons of the rev range. In contrast, the smaller, 2.5-litre inline, five pot turbo engine in the RS 3 simply overshadows that of the RS 4 in that department, which is a great pity when one considers the huge delta in capital outlay between the two models.
Then, there is the small matter of how the RS 4’s engine quaffs through fuel at a rate that left me a touch cold. We managed a best of 13.6 litres per 100 km with some restraint while with more liberal use of the loud pedal, we saw an eye-watering figure of 20-litres per 100 km. So, there you have it, conclusive proof that engine downsizing does not necessarily always equate to better fuel efficiency and, in this instance, the V6 note just never quite stirs your soul in a way befitting an Audi RS-badged vehicle.
The RS 4 Avant’s saving grace is its sublime handling antics. Find a sinewy piece of tarmac, hurl the vehicle into a corner with intent and it simply obliges and gets on with the business of playing tugging corners. Whether it be fast sweeps or tight bends, the RS 4 simply dispatches them with such verve and intent, that even a novice driver will find it totally unflappable. It always feels surefooted, composed and secure under any driving conditions that you simply want one in your garage as the fail-safe family hauler. It manages to meld class, practicality and sportiness so eloquently that it remains one of the best-looking wagons on the block.
As far as wagons go, you would be hard-pressed to find a more appealing and performing wagon at the price. It makes for a consummate, fast family luger that simply fits a family’s transportation needs with aplomb. Pity about the vanilla flavoured engine and its wayward fuel drinking habits, because the rest of the vehicle is simply sublime.
Report by LERATO MATEBESE | Images © AUDI SA