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Audi RS4 Avant Review: Possibly the Best All-Around Car in the World
Despite the insatiable lust for crossovers, SUVs, and anything remotely truck-like, Americans have been spoiled with “forbidden fruit” for years now. We finally have a Ford Focus RS, a Honda Civic Type-R, and we’ve had the tire-obliterating Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 Wagon for three generations. The days of pining for fast wagons and high-performance hot hatchbacks are seemingly in the rearview.
But there’s one piece missing that still makes enthusiasts weak at the knees: a fast Audi wagon. Ever since the Porsche co-built RS2 in 1994, Audi has been churning out super-fast ‘Bahn burners overseas, specifically in the form of the mighty RS6 and the hard-hitting RS4. Known as “Avant” in Audi speak, these wagons are fast, functional, and accelerate insanely quick thanks to Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel-drive; but we’ve never had an Audi RS4 Avant here, not even in the fever dream of the 90s.
Thanks to strong sales, the Audi Sport lineup (as the RS cars are now known) is growing larger than ever, and the RS5 with which the RS4 Avant shares its underpinnings is better than ever. With America starting to fall back in love with wagons – as long as they’re lifted and all-wheel drive – could it be time for Audi to bring the RS4 to our shores? After spending a week with one in Sweden, I think you damn well better hope so.
Oh boy, where do I start?
First and foremost, the RS4 Avant looks better than ever. While Audi’s been criticized for evolution rather than revolution in its recent designs, there’s no denying the angular, grille-heavy, LED-laden look still turns heads, and the RS4 Avant wears this design language best in my eyes. The 2018 version is longer, lower, wider and sports fender flares that are downright pornographic, the likes of which we haven’t seen much of since the 1980s. Finished in the flat Nardo Grey paint job – interestingly, the only no-cost color option – the optional black accents, massive wheels, and huge ovular exhaust tips signal that this wagon means business, but only to those who really know what they’re looking for.
The interior is a tech wonderland too, like most modern Audis have been. A crisp infotainment screen adorns the center of the dash, and the driver is treated to Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit display with a little bit of RS flair. One touch of a steering wheel-mounted button, and you can switch from a full-screen map, media, or vehicle info to a central combination speedometer and tachometer. The wood or aluminum that would normally adorn the dashboard was replaced in my test car with sleek carbon fiber, and the honeycomb-stitched bucket seats hug your frame just the right amount for some spirited backroad driving.
But you can get all of that from the RS5 Coupe. What you’re really here for is the wagon body, and it doesn’t disappoint in terms of comfort or functionality. Back seat passengers will find plenty of legroom and decent headroom, not to mention solid space for suitcases and more behind the seats. With the rear seats folded flat, the RS4 Avant manages 53.3 cubic feet of cargo space, which is only about seven cubes less than the Q5 SUV. Tell me again exactly why you need a crossover, would you?
And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet: the speed. Thanks to the same twin-turbo 2.9-liter V6 in the RS5, the RS4 Avant manages about 450 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft. of torque shuffled to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Sixty miles per hour comes in just about four seconds, and the top speed is capped at 155 mph but can be de-restricted from the factory to reach 174 mph. This thing is unbelievably quick for a small wagon and will plaster your eyeballs to the back of your skull with launch control engaged. There’s also immense grip in the corners, and the handling has been dramatically improved over the outgoing model thanks to a much lighter V6 engine versus the old V8, which made the RS models understeer more than they should have. It’s still not as sharp as some coupe-based rivals like the BMW M4 and Cadillac ATS-V, but those don’t come in a wagon, do they?
Perhaps the RS4 Avant’s best quality beyond speed alone is just how usable it is every single day. With Comfort mode selected, the adaptive suspension eats up imperfections on the road with aplomb, and the normally raucous exhaust note fades into the distance. It’ll even manage almost 27 mpg combined according to Audi, but you won’t get anywhere near that, unfortunately, because you’ll be gluing your right foot to the floor at every opportunity. When it comes to cars that can do damn near everything for a more reasonable price, the RS4 Avant simply can’t be matched. Well, except for the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 Wagon, that is.
Who It’s For:
The Audi RS4 Avant is for the enthusiast who wants everything: speed, power, looks, comfort, functionality and a little bit of uniqueness. Oh, and one who has almost $90,000 to drop on a well-equipped wagon.
At the moment, you’ve also got to live abroad, as the RS4 Avant is still not available Stateside and likely won’t be for the foreseeable future. Sorry.
Alternatives: In terms of direct rivals, the RS4 Avant only has one in the form of the Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 wagon overseas. For those looking for the closest experience that’ll be on sale in the U.S., the RS5 Sportback offers the same engine and transmission, same chassis, four doors and a liftback design, albeit with less cargo space. And it’s just not an Avant, is it?
Skip the high-brow interior options like an Alcantara shifter and steering wheel in favor of bigger wheels, more performance options, or the blacked-out exterior trim package. The faux-suede is terrible on touchpoints because it gets dirty easily and loses its soft finish within the first few years. Save your hard-earned cash for something better.
Blisteringly fast, perfectly functional, plenty comfortable, laden with tech features and boasting a peerless pedigree, there’s truly almost nothing the Audi RS4 Avant can’t do. In fact, it might just be the best all-around car in the world… until a new, bigger and faster RS6 Avant comes along, that is.
If you’ve been saving up your European car wishes, use them on the RS4 Avant. With any luck, Audi will ride the wave of wagons sweeping the States at the moment and finally bring it overseas, but don’t hold out too much hope. If anything, there’s always the RS5 Sportback for those wanting an RS model with four doors and a hatch. It’s not quite the same though, is it?
What Others Are Saying:
• “While this fast Audi also can act as a spacious and luxurious cruiser, it fails to fully mask its sporting genes when driven calmly. Even in Comfort mode, the engine is clearly audible and throttle response is instantaneous, if not quite as hair trigger as in Dynamic mode.” — Car and Driver
• “Point-to-point, it’s a teleportation pod with ambient lighting and diamond-stitching, and though you’ll occasionally catch it napping off-boost on part-throttle mid-corner, there’s no doubt it’s the quickest, most effective wagon for this money.” — Top Gear
• “By any objective measure, this is an exceptional machine. A downsized engine combines effortless reach with an elemental punch that will be alien to owners of the old V8, and the quattro chassis conjures such stability that you suspect the RS4 Avant would simply drive away from its rivals on any road that was less than immaculately surfaced.” — Autocar
Engine: 2.9-liter bi-turbo V6
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Horsepower: 450 hp
Torque: 443 lb.-ft.
Weight: 3,946 lbs.
0-60 mph: 4.1 seconds
EPA Fuel Economy: 27 mpg combined
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