A modern classic from Audi is making a comeback: The third-generation RS 4 Avant combines potent performance with a high level of everyday practicality. It's 4.2-liter V8 produces 331 kW (450 hp); the seven-speed S tronic and quattro permanent all-wheel drive transfer that power to the road.
The Audi RS 4 Avant uses the same high-revving, normally aspirated V8 engine that powers the RS 5 Coupe. The 4,163 cc powerplant produces 331 kW (450 hp) at 8,250 rpm for a specific output of 108.1 hp per liter. Its maximum torque of 430 Nm (317.15 lb-ft) is available from 4,000 to 6,000 rpm. The responsive V8 with its red-painted cylinder head covers accelerates the RS 4 Avant from zero to 100 km/h (62.14 mph) in 4.7 seconds on its way to a governed top speed of 250 km/h (155.34 mph). This can be increased to 280 km/h (173.98 mph) upon request.
Hand-built at Audi's plant in Györ, Hungary, the 4.2 FSI engine combines its impressive power with exemplary efficiency, consuming on average less than 11 liters of fuel per 100 km (21.38 U.S. mpg).
With its high efficiency and long top gear, the standard seven-speed S tronic also contributes to the vehicle's good fuel economy. Drivers can let the lightning-fast dual-clutch transmission shift automatically or change gears manually using the selector lever or the paddles on the steering wheel. For explosive starts, drivers can also activate Launch Control, which manages the engagement of the clutch at an optimum starting speed and minimum wheel slip.
Top traction: quattro drive with crown-gear center differential
Like every RS model from Audi, the RS 4 Avant comes standard with quattro permanent all-wheel drive. The heart of this system is the crown-gear center differential. This compact and lightweight component can vary the distribution of power between the front and rear axles immediately, smoothly and over a wide range, with up to 70 percent flowing to the front or as much as 85 percent to the rear. The default 40:60 ratio of the rear-biased configuration ensures sporty handling.
The self-locking crown-gear center differential works together with the torque vectoring system, which acts on all four wheels. If the load on the inside wheel is reduced too much while the car is being driven dynamically, the torque vectoring system brakes it slightly before unintended slip can occur. Audi offers the sport differential, which uses two superposition stages to actively distribute the power between the rear wheels, as an option.
Aluminum in abundance: the chassis
The chassis of the Audi RS 4 Avant is a very complex design. Many components of the five-link front suspension and the self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear suspension are made of aluminum. The new speed-dependent power steering is a highly efficient electromechanical system with a direct steering ratio for highly precise road feel. It helps the driver stay on course by making slight steering corrections when braking on surfaces with different amounts of grip.
The taut RS setup lowers the body by 20 millimeters (0.79 in) compared with the Audi A4 Avant. New, polished 19-inch, ten-spoke forged aluminum wheels shod with 265/35-series tires are standard. Audi also offers 20-inch wheels with 265/30-series tires. These are available in a new, polished, titanium-look, five-V-spoke design plus two additional variants in the five-arm rotor design.
Mounted behind the large wheels are internally vented wave disc brakes measuring 365 millimeters (14.37 in) in diameter up front. The steel friction rings with their wave-like outer contour are perforated and connected to the aluminum brake caps via pins. This concept reduces tensions, quickly dissipates heat and prevents transmission of temperature peaks. The new shape of the friction rings shaves a total of roughly three kilograms (6.61 lb) off the unsprung weight.
The calipers are painted high-gloss black; the front calipers have eight pistons each and sport RS logos. The ESP stabilization system has a Sport mode and can be fully deactivated. For the front axle, Audi offers the option of 380 millimeter (14.96 in) carbon fiber ceramic discs and six-piston calipers in anthracite gray. The ceramic brakes are especially lightweight, robust and durable.
The Audi drive select driving dynamics system is among the standard equipment for the RS 4 Avant. With it, the driver can switch between three modes – comfort, auto and dynamic – to determine the characteristics of the steering, the seven-speed S tronic and the throttle valve. Audi drive select can even vary the sound of the exhaust system, double-declutching when downshifting in dynamic mode. If the car is equipped with an Audi navigation system, a largely driver-configurable custom mode is also available.
In addition to the sport differential, another component available for Audi drive select is dynamic steering. It varies its steering ratio by nearly 100 percent depending on the speed driven and automatically countersteers slightly at the cornering limit for even more precise and stable handling.
Another particularly dynamic damping technology available as an option from Audi is the sport suspension plus with dynamic ride control (DRC). Oil lines and a central valve connect diagonally opposed pairs of shock absorbers. During fast cornering, the system boosts the stabilization of the front outside wheel, for example.
The damping characteristic of the sport suspension plus is variable, with a choice of three settings available via Audi drive select.
Athletic: the exterior design
The exterior design flaunts the athletic character of the RS 4 Avant. The hexagonal single-frame grille is set in a frame with a matte aluminum-look finish; its honeycomb insert is finished in high-gloss anthracite. LED daytime running lights encircle the xenon plus units like a clasp in the wedge-shaped headlights. The air flows through large openings divided by crossbars and embedded in a distinctive bumper featuring a splitter edge like on a race car.
When viewed from the side, the chiseled side sill caps and flared wheel wells catch the eye. The flared rear side elements with sharp horizontal upper edges are a nod to that all-wheel drive pioneer from 1980, the Audi quattro. The side mirror housings and trim strips have a matte aluminum-look finish, and a discrete roof spoiler at the back ensures the necessary downforce.
The distinctive bumpers and the two oval tailpipe caps of the dual exhaust system dominate the rear end and are integrated into an upturned diffuser. Audi also offers a sport exhaust system with a voluminous sound and black caps. Elegant light strips adorn the LED rear lights.
The Audi RS 4 Avant is 20 millimeters (0.79 in) longer and 24 millimeters (0.94 in) wider than the A4 Avant, but 20 millimeters (0.79 in) lower. A choice of eight colors is available: one solid and one metallic finish, four pearl-effect colors and the two specially pigmented crystal-effect colors, Prism Silver and Panther Black. The extensively clad underbody integrates air vents for the seven-speed S tronic and the front brakes.
Sporty black: the interior
The interior of the RS 4 Avant is clad completely in black, with the exception of the roofliner, which is optionally available in Moon Silver. Chrome clasps subtly accentuate switches and control elements. Carbon inlays are standard, with brushed matte aluminum, Aluminum Race, black piano finish or a light stainless steel mesh available as options.
The standard heated front sport seats with integrated headrests are power adjustable and covered in a combination of black leather and Alcantara. Fine Nappa leather in either Black or Moon Silver accentuated with Stone Gray piping is optionally available. Other options include bucket seats or luxurious, climate-controlled deluxe seats with a ventilation function. The thick ring of the leather multifunction sport steering wheel is flattened at the bottom, and the shift paddles mounted on the back of it sport an aluminum-look finish.
The driver information system with color display includes an RS menu with a lap timer and an oil thermometer. Both it and the MMI monitor display a special RS welcome screen when the car is started.
The instrument cluster bezel shines with a piano finish, and the design of the selector knob of the seven-speed S tronic is unique to the RS. Typical of all RS vehicles, the door openers are two delicate bars. The pedals, the footrest, the air vents, the shift paddles on the steering wheel, the MMI buttons and other controls shine in an aluminum-look finish. Aluminum inserts adorn the door sill trims, which are accentuated with RS 4 badges.
Audi offers exclusive high-grade leather packages for all seating options, including a design package with honeycomb quilting for the RS 4 bucket seats. Rounding out the list of optional equipment is a broad range of state-of-the-art driver assistance and communication systems, including the Bluetooth online car phone that connects the RS 4 Avant with the Internet.
Options for the luggage compartment, which offers up to 1,430 liters (50.50 cu ft) of cargo space, include a rail system with load securing set and a power hatch.
Delivery of the Audi RS 4 Avant is scheduled to begin in fall 2012 at a base price of €76,600 in Germany.