The last rock’n roller
Audi RS4 Avant
You need to know some basics about this car to understand why it is so immaculate. It's fast. Devastatingly fast. Not like a BMW M3 or a C63 AMG. The Audi has its own way, a different approach to achieve the same result. The RS4 is about sheer speed and traction, nothing else. While the M3 reaches the limit and lets its genetically coded oversteering nature to take control, while the C63AMG loses the fight against its own brutal power and ends up in a cloud of tire debris, the RS4 just overtakes their dead bodies and rushes through the horizon with fierce resolve.
The RS4 steps over its driver too. Its limits are far beyond the fear-factor of a human being. Obviously it was made for pit bull terriers. Every small part of this car is designed for one thing only: go forward fast without any fun or remorse, like a Terminator on wheels.
The most shocking aspect of the whole shebang is the fact that this car is an estate! And you can ONLY have it as an estate. This sounds crazy but a brief look to the past shows that the first RS2 was an estate too (there is rumor that some S2 coupes were converted by the factory to RS2 spec). If the customer needs only two doors he can still go for the RS5. I must admit that in 2013 the first RS2 still looks just as tasty as Samantha Fox's tits did in 1994.
Just take a look at the RS4. What will be the first words you utter? Funny? Lightweight? Sweet? Elegant? Or better yet: ruthless, cruel, drastic? You see? Some wheel arches here, plastic there, massive lowering and two fat exhaust tips, brakes that fills the 19 inch rims, and it's ready to rumble like Donkey Kong. Just as sweet as John Rambo in the jungle. And it has 490-1430 litre boot capacity to boot (sorry for the pun, just couldn't help myself).
Let's rush through the specs then. Inside you'll find everything you can imagine, even a wifi-hotspot, Alcantara upholstery and a gizmo that wakes you up when you're asleep. There's nothing accidental in this car. Audi did everything to minimize the user error-factor and if our thought process slightly resembles that of the normal people, there's not a chance that we get killed. We must be drunk as a skunk or high on some designer drug to get confused in this car. It's a laboratory, a living thing in 470x185x141 centimeters. A machine that doesn't make mistakes. Everything that can be calculated is done. Except the human factor.
The basic brake discs (made from steel) are fashioned to 365 millimeters diameter at the front and 324 at the back. They're pressed by eight pistons and – thanks to the waved-shape – each of them is 2.5 kilograms lighter than in the S4. When you engage these monsters to stop from 130 kph, you get the wonderfully terrifying feeling that all the blood in your head wants to leave your body through your face. You're burning red in just a moment.
If that's not enough, we can choose the optional carbon-ceramic brakes with 380 mm diameter and six piston caliper. They have the same force as the steel brakes but last longer, they do not fade, and each of them is an amazing 4.5 kilograms lighter than their steel brothers. Although weight-saving is a high priority, the RS4 is a real heavy-hitter: it weights 1.7 tons. But – to be honest – probably nobody could have made it lighter with all this clever technology underneath and with the all the wonderful equipment on board.
The suspension is a class of its own: lateral forces are absorbed by harder bushings than horizontals, and owing to this the RS4 still feels comfortable and sporty at the same time. To prevent pitching and prance under braking or at hard acceleration, it has electronically controlled dampers and suspension characteristics. The system called Dynamic Ride Control is brilliantly simple: each shock absorber is connected with the one on the opposite side through a valve in a hydraulic system. This valve is controlled by a computer so fast that it can change the oil pressure in each of the dampers in a split of a second. As a result, we get a chassis that precisely copies even the smallest turn of the steering wheel with zero body roll at all.
One of the base pillars of the power train is of course the Quattro all wheel drive system. It's focused around a crown geared centre differential which is capable to transfer 85 percent of the torque to the back or 70 percent to the front. Basically it does a 40/60 just to give the car RWD-like characteristics, but to be honest, you feel nothing from this.
Forget the good ol' Torsen-diff. This one is something much smaller, lighter; it weights only 4.8 kilograms including the housing. There are no clutches lubricated in an oil-bath, just pure gearing projected for 5000 Nm of maximum torque. And that's more than enough even for this car.
There's something for the electronics junkies too: the system handling driving dynamics can brake the inner wheels to corner more tightly. The manufacturers call this Electronically Imitated Slip Differential, but for the customers it's just a Brake-Eater Low-cost Replacement. Fortunately – for some extra dough – Audi can mount a thing called sport differential at the back. Through two sun gears and clutches running in oil bath it can generate 1800 Nm's of torque-difference between the rear wheels. The system works so fine, that even in the middle of the sharpest turn on the Red Bull Ring (which is the ex-A1 Ring in Austria) I was able to give full load for the mighty engine, and the back of the car just shook a little and the horizon jumped closer in a second. With no drama at all.
All of this without ESP or stability control. Rolling on sporty road tires. Now, that's something. Especially when you know, what's working against these characteristics.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the engine. A thing you would like to marry and make nasty things with her every night. And in daylight too. And in the morning as well. All the time, actually. And if you think that you got the same 4.2 litre V8 in your 15 year-old A8, you're wrong. Totally wrong. Because this is a sport engine. The rocker covers are not painted red accidentally.
The 90 degree V8's cylinder banks are offset by 18.5 millimeters from each other, the double timing chain is specially made for this type of engine, and it has an oil pump with such capacity that even in the sharpest and fastest corner the engine had enough oil for lubrication.
The forged cranskhaft is positioned as low as possible in the lightened engine block, the pistons and connecting rods are made from the same, forged alloy casting and every surface is covered by alusil (aluminium-silicon) in order to lower the friction.
All the 32 valves, filled by sodium, the radical profile camshafts, the throttle bodies, and the in- and outlet ports are up for only one thing: to give the long-stroked engine rapid and magnificent crossflow and immediate throttle response. The FSI direct injection is self-evident, but the compression ratio of 11.0:1 is surprisingly high. The engine itself weights only 216 kilograms and that makes it the second lightest in its class. Only the 4 litre V8 of BMW is lighter with its 202 kilos.
Ultimately one word popped up in my brain to characterize this V8: “masterpiece”. The so called “German” V8 is a class of its own. It combines all the good features of the American and Italian V8's without the bad manners of them. It revs up in an blink of an eye, but has massive low-end torque and above 4500 rpm it just takes a deep breath and fires the afterburner.
Its maximum torque (430 Nm) is available in a range between 4 and 6000, but even between 3000-8000 we get a minimum 90 percent of it. The peak power of 450 PS comes out at a hair-raising 8250, the redline starts at 8500. The seven speed dual-clutch box shifts up at that point. When I switch to manual mode and shift with the aluminium paddles, it is forgiving. I can beat the limiter all the time if I want to. The system allows me to play and die just the way I like. Switching everything off is like unlock a revolver and play Russian roulette with it: the end comes soon. The only difference is that I hit the tree with a smile on my face. Because – if we don't pay attention – everything happens in a second.
This car is a cheater. If you think that you're standing still, you're doing 100 kph. When you feel it moving, it does 160 and when the other drivers show you their middle finger, you're doing 200 right in front of a speed trap. The stability of the RS4 is simply amazing. You must turn yourself into real, heavy-footed lunatic to get in touch with its real capabilities.
Due to a stupid deal between the manufacturers the halt comes in a little above 250kph, but if you go for the sport-package, the speed limit is higher – 280 to be precise. I'm sure that this 1.7 ton-of-a-bitch is capable to do 300 without this but be not disappointed: it can do it in turns and corners too.
Q&A with Matthias Nöthling from the technical division of Quattro GmbH.
“Why did you put the RS4-badge only on the back of an estate car?”
“This generation has probably two years left to run its cycle, the BMW does not have a similar car and the Mercedes is only RWD. And we have the RS5 too. Our customer has a choice.”
“It's a shame that engines like this are sentenced to death by the EURO VI norms. Is it too costly to overwork them to match the criteria? Are we forced to sit in those bloody turbocharged cars?”
“Look, we are capable to do that. But the question is: is it worth of it? Do we want to build the costs of this into the end-price of the car? Nobody would pay for that...”
“...because you got the supercharged V6 with such vast reserves.”
“Exactly. This process – called downsizing - cannot be stopped, but to be honest: the guys at Quattro were not too happy with that either. They're real enthusiasts and they loved this engine. It was their beloved piece of work.”
This engine burns high-octane gasoline and exhausts pure testosterone. The sky ruptures in half as the flaps in those tubes opens up and its scream just rapes my brain as a gigantic circular saw. And as it revs... it's rare in 2013. But its best feature is its linearity. The thing, that you won't find in any boosted V6 or turbocharged V8. It does not kill you instantly with a kick-of-a-turbo, no sir, it just presses your body harder and harder as a monstrous vise 'till you collapse and give up.
The power comes smoothly in beautiful mesh with the accelerator, like a bowling ball rolling down the hill. The 200 mark is just a number that flashes through the small display between the speedo and the rev-counter then you hit the brakes – bang-bang – the transmission shifts two gears back and as it blips the throttle, the windows just break in the nearby city. What's about the fuel consumption? Who cares? Something between 14.9 and zillion litres/100 kilometers.
Because of the electronic power steering, there's not as much feedback on the wheel as there was in the BMW M3 (which has electro-hydraulic power steering by the way) but there's no need for that. The RS4 is not as playful and easy to flip-flop, it is grippy, stable as a pyramid and utterly-utterly fast. The AWD power train does the job instead and the only thing we need to keep an eye on is the speedo. 4.7 seconds from zero to hundred is a supercar value. But none of the supercars can take your dogs onboard and make them vomit the place around.
It's surprising, but even when we turn the knob of the chassis control to Dynamic-mode, the suspension won't shake the hell out of us. It feels stiff, but not uncomfortable at all. In Standard or Comfort mode you can take your grandma to the church, she won't be disappointed. Just stay away from the accelerator.
The RS4 Avant is one of the craziest cars ever built. It was built to prove that the mighty VW Group can afford to come up with cars like this. It's meaningless and the 76,600 euro price-tag made it expensive too, but the world would be a really sad place without it.
It is one of the last dinosaurs with naturally aspirated, powerful and sporty V8. And this is not the only feature that makes it very-very special. It's perfectly made from each point of view.