Car Reviews

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review with Price, Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.

In a nutshell: The Audi RS4 Avant really is the near-ideal sports wagon to fend off any newfangled performance SUV models.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Specifications

Price $152,529+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited km Safety 5 stars Engine 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol Power 331kW at 5700-6700rpm Torque 600Nm at 1900-5000rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4781mm (L) 1866mm (W) 1404mm (H) 2826mm (WB) Ground Clearance 129mm Kerb Weight 1715kg Towing 2100kg maximum braked Fuel Tank 58L Spare space-saver spare Thirst 8.9/100km claimed combined, 12.0L/100km tested

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ALMOST exclusively, a sports wagon starts life as a sports sedan. Then an extra-large square bit is grafted onto its backside, upping weight and raising the centre of gravity as a downside to the pursuit of extra space and practicality. But the Audi RS4 Avant plays things differently.

Now in its third generation, the new-for-2018 RS4 Avant is the second to lob as a wagon only. Although there is an A4 sedan with which Audi’s RennSport division could have worked with, they chose to only further enhance the A4 Avant – the latter being code for ‘wagon’.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

While the rest of the world lusts after sports SUVs, German buyers still love sports wagons, although these days Mercedes-AMG delivers a single rival in its C63 S (sedan and) wagon. Arguably, however, there is something more iconic about a wagon from Audi’s RS division.

Either way, the questions remain ever the same: can the new RS4 Avant actually deliver an uncompromising blend of space and pace? Or does that rear rump hinder its chances of getting on the front foot against sports sedan rivals?

What’s The Price And What Do You Get?

Priced from $152,529 plus on-road costs, the RS4 Avant costs almost exactly $50,000 more than the sports-luxury-oriented S4 Avant that sits below it the range. While the engine and chassis of this top model may be significantly enhanced, however, equipment is similar.

Included are 20-inch alloy wheels (up from S4’s 19s), while a quattro sport differential, dynamic steering, bigger brakes – all described in more detail later – a panoramic sunroof, massage seats and 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen audio are uniquely standard in RS4 Avant.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

Other features further detailed are adaptive cruise control, Nappa leather trim with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, tri-zone climate control air-conditioning, satellite navigation, digital radio and a colour driver’s display dubbed Virtual Cockpit.

Indeed, the only disappointments concern optional extras that arguably should be standard at this pricetag. Most notably a $3900-optional Technik package delivers a head-up display and wireless smartphone charging (both standard on a sub-$35K flagship Toyota Corolla), as well as Matrix LED headlights with automatic-adaptive high-beam.

What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?

To make an RS4 interior look different to an S4 interior, a $2150-optional Audi exclusive controls package can also be added, with an Alcantara steering wheel and gearshifter (both on a C63 S Estate). As a no-cost option you can also ditch RS-sports seats with a massage function for regular sports seats and ventilated front seats – but sadly they don’t combine.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

In any case, the driving position, up-front room, rear passenger space and luggage volume – at a substantial 505 litres – of this RS4 Avant all make for about the most perfectly practical interior available in a vehicle with this performance for this asking price.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

A $159,340+ORC C63 S Estate has less rear legroom, for example, and it’s the same for a performance SUV such as a $146,600+ORC Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Pack.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

Further showing the immense sense of buying an RS4 Avant over that latter SUV is the fact that the Porsche has a 500L boot, but with a 1878kg kerb weight, 4.4-second 0-100km/h claimed acceleration and it drinks 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres on-average. This Audi has an 5L-larger boot, extra legroom, 1715kg mass, a 4.1sec 0-100km/h and 8.9L/100km average.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?

So far this RennSport wagon manages to deliver an interior trifecta, now adding a benchmark infotainment system to its class-leading cabin design and space.

Audi may be switching to tri-screens (two on the console and one ahead of the driver) plus touch-sensitive tabs for its next-generation infotainment system (as in the new A8), but the console-mounted rotary dial and physical shortcut tabs are arguably as good (or better).

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

Why? Because drivers can ‘feel’ their way around the cabin with this RS4 Avant, and indeed every Audi of the last decade or so, where placing functions on an ever-changing screen and tabs that don’t have physical détentes, can make familiarity difficult. That said, we should point out that the new A8 is still very good – just don’t feel shortchanged with this ‘old’ unit.

The B&O sound system is fantastic, the graphics quality of the mapping on either the 8.0-inch centre screen or 12.3-inch driver screen is exemplary, the ability to zoom in and out of a map on the latter via steering wheel controls is unrivalled, and the ‘one shot’ voice control is as good as any in the premium class. Meanwhile, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring is a standard alternative, although wireless phone charging should be standard. Otherwise, all the controls are easy, tactile and look classy – you won’t be disappointed.

What’s The Performance Like?

The RS4 Avant may keep its big booty out back, but it loses its octo-cylinder engine up-front. Gone is the high-revving (to 8000rpm-plus) 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol of the previous generation, replaced by this new 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol unit.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

Co-developed with Porsche, this downsized engine’s 331kW of power is now developed from 5700rpm until 6700rpm, compared with the same figure but at a stratospheric 8250rpm with the old mill. The real kicker, though, is the 600Nm of torque delivered to all four wheels (in a 60 per cent front/40 per cent rear split) from 1900rpm all the way until 5000rpm. That’s up from a piddly 430Nm from just 4000rpm until 6000rpm previously.

A new eight-speed automatic also steps in for the old seven-speed dual-clutch that once replaced the traditional torque converter breed due to quicker shift speed, it was claimed. But this new auto shows how far things have come, because it is an absolutely stunning unit – smooth and subtle when a driver wants to cruise, while seemingly suddenly slamming into action where required, being slick, decisive and even brutal in ‘S’ mode.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

There are paddle shifters, but a driver can on a twisty road leave it in ‘S’ and the auto will aggressively downshift under brakes and hold lower gears perfectly through successive corners. And what of the performance? Brutal comes to mind, again. There’s a warbly, more baritone bark to this new V6 that is still very characterful, while there’s no delay in response or pin-you-into-your-seat speed. Fuel usage of 12.0L/100km on test is also actually remarkable considering an urban/dynamic bias; despite being a third higher than claimed.

So are there any downsides?

Beyond the high entry price compounded by further options, there aren’t many, frankly.

Sporty show-ponies rarely make for sensible selections, but it’s hard not to love the RS4 Avant’s mix of performance and practicality. If you’re the sort of driver who likes engaging with rear-wheel drive and lightweight underpinnings, then perhaps this all-wheel drive wagon isn’t for you – see Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate or the sedan-only BMW M3 for more.

What’s It Like On The Road?

While this RennSport-badged Audi rarely feels light on its feet through corners, it is immensely agile and rewarding. That rear rump if anything helps its handling behaviour compared with a recently tested RS5 coupe, swinging into action like a pendulum to help offset potential understeer and balance its chassis up tightly and sweetly mid corner.

Switch the Drive Select mode switch from Comfort, to Auto, to Dynamic, and the steering is blindingly alert and sharp, with bodyroll kept entirely in check. The drive system permanently sends torque 60:40 with a bias to the rear wheels, and 60 per cent of 600Nm is a lot. Along with a crown centre differential (or Audi quattro sport diff) that can juggle outputs from side to side between each wheel, and the RS4 Avant blasts out of bends fast.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

More than that, it can be felt seguing into slight oversteer, although if anything a little less grip would be nice at this point. An S4 Avant with less torque, but generally the same all-wheel drive system, can feel a fraction more playful.

It’s a small critique, rather than a criticism, for a model that also rides astoundingly well around town, especially in Auto mode that eliminates a slight propensity to porpoise vertically in Comfort. But even Dynamic is actually okay, even on country roads, such is the quality adaptive suspension tune here.

Does It Have A Spare?

Yes, but only an 80km/h-limited temporary space-saver spare.

Can You Tow With It?

Yes, 2100kg braked.

What about ownership?

Audi doesn’t offer a capped-price servicing program with its RS models, and its range includes only a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

What about safety features?

From fine adaptive cruise control, to equally excellent lane-keep assistance, a blind-spot monitor that even detects passing cyclists at rest and alerts the driver via blinking red lights before a door is opened, the RS4 Avant packages up Audi’s best safety suite yet.

Of course there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) as well as front and rear parking sensors – the latter being our only criticism of the technology array, as they are far too sensitive, bleeping even when parking kerbside near a gutter.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant Review

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring says: Forget heavy and overpriced SUV models. And perhaps ignore impractical coupe models with harsh ride quality. The latest RS4 Avant immaculately splits the difference between going for an impractical two-door and an overblown faux-offroader. It is stunningly quick, endlessly energetic, comfortable and refined when you want it to be, yet seriously sporty on the right road. With a little more kit for the cash, it would be perfect.

Dan DeGasperi

Dan DeGasperi