by: Mike Ginsca
Performance – Quattro is arguably the most famous word associated with Audi. This type of all-wheel-drive system was first introduced in the World Rally Championship back in the early 1980’s with the original Audi Quattro. Nearly 3 decades later, the “DNA” of the original Quattro is found in its descendent but with modern electronic updates.
The RS4 Quattro system has been tweaked to provide 40:60 split between the front and rear wheels which means that under normal circumstances, the majority of the RS4’s engine power is sent to the back wheels for a more neutral drive feeling. When things get slippery, computer software starts to interfere and decide where the engine’s power should go. Unfortunately when I test drove this car it was dry and I could not push the car to its limits… especially on public roads. However from reading up on how the Quattro system works, it seems as though Quattro is not quite as spectacular as Audi claims it to be. For a start, it cannot shift power completely to either the front or the rear wheels like Porsche’s PTM all-wheel-drive or BMW’s xDrive. Also the front axle is placed quite a ways behind the engine resulting in a nose heavy car which is a major cause of understeer. Having said that, Porsche currently does not make a vehicle to compete against the RS4, BMW’s M3 is available only in rear wheel drive as is Mercedes-Benz’s C63 AMG. So it would seem that if you want a powerful V8 in a sedan with the security of awd, Audi has that market covered.
Speaking of V8s, the V8 in this RS4 is a masterpiece. I’m not just saying that to sound “professional” but it actually is an award winning engine… yes, they do give out awards for engines. It is a 4.2L producing 420hp and 317 lb-ft of torque. 317 lb-ft of torque may not sound like a lot but it is plentiful to get the big, nearly 1800kg, body off the line and onto 100km/h in less than 5 seconds. This torque is also very well distributed along rev range of the engine so it’s not a slouch when the mood takes you and you push the gas pedal hard. There is only one transmission available with this car and it is a good ol’ manual. No fancy automatics with locking torque converters or dual clutch manuals, just a pure and simple 6-speed.
Comfort – For a high performance sports sedan, the RS4 is just like any other high priced German car on the inside; luxurious, well built, and that feeling of “I’m in a car that’s better than everybody else’s”. The dash and instrument panel have a bit of a Volkswagen look to them, that’s because Volkswagen owns Audi for those who don’t know, but it has some nice little touches such as red stitching on the steering wheel and real Carbon Fibre trim along the dash. The seats and door panels also scream sportiness with bright red leather accents and the Recaro seats provide excellent comfort along with exceptional support to keep your butt planted around fast corners. The back seats can accommodate children with no problems but adults will complain about the lack of leg room.
While on the move, the ride is a tiny bit firmer than the BMW M3 Cabriolet and the RS4 doesn’t have settings to change the damper settings to make the ride smoother or harsher from inside the cabin. Also the seating position is quite high for a sedan in general. I’m quite a tall person and even when I positioned the seat to its lowest position, I still found my eyesight out of the car to be higher than I expected it to be in a sedan.
Odds and Ends – The looks of this car are both boring and striking to look at. What I mean by that is if someone who doesn’t know anything about cars looks at it, they’ll just think it’s any another Audi. If a person who loves cars looks at it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the special RS4 model by its outrageously flared wheel arches, the fins on the bottom of the front bumper, and the large oval dual exhaust tips. The car is definitely trying hard to look different from its siblings but for some it is not outrageous enough.
Speaking of outrageous things, while I was driving the RS4, I could not hear the roar of the engine as loud as I was expecting to hear it. The RS4 does have an “S” button on the dash that supposedly opens valves in the exhaust and sharpens the throttle response but I could not feel or hear any difference.
In the end I actually like this car. It may not be as quick and as serious as the BMW M3 but it’s fun in a different way and thanks to Quattro it can go places in the winter where the M3 can’t.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.