PH BLOG: AUDI CALLS A TRUCE
Does the new RS4 herald the end of the German power war? Harris reckons it might
Anyways, there we were thinking it might be canned when Audi sends everyone some photos and a spec sheet of a buxom looking small estate car called the RS4. On its own, this would be of little significance, but I have a feeling in my waters that the new, third-generation RS4 has unwittingly signalled the end of an era that we currently call the 'power war'.
I will now attempt to support this theory.
Audi has been at the forefront of the power race for over a decade now. Unable to match BMW M or even Mercedes AMG at the end of the 90s, it took the decision to enlist the help of Cosworth and boost its 2.7-litre bi-turbo V6 to 380bhp. I remember the B5 RS4 launch in Munich: we were told the cars had 155mph limiters and they all sailed into the 170s. Audi engineers used the word 'tolerance' and then sniggered.
BMW never felt the need to respond to the RS4. Mercedes gave us the C32 AMG, which had nothing like the firepower on paper but was so much more violent than the claimed 349hp that the V8 362hp C55 which followed never felt quite as quick. But Audi remained the boss for power.
Further supported by the release of the first RS6 - complete mit 450hp twin-turbo V8, which pre-dated the 479hp E55 AMG Kompressor. Which didn't have anything less than 500hp according the German TuV organization. And so it went on.
And now we have a 450hp RS4. No turbochargers, 30bhp more, and the same torque as the B7 RS4 - which was launched back in 2006. That last fact is eye-opening.The new RS4 is unlikely to weigh less than the B7 because it has a heavy dual-clutch gearbox and is physically bigger, so it is unlikely to feel any quicker than the car it replaces. Which is now seven years old.
Is this progress? I don't know, in fact I'm struggling to know how to respond to the specification of the new RS4. As someone who has whinged in and on several magazines/blogs/websites about the evils of ever-increasing outputs that help conceal the crazy mass of these vehicles, I now find myself sitting looking at the vitals of a car which, according to my mantra, should be applauded for detaching itself from the cycle-of-evil-horsepower and I feel what seasoned interwebbers refer to as 'meh'. 450hp: that all you got Audi? World class hypocrisy, I know.
But this is surely a milestone in one of two ways. The great power-aggressors of Ingolstadt have stood firm and called-away their heavy artillery. If this can be viewed as an end to hostilities in Germany, then that's probably a good thing because it will force them to compete for more sensible honours. Kerb weight would be a good place to begin.
Equally, this might just be a statement of intent from Quattro GmbH. It feels the RS brand is now established enough to no longer need a power figure that steals glances on the newsstand and on Google. If so, it's a brave decision at a time when Mercedes will sell you a C63 estate with 487hp and so much more torque that it is almost in different class to the RS4.
I just have this lingering feeling that the RS4 marks a tipping point in the evolution of the very fast car. When a brand that has defined itself by out-thrusting its rivals settles back and says 'enough', I think we can call that a significant event.
Next week, Audi will announce an 860hp RS6, and I will never utter another word on this subject.