Fewer cylinders, smaller engines, more turbos - the pattern is being repeated across the fast car world and causing a fair amount of anguish as it goes. See the 400-odd comments on the new four-cylinder
718 Boxster S
as the most recent example.
There must be some relief at Quattro GmbH that, unlike M and AMG, things are simply coming full circle. Sure, there will be a degree of outpouring when the previous high-revving
naturally aspirated V8
is replaced with a smaller twin-turbo V6. But given the original B5 RS4 was squeezing 381hp out of such an engine 15 years ago (with a little help from Cosworth) Audi doesn't have the same emotional baggage to contend with and can simply boast of being true to its traditions.
still feels fast now, the benchmark for the new RS4 Avant being set very high by both this and its two V8-powered successors.
So what do we have for the new one? Erm, being completely honest nothing additional in hard facts over the last time we shared some spy shots. That won't stop us speculating though. Especially given the love in the PH office for a fast estate car; as discussed last week when we saw first shots of the new E63 AMG it's just a relief in this day and crossover age folk like Quattro and AMG are still willing to build such cars.
Fanboys will clock the large oval tailpipes, this being the traditional marker separating RS models from their quad-piped S equivalants. The subtle arch flare is another welcome distinguishing feature but even with the disguise it's obvious this will be a stealth performance car in the best of fast Audi tradition. Well, assuming you can de-badge the shouty Quattro script on the front valance recent RS models have carried. We'll work on the basis the full cage is a 'ring testing safety precaution and not being homolgated for production too.
In terms of performance and set-up we'll have to work on
and then some. Starting points there are a 354hp single turbo 3.0-litre V6 with 368lb ft - already more than the outgoing V8 RS4. Gearbox on the S is an eight-speed auto; a punchier dual-clutch would set the RS apart and it'll have to beat the S4 Avant's 4.9 seconds to 62mph by a suitable margin. In the S4 this engine drives through a permanent four-wheel drive chassis with optional active locking rear Sport Differential - you'd have to hope this or something like it would be standard on the RS.
Audi can get a little carried away with the configurable options - check out the multitude of modes on the new R8 - so we'll be hoping within them there's something to satisfy, especially on the steering front. The disappointing Dynamic Steering is optional on the S4; if as you might expect it's fitted to the RS4 let's hope it at least gets the R8's 'locked out' setting that fixes the variable ratio for a more predictable feel. We can but hope.
Engine-wise the S4's new 2,995cc V6 is what you'd expect to be the basis of the RS's new motor following Audi doctrine by being undersquare and tuned for low-end grunt and flexibility. That will at least address the chronic torque shortage in the otherwise lovely 4.2-litre V8 - 4,000rpm for your 317lb ft is, by modern standards, peaky beyond belief. The S4's single twin-scroll turbo - positioned between the cylinder banks - means peak torque in that engine from just 1,350rpm. This 'inside out' format shared with the 4.0-litre in the RS6 (and AMG's latest V8) should accommodate an additional turbo and suitable bottom line increase; if the power output starts with anything less than a '5' we'd be surprised.
So. Torquey turbo power from a small capacity twin-turbo V6, four-wheel drive, flared arches and a nicely understated appearance? Like we said, full circle. Nothing to moan about in the RS4 Avant's case though!
Search for Audi RS4s in the PH classifieds here
[Photos: S. Baldauf/SB-Medien]