Audi RS4 Avant: Loud and proud
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There’s a simple message from Audi New Zealand when it comes to the fourth-generation RS4 Avant: “We own the [premium] wagon segment”.
Launched this week with a starting price of $149,990, this latest model swaps out the naturally aspirated V8 engine for twin turbo V6.
Audi expects to sell 100 new RS4 Avants this year, with buyers swapping out of their gen-three version or ditching their premium SUVs in favour of the performance wagon. At the media launch in the Hawkes Bay last week, Driven asked Audi NZ’s sales operation manager Jarrod Ho what was the competition for the RS4 Avant.
He rightly named the Mercedes-AMG C63 wagon, Ho also made the claim of owning the segment. Bold statement but the Quattro Avant has always resonated with Kiwis, especially the skiing fraternity.
But the problem for Audi NZ is convincing existing RS4 Avant V8 owners that the new V6 model is worth swapping out of.
The latest model has a new 2.9-litre, twin turbo V6 petrol engine paired with an eight-speed tiptronic transmission and the iconic Quattro drive train.
That engine produces 331kW of power and 600Nm of torque between 1900-5000rpm.
So Audi NZ has the stats to wow existing owners: The new V6 engine has 170Nm more torque and is 31kg lighter than the V8. Combine the two and you have all-new dynamic sports wagon.
To highlight the improvement, Audi NZ organised a head-to-head event at Bruce McLaren motorsport park in Taupo after a two-hour drive from southern Hawkes Bay.
The V8 and V6 squared off in slaloms, drag race and then laps of the track. The lighter nose and more torque meant the V6 was the unequivocal winner across the three events.
In the slaloms, I drove the V8 first, with the emphasis on precision, not speed. It rolled through the cones without too much effort; but in the V6, the performance was graceful with the weaving at speed easy.
Carrying 80kg less weight than the V8, plus sprinting from 0-100km/h in 4.1s (0.7s faster than its predecessor) the V6 was always going to dominate the drag competition, often smoking the V8 by being four car lengths ahead before it left the start line.
But even little points of difference were highlighted, with the V8 needing to drive on to the grass to turn around on the track while the V6 made the arc in one move and remained on the tarmac.
It held the ratio for longer and had that extra punch when hitting the straights. Cornering was easier in the V6, too, and as it is 12mm lower than the V8, it had less roll through bends and more manoeuvrability.
The RS4 Avant comes with 20in alloys as standard, over 19in international, because “Kiwis like big wheels” said Ho, “and you have to give customers what they want”.
Kiwis also like noise, said Ho, so he added the RS sports exhaust as standard. But you can add a series of options to the vehicle.
I drove the Sonoma Green RS4 Avant (pictured) from Taupo to Napier, and it was specced up to $191,700, including $15,000 ceramic brakes, a $13,000 carbon package and dynamic steering (at $2800).
Inside, the RS4 Avant has classic A4 features plus honeycomb stitched seats, a flat bottom steering wheel plus the option of carbon inlays. The interior was also superior and more user-friendly than the previous model.
The new RS4 Avant is also a user-friendlier vehicle when it comes to long journeys with the 90-minute trip effortless.
While SUVs dominate New Zealand’s market, Audi shows there is still a need for a wagon, thanks to the RS4 Avant.