From how its stocky, iron-pumping flared wheel arches made it look like a street brawler, to the dual big-bore exhausts that emitted a hairy-chested, battle war-cry that wouldn’t be out of place in a highly-modified American V8 muscle car, thanks to its atmospheric 4.2-litre V8 that revved to 8,250 r/min. It was also the last RS 4 to come exclusively with a sneaky 6-speed manual gearbox – a definitive recipe for driving Nirvana.
While the B8 RS 4 Avant that followed still featured that fruity-sounding 4.2-litre V8, it was exclusively offered with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, which removed a layer of driver enjoyment and engagement that was so integral to the preceding model’s appeal. The recently updated B9 RS 4 packs a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that thumps out 331 kW and 600 Nm and is allied to the company’s quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Much like its predecessors, the latest RS 4 Avant still boasts that sporty wagon silhouette that makes any petrolhead worth their salt pant and pore over it for hours on end. Minor visual updates to the visage with redesigned headlights, gloss black honeycomb grille and blacked-out quattro insignia – as part of the Black Optics package – on the front valance, to the flared wheel arches that are home to 20” inch alloy wheels. The rear, meanwhile, hasn’t been messed with much and still boasts the familiar elegant LED taillights and dual RS exhaust outlets. It is purposeful without being flamboyant. It is also bereft of outlandish spoilers to drive home its sporty disposition – understated is perhaps the aptest term in this instance.
Optical delights continue inwards with form-hugging, diamond-quilted leather pews and a minimalistic, yet classy centre console interspersed by a variable digital instrument cluster. There are subtle RS logos peppered about the cabin to firmly remind you of where you’re sat, while the metal inlays add a quota of sporty veneer to further elevate the cabin ambience. There are various nooks and crannies to fit one’s oddments, while the boot is commodious enough to lug a family’s luggage and then some.
Under the bonnet still resides the 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 that makes 331 kW and 600 Nm via an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission, which sends power to all four corners. It is an engine that gets things done efficiently and perhaps in a rather nonchalant manner. The engine never quite fizzes as the revs climb and sounds rather muzzled for the most part, which is the model’s only undoing in my view.
Its handling and road holding, however, is simply sublime. Find a sinewy piece of tarmac, hurl the vehicle into a corner with intent and it simply obliges and gets on with the business of playing tugging corners. Whether it be fast sweeps or tight bends, the RS 4 simply dispatches them with such verve and intent, that even a novice driver will find it totally unflappable.
It always feels surefooted, composed and secure under any driving conditions that you simply want one in your garage as the fail-safe family hauler. It manages to meld class, practicality and sportiness so eloquently that it remains one of the best-looking wagons on the block – perhaps after the RS 6 Avant.
Relative to its closest competitors, the Audi RS 4 Avant is bang-for-buck value at R1 325 500 and, being the only wagon offered in its segment locally, makes it the ideal family hauler. In a segment where many of its rivals are almost nudging the R2m mark, there is very little that comes close in sheer value when buying new. Granted, you will want to tick a few optional extra items, but even then, you are still getting a great deal car for you money. And that, if little else, is why the Audi RS 4 Avant has piqued our interest, particularly during these rather austere economical times.
As far as wagons go, you would be hard-pressed to find a more appealing and performing wagon at the price. It makes for a consummate, fast family lugger that simply fits a family’s transportation needs with aplomb. While SUVs continue to be in vogue, the humble station wagon is oftentimes overlooked, more so here in Mzansi, which is a great pity. The Audi RS 4 Avant ticks most boxes so eloquently and, while I’m still not a huge fan of its engine, I’m quite enamoured by the rest of the package - well worth a second look if you're fishing in this high-adrenalin pond.