Give me a P. Give me an O. Give me a W. Give me an E. Give me an R. What have you got? The 2007 Audi RS4.
As I was getting ready to test drive the RS4, I was told to expect some surprises. What I did not expect was the RS4’s presence, performance and the manner in which it eats tarmac. Awaken the RS4’s engine and the small cannon-like tailpipes bark like a rabid dog whenever the throttle is blipped. A tease for what this car is really capable of doing.
What sets the 2007 RS4 apart from the A4, and the S4 for that matter, is what’s stuffed under the hood – a 4.2-litre, high-revving, high compression (12.5:1), direct injection (FSI) V8 engine that produces 100 horsepower per litre! Along with the 420 stallions comes a very welcome 318 pound-feet of torque (90% of which checks in at 2,250 rpm). With the 1,650-kilograms it must motivate, this translates to a power-to-weight ratio of 3.93-kg per hp and extraordinary performance when mated to its slick shifting six-speed manual gearbox.
Mat the gas in first gear, a quick pull back into second and you are whisked through 100-km/h in 4.8 seconds. Slip the shifter over to third, wind the engine up to its abnormally high 8,250-rpm redline, and the speedometer flashes through 170km/h. Once into fourth gear I’m waiting to hit the wall –
the wall where the stallion power begins losing the battle to drag, friction and resistance. It does not come. The RS4 romps through 200 km/h in 16.6 seconds and just keeps on going.
By the time the RS4 reaches its electronically governed 250-km/h top speed, the urgency shown off the line is still at a full boil. The RS4 will apparently pull 298 km/h before the engine meets its match. All of this speed produces an intoxicating adrenaline rush that puts your driver’s licence at risk.
Just to make sure the rush remains where it should be, the RS4 has the S button. Punching it re-maps the throttle so its response becomes even sharper, while opening a couple of flaps – one to ease the air into the engine, the other to ease the exhaust’s passage away from it. The effect the
latter has on the exhaust timbre can be likened to cranking a massive subwoofer to life, as the already rich rumble becomes so much richer. Wonderful stuff when strafing country roads, however, in town it makes the car difficult to drive smoothly because of the throttle’s overly fast reaction. If only you could keep the noise but not the twitchy throttle.
One could be forgiven for thinking the RS4 is a handful in the handling department. To begin with the power is routed to the road through oversized 19-inch tires and Audi’s Quattro all-wheel. In this case, the system sends 40% of the drive to the front wheels and 60% to the rear. This gives the RS4 a rear drive feel without the usual oversteering drawback. This lot is then layered with a sophisticated dynamic stability control system (ESP) that is much less predisposed to premature intervention than most similar systems. That being said, the systems works so well that even on the wet roads encountered during the test it was possible to mat the gas mid-corner without the car trying to swap ends.
To make sure the car retains an even keel when tossed into a fast corner, the RS4 features Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control (DRC). Rather than using power-sapping hydraulic pumps and other high-fluting gadgets to alter the car’s attitude in a corner, DRC links the left front shock to the right rear
and the right front to the left rear. This simple approach effectively eliminates 99% of all body roll, pitch and squat. The result is an eerily flat ride, that is, surprisingly, devoid of the usual harshness. While Audi does not say what sort of lateral g-force the RS4 is capable of pulling before sliding into trouble, it’s well beyond the limits permitted by my testicular fortitude.
The anti-lock-equipped brakes on the RS4 are more than up to the challenge of scrubbing off speed without melting the rotors and fading into oblivion. Up front the 8-piston calipers work on massive 365-mm, cross-drilled and vented rotors (there large 324-mm discs in back) that are further cooled by underbody ducting. The RS4’s other party trick happens when the roads are wet – when the wipers are on the ESP automatically dabs the brakes to squeegee the water off the rotor, which keeps them dry and ready to provide maximum braking force.
The RS4 is distinguished from its A4 sibling in a subtle manner – it has been lowered by 30-mm, has much larger fender flares, a diamond-look grille and additional air intake scoops in the front fascia. Inside, it’s more of the same. The seats are superb – being of the deep-dish variety, the bold base and backrest bolstering and extra support through the shoulder area hug the front seat riders without feeling confining. There’s also plenty of carbon-fibre trim and the nicest steering wheel I have ever held. Not only does it have a substantial feel in hand, it has the right contour to promote the proper quarter-to-three driving position. Best of all, the bottom of the wheel has been flattened out, which gives some needed thigh room when getting into the driver’s seat. The kicker is that this steering wheel will not be offered in Canada for regulatory reasons – pity.
By now you should be getting the picture – the RS4 not only delivers the unexpected, it is the personification of the unexpected and everything that’s right with a full-blooded sports car. That it has the practicality of four doors and a usable back seat completes a delightful package. When the RS4 arrives this summer, expect it to command somewhere around $95,000.