Screaming wagons have been star turns at the four-ring zircus since 1994, based always on an existing model (in this case the amiable A4 Avant of 2008 vintage) though one that's spent a year training with Daniel Geale.
Standard kit includes multimedia system, xenon lights, 19-inch alloys, electronic tailgate, parking system with rear camera and nice paint. A $7200 package adds alloy 20s, sports exhaust and suspension with dynamic ride control.
What's wonderful is that 4.2-litre 331kW V8 with better than 100Nm per litre, spinning a fluent dual-clutch seven-speed auto. The urge gets to the ground via the torque-sensing quattro AWD that shovels almost all the torque rearwards (or up to 70 per cent forward as needed).
You can complain — and some surely will — that this performance shopping trolley has become too clinically efficient for fun's sake, as maturely staid as its station wagon shape has always misleadingly suggested. And it's true that if compared to the last and fabulous 2006 model, the new Audi RS4 Avant is almost top-heavy with tech, suffused with switches.
We'd argue that away from the track (where limits can be relatively safely gauged) and on the public roads (which are way scarier in their random way), this RS4 is almost precisely what a performance-cum-family car should be. Especially one that reaches 100km/h from standing in 4.7 seconds.
It has a weapons grade physique — flared arches to accommodate at least 19-inch but often 20-inch wheels, side skirt, vast aluminium mesh masked air intakes, matt silver accents and gaping tail-pipes.
As I make my usual hash of the hairpin turn two at Sydney Motorsport Park, the twin-clutch transmission automatically drops back and lowers to almost a croon the roar of the high-revving, naturally breathing V8. The RS4 Avant could be saying: "There, there, you silly middle-aged boy, let me sort this out."
With minimal input from me, the super smart all-wheel-drive system abetted by rear axle differential hauls the uber wagon back into line and allows the next apex to be made with some sort of aplomb.
It makes for an extraordinarily tolerant and forgiving construct. If not idiot-proof per se, when pushed its behaviour pretty much defines progressive.
Although this generation RS4 has been bought in for an unexpectedly low $149,400 — some $25K under the one previous — anyone who was lucky enough to know and thus to love its predecessor might wish for a less sophisticated version, one with a single button labelled "Sport" to turn all the juice on or off rather than the multi-mode frippery.
This engaging yet cosseting car remains the coolest shopping trolley in town.
Audi RS4 Avant
Price: from $149,400
Engine: 4.2-litre V8 petrol; 331W/430Nm
Transmision: 7-speed twin clutch auto; 4WD
BMW 335i M Sport Estate
Price: from $112,600
Engine: 3.0 litre turbo six-cylinder, 225kW/400Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 8.7L/100km 95 RON, 203 g/km CO2
Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Estate
Price: from $154,800
Engine: 6.2-litre V8, 336kW/600Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automated manual, rear-wheel drive
Thirst: 12.3L/100km 98 RON, 288g/km CO2