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Audi RS4 2006 review

EXPERT RATING
8

Travelling two-up in the back of a chauffeur-driven W12 A8 limo, the silence was broken by the distinctive scream of an Italian engine followed by a blur on the left side of the Audi.

"What was that?" my fellow passenger squawked with a crinkled face that was mixed with horror and intrigue from his position seated in the right rear.

The object that came and went in a flash in the fast lane on the Autobahn between Ingolstadt and Munich was a stonking great Ferrari 575M Maranello F1.

Our chauffeur was on cruise at 230km/h which would have put the pilot in the Italian jigger at close to 300km/h in what was pretty much just another day on the ballistic ribbons of bitumen in Germany.

That was in June and in hindsight we wish we were driving not so much a whopping W12 (two vee sixes fused together) but Audi's latest lightweight RS 4 that packs a heavyweight wallop.

Audi has fully exploited the time-honoured concept of taking a compact, lightweight car and marrying it to a dirty big donk.

Well, in fairness, it is not really that big an engine, it's actually a 4.2-litre V8, rather compact in its overall dimensions.

And it fills the space, which would be a snug fit for a four-cylinder power plant, to the gunnels.

Could you imagine a V8 somehow squeezed into the front of a similarly-sized (8mm shorter wheelbase) Mazda3!

No. You can't.. And it makes all the more reason for Audi to feel good about cranking up the bar with the RS 4.

It's no wonder the product direction over at BMW has gone the way of turbo boosting for the 3-series coupe and V8 power for the next generation M3 due here late next year.

The RS 4 engine produces numbers that makes you drool.

Try a 0-100km/h time of 4.8sec.

Car nuts worth their salt will tell you anything below 5sec is normally reserved for the whiz-bang exotic super coupes.

Now Audi has chimed in with its compact A4-based sedan that has essentially become a street legal racer but a race car you can live with every day. And a drive of the RS 4 makes every day feel like December 25.

This car is a missile in a straight line and backs up its sprinting dash with stunning handling, perfect steering feel and brakes.

Eight-piston calipers up front and four pistons behind make these brakes outstanding stoppers for road use.

Such is the engineering refinement of the chassis, you can literally throw the RS4 around twisties like there is no tomorrow without fear of it spitting you out and arrowing you into the never-never.

This engine spins and spins - all the way to 8250rpm if you push it — which is unusually high for an eight-cylinder.

A bit of the technology which Audi used to brutal effect on the multiple R8 prototype Le Mans winner has found its way into the RS 4 with direct fuel injection helping a more efficient combustion process while the technology has also allowed compression to be increased.

It does great work from nothing, really great work mid-range but it is not until the baffles in the drain-pipe wide exhausts open and the engine screams past 5000rpm that the RS 4 turns into a mega drive.

There is 309kW of power from 7800rpm and there is nothing artificially helping this but good old fashion natural aspiration.

But that's not the crunch figure.

What gives this engine character and might is its broad band of torque.

Up to 90 per cent of the 430Nm of torque can be accessed from 2250rpm to 7600rpm giving this engine tremendous flexibility.

It is restricted to 250km/h but the speedo indicates 310km/h and have no doubt — it could stay all day with one of those 575M red rockets.

Mated to the sweet-shifting 6-speed manual the quattro RS 4 can be as overwhelming as it can be comforting.

Despite riding on a sports suspension (stiffer springs, larger anti-roll bars and 30mm lower than a bog standard A4) and super low profile high performance Pirelli P Zero rubber (255/35 R19) the ride quality is tolerable.

Audi employs what it calls DRC, (yep another acronym we need to decipher) which stands for Dynamic Ride Control, that keeps the lid on body roll and pitch via diagonally connected dampers via a central valve.

It is something which has been handed down from the RS 6 and seems to work quite effectively.

The cabin is tidy and ergonomically on the money but is rather understated for a German hottie.

That is to say aside from the flat-bottomed steering wheel which uses a mix of aluminium (bottom half and leather) and features the S for sport button which makes the engine growl louder, sharpens throttle response and makes the seat bolsters (side and squab) tighten.

The other buttons on the steering wheel spoke allow the driver to cycle through the various on-board computer information such as fuel consumption, time travelled, distance to empty etc.

On the topic of drinking habits the RS 4, as you could easily guess, is not subtle.

Almost exclusive highway use over several hundred kilometres netted a tick over 11 litres/100km which on paper looks reasonable but that was done in top gear and low revs. Try darting around town and the RS 4 reverts to what predictably is a prodigious thirst of around 15 litres/100km.

Then open up the taps and go for a whiz on quiet back roads and the computer will give you a figure approaching 20 litres/100km.

Aside from the long list of safety features including the familiar electronic ESP, traction and stability systems and airbags all round, there is a fair bit of kit for your $164,500.

There is a CD changer in the glove compartment which is attached to a 10-speaker BOSE sound system, SatNav with TV, dual-zone automatic climate control with sun sensor and pollen filter, trip computer and xenon plus headlamps with swiveling headlight function.

This is a thoroughbred, from top quality Ingolstadt stock where the RS moniker stands tall among the mightiest performance cars.

It's far from perfect this RS 4 with foibles here and there but it's an infectious ride.

FAST FACTS

$164,500

ENGINE: 5/5 stars

It's enough to make any V8 nut drool.

TRANSMISSION: 4/5 stars

Slick and fast. A perfect match to the V8.

ECONOMY: 2/5 stars

You don't buy an RS4 for good fuel economy. Audi quotes 13.7L/100km as an average, but you just know you'll be a devil and get worse figures

HANDLING: 4/5 stars

Runs like it's on rails. Rides a bit like it, too, but you would expect a compromising ride in a sporty car like this.

SAFETY: 4/5 stars

Suitably long list of safety features to match the performance level.

VALUE: 4/5 stars

You can't buy a new BMW M3 CSL and it's cheaper than a C55

Tech Specs

ENGINE: 4.2-litre petrol V8 with direct injection

POWER: 309kW @ 7800rpm

TORQUE: 430Nm @ 5500rpm

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual

DIMENSIONS (MM): 4589 (L), 1816 (W), 1415 (H), 2648 (wheelbase)

KERB WEIGHT: 1650kg

WHEELS/TYRES: 9x19-inch alloy, 255/35 R19 Pirelli P Zero

STEERING: Rack and pinion

BRAKES: 365mm ventilated discs with eight-piston callipers (front), 324mm ventilated discs with four-piston calipers (rear)

SAFETY FEATURES: two-stage airbags for driver and front passenger, head airbags for front and rear passengers, side airbags for rear passengers, ESP, ABS, ASR, Brake Assist, all-wheel-drive, tyre pressure monitoring system

FUEL: 98RON octane PULP, 63L tank, 13.7L/100km

WARRANTY: 3 years/unlimited kilometres

Verdict

FOR: Power and handling

AGAINST: Conservative interior and poor economy

FINAL: No one needs one but lots of people want one

COMPETITORS

Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG

5.5 litre V8

270kW, 510Nm

$160,490

BMW M3 CSL

3.3 litre straight 6

265kW, 370Nm

$161,000

(2nd hand)

Pricing Guides

$33,440
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$30,360
Highest Price
$36,520

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Quattro 4.2L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $30,360 – 36,520 2006 Audi RS4 2006 Quattro Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Pricing Guide

$30,360

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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