The speed of a performance car with the practicality perks of a station wagon? Sounds like a winning formula to us. Does Audi's RS4 Avant really deliver the best of both worlds? We put one to the test to find out.
Station wagons might have fallen out of favour in Australia over the past 10 years or so, with their market share gobbled up by SUVs, but if anything can lure buyers back it will be vehicles like the Audi RS4 Avant.
The speed of a genuine performance car, the space of a family wagon, and, in our opinion, stunning looks. What more could you want?
The question, though, is does this updated-for-2021 version still deliver on its dual promises of practicality and performance? Let's find out.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
Right, so it isn't particularly cheap, the RS4 Avant, which arrives wearing a $147,900 price tag before you start ticking option boxes. Our test vehicle, for example, had gloss-black alloys, carbon inserts and a blacked-out version of Audi's rings and badges, which lifted the asking price to $150,400.
That's if you want to trouble the option list, of course, because actually, the RS4 Avant arrives with just about everything you could need.
The wheel arches are filled by 20-inch alloy wheels.
Outside, you'll find 20-inch alloys, red brake calipers, heated mirrors, privacy glass and a sunroof, while inside you'll find Nappa leather seats that are heated in the front, ambient interior lighting, and a Bang and Olufsen sound system.
Behind the steering wheel is Audi's Virtual Cockpit.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10
I think it looks fantastic; a tough, low-slung performance wagon that makes you long for the days when SUVs were only for people who wanted to climb mountains, not driveways.
Looking at it straight-on, the Audi RS4 Avant looks wide and mean, with its blacked-out mesh grille that's kind of folded in the middle, giving it a sharp ridge that juts out in front of it. Interestingly, Audi's Single Frame Grille treatment is now a kind of no-frame grille, with the body colour extending all the way to beginning of the meshing.
The RS4 Avant is a tough, low-slung performance wagon, which looks fantastic.
Those 20-inch alloys perfectly fill the swollen wheel arches, with the red of the massive brake calipers peeking out from behind the spokes, while at the rear, two massive exhaust exits frame the rear end.
Inside, it's a blacked-out, leather-wrapped space that feels both tech-savvy and well constructed. There's ridged leather on the seats, and a satisfying chunkiness to both the flat-bottomed steering wheel and the sizeable gear shifter.
Inside is a 10.1-inch centre screen perched above the dash.
I've heard people complain about the positioning of the 10.1-inch centre screen, perched as it is above the dash a little like an afterthought, but I really don't mind it. Its big, clear, and positioned where it is, easy to both read and reach.
How practical is the space inside? 8/10
Ah, the practicality of a wagon, remember that? Honestly, I'm sometimes surprised that SUVs have managed such a hostile takeover, especially when I climb out of a well-sorted estate, like the RS4 Avant.
It measures 4782mm in length, 1866mm in width, and 1438mm in height, making it slightly longer - but much lower - than the Audi Q5.
But while Audi's SUV manages a commendable 463L of luggage space with the rear seats in place, the RS4 Avant delivers 495L, with the that number swelling to 1495L with the second row folded flat.
With the rear seats folded flat, boot space is rated at 1495 litres.
The point is, it delivers the perks of a sizeable SUV, without ever feeling so big.
Up front, riders will share cupholders, bottle holders in the doors, and multiple USB and power connection point, along with storage cubbies of various sizes and shapes.
In the back, rear seat riders get the same premium interior treatment as the driver, and get their own air vents with digital climate controls, bottle holders in their doors, USB connection points, and ISOFIX attachment points at each of the window seats in the back.
In the back, rear seat riders get the same premium interior treatment as the driver.
The twin-turbo 2.9-litre six-cylinder punches out 331kW/600Nm.
That's enough, says Audi, to deliver a 0-100km/h sprint time of 4.1 seconds, which is plenty quick.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Audi says you'll get 9.5L/100km on the combined cycle, and emit 218g/km of CO2. But not if you drive it like you'll want to drive it. Get a little too familiar with the accelerator and you can expect that number to climb.
The RS4 Avant is fitted with a 58-litre fuel tank.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
It's a thundercat, the RS4 Avant, and might well be among the world's most undercover sleepers, given its ability to deliver near-supercar pace from its fairly understated station wagon body shape.
Sink into the driver's seat, grip the chunky, leather-wrapped steering wheel and kick over the engine, and the low rumble of then exhaust immediately informs you that you're in something with some serious performance potential.
The RS4 feels properly sporty.
The acceleration is properly addictive, with the RS4 piling on speed on the exit of corners, shrinking the gap between bends so much that you're hurriedly standing on the brakes again as you barrel into the next turn before you know it.
It feels properly, properly sporty, and you can't help but feel a little smug about the fact you can effectively pour an entire Bunnings into the massive boot, where people in true supercars are lucky if they can fit even fit themselves in them.
The RS4 Avant is among the world's most undercover sleepers.
And I think that's the magic of a car like this, that straddles that line between practical and potent with such aplomb, it feels like it you're not making much in the way of sacrifices, and you can knock off the school run or a hill sprint with equal ability.
Downsides? Well, even in its angriest settings, the gearbox felt a little fidgety at pace, shifting up or down at strange moments on the way into or out of corners. You can take control via the paddle shifters, of course, but it wasn't the most intuitive gearbox I've experienced. The steering, too, felt a little - and I mean a little - disconnected, even in its sportiest settings.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10
The safety story begins with eight airbags, and the usual suite of braking and traction aids, but then climbs into the tech-savvy stuff from there.
Services are due every 12 months or 15,000kms, and Audi allows you to pre-pay your service costs for the first five years, at a cost of $3,050.
Practicality, performance and polish, all in one very handsome wagon shape. The Audi RS4 Avant is welcome reminder of the days before SUVs ruled the world, and it leaves you wondering how we ever allowed that take-over to happen at all.