What are you driving?
This is the Audi RS 4 Avant, which may be a Q-car thanks to looking mostly like a svelte, luxurious, A4 estate, but which is given away by its chunky, square wheelarches that reference the original Ur-Quattro rally car. Well, those and the dark-finished alloy wheels. Oh, and the oh-so-eighties 'quattro' script on the front splitter. Well, that and the smattering of carbon-fibre accessories such as door mirror caps and a styling blade that runs just under the doors. Oh, and the RS 4 badges on the boot and set into that honeycomb grille. Hang on, I'll start that again...
This is the Audi RS 4 Avant, which may be a Q-car thanks to looking mostly like a svelte, luxurious A4 estate, but which is given away by all of the really obvious RS-ish bits stuck on to the outside. And the gorgeous, high-backed leather bucket seats. Damn. Hang on, I'll start this again (no time for that now - Ed).
OK, it's Audi's ultimate A4, powered by a bi-turbo 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine developing 450hp and driving all four wheels (natch - since when has a high-performance Audi been anything but a quattro? OK, the R8 RWS. Hang on, I'll start that again... [Nooooo! - Ed.]) through an eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox (because the seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch would probably explode if you tried to put this much oomph through it) and transmitting that power to the tarmac via 19-inch rims shod with Continental SportContact tyres (optional 20-inch wheels are pictured).
Audi kicked off the monster estate game way back in 1991 with the original RS2, but these days the RS 4 has to compete in a crowded marketplace of... well, just the one serious rival actually; the Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate, being as BMW doesn't make an M3 Touring and there's (more's the pity) no Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio SportWagon.
Name its best bits
The way it looks, for a start. Standard A4: quietly handsome, well-suited, debonair, if getting a touch too familiar now because Audi is selling so many of them. The RS 4: hulking, mean, menacing and looking as if it might kick your head in if you suggested that it was becoming a 'touch too familiar.' A touch too familiar with your face, more like.
The cabin is mostly a success - roomy, comfy, big boot, just as you'd expect an expensive estate to have - and those high-backed RS-branded bucket seats are just fab, especially finished in the slightly gaudy (but in a good way) pale grey leather of our test car. The 'Virtual Cockpit' all-digital instruments still look good and work well, and all but needless to say the quality levels are very high.
None of which you'll really be too interested in once you introduce Ms Throttle-Pedal to Mr Carpet and they start making noisy quattro babies together (this analogy got too weird, didn't it?). Some 450hp and 600Nm of torque, oddly, don't sound all that impressive anymore, but the RS 4 leaps up the road like a starving Whippet on the scent of an open tin of Pedigree Chum. That 4.1-second 0-100km/h time is at least as much down to the quattro system's traction. It's rear-biased, but you wouldn't necessarily know that. Mostly you just tell it to go, over there, very quickly, and it goes, over there, very quickly, while feeling stuck to the road as if by an industrial-length roll of Velcro.
The steering is good too - nicely weighted and not bad on the feel front, and handling limits so high that, if you manage to breach them on the public road, then your name is Ken Block and I claim my €20. Obviously, the suspension firms up, a lot, if you click the button for Dynamic mode, but in Comfort it's relatively smooth, only becoming distressed if you ask it to tackle knackered city-centre tarmac.
It sounds good, too, and isn't even as badly thirsty as you might imagine. It's not even in the top-rated band for motor tax.
Anything that bugs you?
Some of the cabin is already starting to look a bit old, and the MMI infotainment screen looks as if it should be a touchscreen, but it isn't. It's also massively expensive. I mean, of course it is, but our test car started life as a €101,500 car, then had €27,049 of added extras (!) and there were still blank switches in the cabin.
Then there's the issue of the competition. The newly-refurbished Mercedes-AMG C 63 Estate offers you more power for the same money (510hp), a V8 engine with a more exciting soundtrack and steering that beats the Audi for feel and involvement.
What do the rest of the team think?
I enjoyed the Audi RS 4 Avant so much that I made an excuse to go driving it all day in and out the famous passes of Cork and Kerry, spending some eight hours at the wheel. Not the most forgiving of road surfaces, but it was utterly beguiling. I love how it looks, its practicality, the quality and the sound the V6 makes. Sure, the Mercedes-AMG C 63 is more engaging again, but this is, hands-down, the best all-round sports estate on the Irish market right now.
Shane O' Donoghue, Editor
The RS 4 Avant goes like the clappers and is laugh-out-load quick. Grip levels are phenomenal, especially in the dry where it seems that nothing can unsettle it. As a driver you have a lot of confidence to fully press the throttle on the exit of corners, relishing the explosive nature of the acceleration.
Melanie May, Content and Social Media Editor