Review: Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015)

Rating:

Great performance from 450PS normally aspirated V8 engine. Quattro as standard. Huge amounts of grip and traction.

Lacks the raw edge of the previous RS4.

Recently Added To This Review

7 February 2014 RS4 Avant Nogoro unveiled

The customised Nogaro blue, pearl effect paint finish is the most immediately apparent tribute to the esteemed RS2 in this anniversary model. In addition, the frame of the Singleframe grille and the... Read more

13 June 2012

UK price of Audi RS4 announced: £54,925 OTR – first UK deliveries autumn 2012. Read more

15 February 2012 RS4 unveiled

Available exclusively in the attractive and accommodating Avant body style, and expected in the UK in September, the RS 4 contradicts its distinctly business-like first impressions with extreme sub-five-second... Read more

Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015): At A Glance

While Audi has produced fast S4 models recently, there had not been an RS4 since the much-loved second generation model which went off sale in 2008. Audi says the new RS4 will be exclusively available as an Avant as the RS5 is effectively the replacement for the saloon model

The high performance version of the new A4 is powered by a 4.2-litre V8 engine developing 450PS. This is the same V8 engine as the RS5 and the hand built high-revving unit develops 430Nm, giving it a 0-62mph time of just 4.7 seconds. That’s slightly faster than the BMW M3 saloon which does it in 4.9 seconds. But where the RS4 really trumps the BMW is with its quattro four-wheel drive which means superior traction, particularly in the wet.

There is also an advanced centre differential which can vary the power delivery between the front and rear axles with up to 85 per cent going to the back wheels. This works with a torque vectoring system which can brake the inside wheel in a corner to stop it losing traction and to make cornering sharper. A sport differential, which actively distributes power between the rear wheels, is available as an option.

Given all that power, the RS4 isn’t as thirsty as you might expect with an average claimed economy of 25.7mpg. Like the RS5 there’s no manual gearbox, instead it comes with a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifts. It also gets Launch Control which manages the clutch for optimum acceleration away from a standstill.

To mark it out from the standard A4, the RS4 gets flared wheel arches, a roof spoiler, chunkier bumpers and a honeycomb grille. At the back there are large oval dual exhaust pipes and an aluminium trimmed diffuser. Eight paint colours are available including two special crystal effect colours, Panther Black and Prism Silver.

Road Test Audi RS4 2012

What does a Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015) cost?

Contract hire from £685.06 per month

Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015): What's It Like Inside?

Dimensions
Length 4719 mm
Width 2040 mm
Height 1416 mm
Wheelbase 2813–2815 mm

Full specifications

Inside the RS4 is trimmed completely black apart from the roof lining which can be specified in Moon Silver. There’s chrome trim on the switches  and controls along with carbon inlays. Brushed matt aluminium, piano black or stainless steel mesh trims are available as options.

The standard sports seats are finished in leather and Alcantara and offer good support but there are optional bucket seats available which are even better and look great too. The rest of the interior is everything you'd expect from Audi with a high class finish and a real feeling of quality throughout. To make it stand out the RS4 gets a thick rimmed steering wheel with a flat bottom and a carbon fibre effect trim on the doors and central console.

Prices start at £54,925 which is more than competitive alongside the Mercedes C63 AMG and BMW M3, especially when the Audi gets an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive as standard. It's well equipped too with sat nav, Bluetooth and xenon headlights as standard. There's some good options too including ceramic brakes, a Bang & Olufsen sound system and a sports exhaust with black tailpipes.

Child seats that fit a Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015)

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What's the Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015) like to drive?

The big surprise with the RS4 is that it only comes as an Avant. Not the usual body shape for a high performance motor, but Audi has form here. There was the epic V10-powered RS6 Avant from a few years ago and the previous RS4 came as an estate too. The reasoning for the lack of a saloon according to Audi is that it already has the RS5 which is powered by the same engine.

And that engine is a monstrous 4.0-litre V8 which produces 450PS. Surprise number two here is that unlike the recently launched S6 and S7 Sportback it's not turbocharged. Instead Audi has opted for a normally aspirated engine so the performance purists will be very pleased. However it does mean it's thirsty with a claimed average of 26.4mpg and if you're heavy with your right foot that will quickly plummet. That said it looks positively economical compared to the old RS4 which only did 20.8mpg on a good day.

But you won't be shocked to discover that the RS4 is very quick. It will rocket from 0-62mph in just 4.7 seconds helped by a launch control system which comes as standard. You simply hold the brake with your left foot, put the accelerator pedal to the floor and release the brake. The on board clever stuff then maximises traction and acceleration.

As you'd expect from a high performance Audi, the new RS4 gets quattro four-wheel drive as standard. As standard it directs 60% power to the rear wheels but it can increase this to 80% depending on the conditions. With all that power the extra traction certainly gives you more reassurance, especially in the wet, so accelerating out of slow corners feels much more stable than in a rear-wheel drive. Remember that neither BMW nor Mercedes-Benz offer four-wheel drive in their equivalent performance models.

There's also a torque vectoring system which works with the self locking centre differential. This gently brakes the inside wheel in corners, making the RS4 incredibly precise in bends and requiring less steering input. The sheer grip from those wide tyres is immense and despite it's considerable size, the Audi is agile and responds well to quick changes in direction. Rarely does it become unruly.

What might not please the purists is that the RS4 comes with an S tronic gearbox as standard. There's no manual 'box available and Audi says there won't be either. Is that an issue? Well the S tronic does work very well with the big V8 engine and makes the RS4 useable in traffic and in town. You can leave it in D and it will happily potter along at low speeds. It's when you're pushing a bit harder that you might miss the interaction and enjoyment of a manual. However you can shift using the paddles on the steering wheel and in Dynamic mode it will hold the revs at the red line rather than automatically changing up.

Without a turbocharger the RS4 doesn't have as much torque as the S6. That said with 430Nm it's hardly shy of pulling power but it does peak higher up the rev range than with a TFSI engine and so it doesn't feel as responsive low down as you'd expect. The acceleration is wonderfully smooth and linear though and that V8 sounds great too with a lovely low rumble on start up and a deep resonance when you're on the move.

Surprise number three is that the RS4 rides smoothly, particularly so for a performance car of this ilk. It's forgiving and comfortable which means it's a car you can live with everyday without ruining your spine. There's the Audi Drive Select system which lets you choose between various setting from comfort to dynamic and if you pay extra for the Dynamic Ride Control system it also alters the ride settings so you can go for softer on rough roads.

 

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
4.2 FSI quattro S tronic 26 mpg 4.7 s 249 g/km
4.2 quattro 26 mpg 4.7 s 249 g/km

Real MPG average for a Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance

80%

Real MPG

19–27 mpg

MPGs submitted

11

Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Audi RS4 (2012 – 2015)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

What would you recommend instead of a BMW M5?

We've had three BMW 525i automatic cars in succession over the last fifteen years, and we love the ride, the space and the performance. I'm thinking about perhaps moving up to a two-year-old BMW M5, but these are few and far between (though I'm in no hurry), and they are still pretty expensive. Can you recommend something that we'd like as much but would be cheaper and easier to find?
An M3, or an Audi RS4. But since these are both quite high maintenance, it's better to simply settle for a BMW 335i.
Answered by Honest John
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