Audi has confirmed the pricing and specification of its third generation Audi RS 4 Avant, which at £54,925 will cost £200 more than BMW’s M3 Coupe, £2,800 less than Mercedes’ C63 AMG Estate and even undercuts Audi’s RS 5 Coupe by £3,800.

So, on the face of it, the RS 4 Avant should be flying off the forecourts when it arrives this autumn, provided buyers can get past any nagging doubts about just how competitive Audi’s newest super-Avant is likely to be.

The Audi RS 4 Avant features the now familiar high-revving, naturally aspirated V8 TFSI engine that delivers 444bhp at 8,250 rpm (400 rpm higher than the B7 RS4) and 317lb-ft (430 Nm) of torque between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm. Whilst the quad-cam V8 seemed impressive enough in 2006, in the second-generation B7 RS4, the additional 30bhp (but same torque) hardly seems contemporary 6 years on, when the latest performance engines (in Audi, BMW and Mercedes) now bring forced induction to the party.

Audi quote a zero to 62mph time from rest in just
4.7 seconds, achieving a creditable 26.4mpg on the combined cycle. And this highlights the one positive improvement between the second and third-generation RS 4s – a huge drop in CO2 emissions from 324 g/km in the B7 RS 4 to 246 g/km in this latest model. This compares with 285 g/km in the C63 AMG and 290 g/km for the M3.

The trouble with the RS 4’s performance (and by implication, the RS 5 and R8 V8) arise from the more serious hot hatchbacks. On our ever-more cluttered roads, it is torque rather than high-revving power that determines that all-important feeling of high performance. And with cars such as Vauxhall’s 295lb-ft Astra VXR, Ford’s 250lb ft Focus ST and Renault’s 265lb-ft Mégane Renaultsport the practical advantages of Audi’s high-revving V8 (pulling a much heavier car) will be minimal.

To further question Audi’s choice of powerplant for the RS 4, BMW’s forthcoming M3 saloon will arrive in 2013 with a 3-litre twin-turbocharged six cylinder engine pushing out 450bhp and more than 400lb-ft of torque.

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In common with every Audi RS model, the RS 4 Avant features quattro permanent all-wheel drive, which is bolstered here by the advanced crown-gear centre differential and Audi’s sports rear differential for smooth torque transfer between front and rear axles, and also the left and right rear wheels.

The differential offers a 40:60 split in normal conditions, but up to 70 per cent of power can be channelled to the front and as much as 85 per cent to the rear if the conditions necessitate.

A torque vectoring system, which acts on all four wheels, works with the self-locking crown gear differential to further enhance the RS 4’s distribution of power, while the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system offers a Sport mode, which can be fully deactivated for use on track.

The RS 4 Avant’s lowered chassis, which features a five-link set-up at the front and a self-tracking trapezoidal-link rear assembly, is complemented by a highly efficient new speed-dependent electro-mechanical power steering with a direct steering ratio for a more precise feel.

Audi are offering an optional Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) system on the new RS 4, which uses diagonally opposed pairs of shock absorbers linked by hydraulic lines and a central valve. When DRC is fitted it can be fine-tuned by the driver via the standard Audi drive select driving dynamics system, which offers selectable comfort, and the choice of auto, dynamic and individual modes accessed via the MMI control unit.

The drive select system is also responsible for the operating characteristics of the sports differential, the weighting of the steering, the shift pattern of the S tronic transmission and the response of the throttle, all of which can be set according to the four parameters. The sound of the exhaust system (and optional sports exhaust) is also altered when downshifting in dynamic mode.

Audi is also offering the (thankfully optional) dynamic steering system, also controllable via Audi drive select, which can alter the actual ratio of the steering by nearly 100 per cent depending on speed. Dynamic steering can interject automatically, counter-steering slightly at the cornering limit to improve the precision and stability of the RS 4’s handling. If it ain’t broke..

New Sport Package

If you’ve ever tried to buy a B7 RS 4, then you’ll be aware of the two-tier approach you could take to specifying your uber-Avant. Flat-bottomed steering wheel. Check. RS bucket sports seats. Check. Sports Suspension. Check. Well now we have an optional ‘Sport Package’, which includes larger 20-inch rotor design aluminium or titanium-look alloy wheels to replace the standard 19-inch examples and a sports exhaust system that further amplifies the V8’s distinctive engine note.

Priced at £2,250, it offers a saving of £2,915 compared with specifying the options individually.

The interior of the RS 4 Avant is finished completely in black, with the exception of the roof lining, which is optionally available in Moon Silver. Carbon inlays are standard, with brushed matte aluminium, Aluminium Race, piano black finish or a light stainless steel mesh available as options.

Super sports seats with integrated headrests are included as standard within the Sport Package, covered in a combination of black leather and Alcantara.

High-grade full leather packages, and an Audi exclusive design package incorporating RS bucket seats with even more pronounced contours and honeycomb quilting, are also available as options.

A comprehensive selection of driver assistance and communication systems can be specified from the options list, with a number of these available within the cost effective Technology Package Advanced, priced at £1,420. The package includes an upgrade from DVD navigation to the hard disk-based HDD navigation system with ‘jukebox’, adaptive cruise control, the parking system advanced with reversing camera and the active lane assist lane departure warning system.

The third-generation Audi RS 4 is UK-bound and available to order this week priced from £54,925.