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Test drive: Mark Gallivan reviews the 2018 Audi RS4 Avant 2.9TFSI 450HP Quattro

Leading motoring writer Mark Gallivan takes the 2018 Audi RS4 Avant 2.9TFSI 450HP Quattro out for a spin. Here is what he thought.

Full Scream Ahead

Up to a few weeks ago, my Sternocleidomastoid muscle was a pretty unfamiliar part of my body. Forget trying to describe where it was located, I’d have had trouble spelling it in the first place. But it was on one deserted stretch of mountain road bordered by wind-shaped brown gorse on either side that things, quite literally, clicked into place. Right over a blind crest of a hill the road ahead suddenly snaked into a fast right and then a sharp left bend.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant 2.9TFSI 450HP Quattro

Immediately I was flinging the 2018 Audi RS4 Avant Quattro through this left, then right series of bends. True, I was feeling overconfident and I drove into the first right bend too fast and quickly yanked the steering wheel to the left in order to keep the car squarely on the road. Without so much as whimper the Audi changed direction like a model airplane being controlled by an excited teenager on the ground. First right, then left and Audi’s newest and most stealthy estate car made light work of the panic moment and thundered on. My neck didn’t fare so well. Whatever I had done it started as a strain and then cramped into a spasm that forced me to pull over to the side of the road about a mile ahead and rumble to a stop.

This was the best unplanned introduction to the new Audi’s latest RS4 Avant’s breath of engineering capabilities. While it does look similar to the previous generation load-lugger, Audi has produced a somewhat neutered fourth generation new super estate – now with a 2.9-litre V6 petrol engine and 450hp the 2018 powerplant replaces the bigger 4.2-litre V8. To be fair, the stats look tame enough with just 6-cylinders and still way off the Armageddon power of the BMW M5’s 600hp, once you’ve rounded it out. Grasping my neck and trying to work out why I have been so ambitious everything seemed to boil down to one thing – the new RS4 Avant is now so clinically honed and composed that while driving on roads you’d normally approach with more caution are now – for 2018 – a minor concern in the new car.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant 2.9TFSI 450HP Quattro

As for the car itself the latest RS4 Avant is powered by a 2.9 V6 TFSI Petrol engine fed through an 8-speed gearbox and Quattro permanent all-wheel drive it produces 450hp and 600 Nm torque and posts a 0-62mph time in 4.1 seconds. Flat out it will reach a limited 155mph. Starting at £62,715 the CO2 emissions are at an understandably high 199g/km. Obvious rivals are the more extrovert Mercedes C63 AMG but what this test needed to decipher is the concern that opting for a smaller powerplant has now subdued the unhinged fun of its predecessor.

To drive the previous generation RS4 Avant without turbochargers and step into the new car you’d convincingly make an argument that Audi is now chasing refinement with a capital R. Gone is the slightly gruff response of the 4.2-litre V8 replaced with a smoother power delivery. Inside the RS4 Avant’s cabin it looks immediately familiar to the regular A4 Avant, save for the steering wheel, seats and trim. And it’s this level of normality that surprised my passengers that were driven in the car. On more than one occasion a few clueless motoring friends were given a big shock in the way the seemingly pedestrian estate car could gather pace with a stealthy vengeance.

2018 Audi RS4 Avant 2.9TFSI 450HP Quattro

With this new lexicon of refinement Audi seems intent on chasing the blue-collar menace that’s far removed from the hairy but magnificent B7 RS4 that broke cover in 2006. Having also tested the all-new generation Audi A7 in 3.0-litre TDI Quattro guise it seems Audi has corporately upped the refinement ante making all of their cars less edgy and far more polished. More George Clooney than George Thorogood, if you like.

All of this means you’ll either bemoan the good old days or relish the new refinement that’s now on the menu. For 2018 the Audi RS4 Avant is still wickedly fast – but that edgy viciousness has been tempered. Humming instead of rumbling onto driveways it’s as polished a super-estate as you can buy today.