Since the early ’90s, the Audi RS4 Avant has been one of the absolute best all-around sports cars you could buy. Every iteration of the RS4 has offered performance, practicality and everyday usability in a good looking package at a reasonable price. It’s the car for someone who wants the performance of a BMW M3 but the practicality of a typical family wagon. The RS4 was always able to be all things to most people (with the only exception being those loathsome wagon-haters). All Audi RS4 Avants have been excellent, with some being extraordinary (B7-generation and this new B9-gen). However, is the best one yet this newest B9-generation?
Let’s take a look back at each RS4 Avant through the years. It all started with the B5-gen RS4. Obviously based on the B5-gen Audi A4, this RS4 was the first of its kind. Well, sort of. The Audi RS2 Avant was really the first of its kind but the B5 was the first ever “RS4” badged car. It packed a 2.7 liter twin-turbocharged V6 that made an impressive 375 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Though, it delivered that power with a ton of turbo lag. So it was quick but it was boosty and peaky. Still, it was great fun to drive, had a ton of Quattro grip and enough room for the family, the dog and all of their luggage.
Next was the famous B7-generation RS4, skipping the B6. The B7 Audi RS4 was offered in both Avant and Sedan body styles, though it’s the Avant you want. Not only was it the best looking RS4 (up until now) but it packed a brilliant engine, a 4.2 liter naturally-aspirated V8 that made 420 hp, which gave it a perfect 100hp/per liter of displacement. But its power isn’t what’s worth noting. What is worth noting is its noise. What a brilliant noise that V8 made, as it screamed to over 8,000 rpm. That engine was mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and was great fun to use. Better than all of that, though, the B7 RS4 was actually a precision machine. Where the B5 was more of a point-and-shoot sort of car, the B7 was a surgeon’s scalpel. Plus, those looks and that noise. Perfection.
Following the B7-gen was the B8-gen RS4, this time not skipping a generation. The B8 Audi RS4 Avant only came as such, with no sedan body style. It also continued to use the same 4.2 liter free-breathing V8, except it made 450 hp rather than 420. Rather than a six-speed manual, the B8 RS4 only came with a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Purists feel as if that ruined the car, though it did make it faster while also making it easier to drive around town, which further increased its duality. And, realistically, duality is what the RS4 Avant is all about. Otherwise, just get an M3. Having said that, what killed the B8 compared to the B7 was its handling. The B8 RS4 was and is still a great driving car but it could never match the pure precision or joy that the B7 brought.
This new car, though, the B9-generation Audi RS4 Avant might just be the very best of them all. The main demerit of the new Audi RS4 Avant is that it loses that killer V8, and its accompanied soundtrack, for a new, less thrilling 2.9 liter twin-turbocharged V6. And that’s true, this new V6 isn’t as emotional as the older V8. However, we’d reckon that this new V6 is actually more in touch with what the RS4 is about, especially considering that the original also used a twin-turbo V6. Except this new blown-six makes 450 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, which gives it more torque than any of its predecessors.
Where the new B9 Audi RS4 Avant takes the lead over the others is everywhere else, though. It’s the best looking of the bunch, at least we think so, and it sports the absolute best interior by a long ways. It just feels so special from the inside. It’s also faster than the others, thanks to its extra torque. It’s the sharpest handling car of them all, too, as it’s lighter than the B8-gen but also uses Audi’s new MLB-Evo II platform, so its dynamic capabilities far exceed those of all previous RS4s. But it’s also more comfortable, thanks to adjustable magnetic dampers, more interior room, some of the best technology in the business.
All Audi RS4 Avant variants are excellent, if we’re honest, and we’d be happy to daily drive any of them. However, we think this new one is the best of them all. It’s the best looking, sports the best interior, is the fastest, handles the best and is the most practical. Sure, it loses some of that killer soundtrack from the B7 and B8 but that’s the only area where it can be beaten. The new B9 makes up for that lack of thrilling sound by being absolutely brilliant everywhere else.