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2023 Audi RS4 Avant, All you want to know & watch about a Great Car

 

2023 Audi RS4 Avant Competition Plus First Drive: This Wagon Is Hot Hot Heat

Not available in the U.S., Audi’s RS4 wagon is on our fantasy wishlist.

Audi RS 4 Avant with competition plus package

Let’s be honest: Despite some amazing results, trying to make a lumbering SUV truly drive like a sports car is a futile exercise. Yet automakers around the world have over the past couple of decades collectively spent hundreds of millions of research and development dollars doing just that. That’s why the 2023 Audi RS4 Avant is such a joy to behold. It’s refreshing to find someone—anyone—in the auto biz who still believes lower and lighter is the best answer when it comes to building a load lugger that’s fast and fun to drive. In this case, Audi gets it.

Audi is one of the last defenders of the performance wagon faith in America. With the demise of the late Cadillac CTS-V wagon, and Mercedes-Benz’s decision not to bring the autobahn-storming AMG E- and C-Class wagons to America, the Audi RS6 Avant is, apart from Porsche’s Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo, about the only option here. That is, if you want a car that’s fast enough to terrorize unsuspecting Porsche 911 drivers yet has room aboard for the family and a couple of Labradors.

We should be thankful for the Audi RS6 Avant. But we can’t help feeling disappointed Audi won’t double down and give us its kid brother, as well. After all, Audi offers the RS5 and RS5 Sportback here, the RS4 Avant’s two-door coupe and four-door hatchback cousins that are about the same size as the wagon and mechanically identical. Would the more practical, less expensive (it retails for about 6.2 percent less than identically equipped RS5s in Europe) and—dare we say it—cooler RS4 Avant really be an RS too many for this market?

Audi RS 4 Avant with competition plus package

Strong Package

Audi of America product planners obviously think so. Which means the 2023 Audi RS4 Avant is likely to remain forbidden fruit for American buyers for the foreseeable future. That’s a shame, because the recent Competition and Competition Plus packages just released for the RS5 Coupé and RS5 Sportback are also available on the RS4 Avant, and just as with the RS5s, they make the RS4 Avant even more desirable.

As in the RS5s, the Competition package unlocks a 180-mph top speed, more noise from the RS exhaust system, and adds new 20-inch aluminum wheels that each weigh 4.4 pounds less than the regular items. Standard tires are 275/30 front and rear, with ultra-grippy Pirelli P Zero Corsas available as an option.

More important, the Competition Plus package delivers all of this along with a carefully considered selection of serious handling hardware: upgraded Quattro sport rear differential, quick fixed-ratio steering, and RS Sport Pro suspension with coil-over steel springs on the front axle that is height adjustable and features adjustable rebound and compression damping.

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Engine Notes

The Porsche-designed 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine under the hood of the 2023 Audi RS4 Avant has been left alone. Audi Sport insiders say chasing more power from an internal combustion engine in these days of ever tightening emissions and fuel consumption targets would simply cost too much money to generate a return on the investment.

Still, although all the engine’s hardware is unchanged, as are its outputs—444 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque—the remapped software that’s part of the Competition Plus package delivers better throttle response and quicker shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission. Thanks also to the Quattro sport differential, the car shaves about 0.2 second off the regular RS4 Avant’s 4.1-second 0-60-mph acceleration time.

Say Goodbye To Audi Understeer

Driving a front-engine Audi fast has always been an exercise in managing understeer, but not in the 2023 RS4 Avant Competition Plus. It only took a couple of corners on the fast and sinuous Ascari Circuit in southern Spain to feel the front end’s extra authority, and the chassis’ improved responsiveness to throttle inputs.

At 13.1:1, the RS4 Avant Competition Plus package’s fixed-ratio steering is one of the quickest fitted to a modern production car, and the RS4 Avant’s front wheels react rapidly to commands from the helm. The more pronounced response dialed into the throttle mapping makes it easier to get the car to rotate when you lift off and easier to catch and hold the rear when you go to power.

What also helps on corner exit is the Quattro sport differential, which uses clutches to direct most of the torque to the outside rear wheel and punches the RS4 Avant hard out of corners. The stability control is remapped “so you can have a little more fun,” Audi Sport chassis development chief Andrei Filep said. But even with everything switched off, the car remains easily controllable at the limit.

The optional Pirelli P Zero Corsas have more rounded shoulders than the standard RS4 Avant tires to provide better steering accuracy and lateral support, according to Filep. The compound is so grippy that, working in conjunction with the remapped ABS, it helps to shrink the braking distance from 60 mph by about 6 feet.

13 RS Vorderachse

 

It’s Called RS Sport Pro Suspension For A Reason

For our track sessions at Ascari, the RS4 Avant Competition Plus’ adjustable suspension was dialed to what Filep called the “Nordschleife setting.”

In addition to the damper compression and rebound settings being adjusted to cope with the high speeds, high curbs, and massive compressions that dominate the legendary 12.9-mile German Nürburgring track, this setup also includes a 0.4-inch drop in ride height over the baseline Competition Plus setup. (The baseline setup itself rides 0.4 inch lower than the standard RS4 Avant suspension.)

In case you wonder, the Competition Plus package comes complete with a user’s manual that includes several recommended settings for the ride height and dampers, as well as the tools with which you can make the appropriate adjustments.

Forget pressing a button, this is how some serious driving enthusiasts roll when it comes to chassis tuning: “Whaddya doin’ under the car, Bob?” “Oh, just wrenching the Nordschleife settings for tomorrow’s track day.” (That is, unless you’re driving something like the new Porsche 911 GT3 RS and its more easily adjusted dampers.)

For the road loops we drove, our test cars were all in the default Competition Plus setting; that is, with the ride height 0.4 inch lower than the standard RS4 Avant setup. The primary ride is taut, but there’s a decisive and distinctly analog feel to the body motions that even the best air suspensions simply can’t emulate.

Despite ultra-low-profile tires, the secondary ride is surprisingly compliant, with little impact harshness felt through the steering wheel or heard in the cabin, even at low to middling speeds on indifferent city streets. That’s impressive when you consider that switching between Comfort and Dynamic modes does not alter the spring or damper rates at all.

Audi RS 4 Avant with competition plus package

More Power, Please

The 2.9-liter V-6 is a decent enough engine, but it doesn’t deliver the old V-8’s gut-punch. When you’re hustling in Dynamic mode, with the transmission in the Sport and Manual shift settings, it really needs to be spinning at 4,000 rpm or more to deliver its best. In tight and twisty stuff, the slightly soft low-end response highlights the big gap between second and third gear.

If you left-foot brake, you’ll find the engine power cutout activated by pressure on the brake pedal can prevent a smooth and early transition to power with your right foot. The massive carbon-ceramic stoppers will shrug off merciless punishment, but the RS4 Avant’s pedal travels a little too far before the pads start gripping the rotors, making it hard to brake smoothly at slow speeds. (We found the same to be true with the new RS3.)

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On The Fly

Audi’s method of changing drive modes—switching from Comfort to Auto to Dynamic by way of toggling a switch on the dash or hunting and pecking on the central touchscreen—is tedious. Fortunately, the RS button on the steering wheel provides a handy shortcut, though you have to punch it twice if you want RS2 mode, which allows you to configure throttle, transmission, stability control, and steering settings.

The best setup for fast and fun driving is to dial everything on the RS2 configuration menu to the max, but set the steering to Comfort. Because the steering ratio never changes, the steering weight is the only difference you’ll find.  There’s a delicacy and accuracy to the steering in Comfort mode that is simply dulled by the imposition of more weight in the default Dynamic setting. So what’s the point of the latter?

“Heavy steering is for drivers who use the steering wheel as something to hold rather than to control the car,” Filep grumbles.

Audi RS 4 Avant with competition plus package

Fast, Fun, And Practical. What’s Not To Like?

In short, the Competition Plus package makes the 2023 Audi RS4 Avant much more engaging to drive, without compromising the everyday practicality that makes it so hugely desirable. It’s worth every cent because it delivers the critical pieces of hardware and associated software that transform this hi-po Audi wagon’s handling.

Indeed, the 2023 Audi RS4 Avant is the thinking person’s performance car, fast and fun to drive when you want it to be, yet a surprisingly useful load lugger when you need it to be. The Competition Plus package turns it into the thinking person’s monster.

Audi RS 4 Avant with competition plus package

 

2023 Audi RS4 Avant Competition Plus Specifications
PRICE $87,325 (MT est)
LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon
ENGINE 2.9L/444-hp/442-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 3,847 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 111.3 in
L x W x H 188.2 x 73.5 x 55.3 in
0-60 MPH 3.9 sec (mfr)
EPA FUEL ECON, CITY/HWY/COMB N/A
EPA RANGE (COMB) N/A
ON SALE Not in U.S.

 

2023 Audi RS6 Avant Starting at $119,995

8.5/10C/D RATING
2021 audi rs6 avant
  • HIGHS: Brawny styling, stomach-compressing twin-turbo V-8 performance, station-wagon practicality.
  • LOWS: Not cheap, guzzles gas, the upmarket charge for any color besides gray.
  • VERDICT: The RS6 Avant does it all, combining supercar performance with station wagon usability.

Overview

In a sea of performance SUVs like the BMW X5 M, the Audi RS6’s rakish profile, hunkered-down stance, and supercar driving character are rare and special. Powered by a 591-horsepower twin-turbocharged V-8, this station wagon is a performance beast, shooting to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds and capable of a 190 mph top speed. That’ll make Costco runs a lot more interesting. At the same time, the long-roof body style can comfortably seat five while carrying nearly as much cargo as chunkier, less athletic SUVs.

And though the RS6 leans heavily towards sporty driving, the interior features a classy design, sumptuous materials, and all of the latest technology. Along with the high-riding performance SUVs, the RS6 Avant does battle with other pricey performance wagons like the Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo. If you dig the RS6 Avant’s performance credentials but want a sleeker, less family-oriented look, Audi also offers the mechanically identical RS7 hatchback.

What’s New for 2023?

There is only one update to the RS6 Avant for the 2023 model year: an available black suede headliner made from recycled materials. Otherwise, the high-performance wagon carries over unchanged from last year, and the price also remains the same.

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Pricing and Which One to Buy

RS 6 Avant
$119,995

This car comes in only one spec, but you can deck it out with lots of fancy options. Unless you want a gray car, you’ll have to pay extra for a different paint color. We’d have ours sprayed in the pretty Navarra Blue Metallic. We’d also select the Black Optic package, which gives the wagon an even more sinister look with black exterior bits and snazzy 22-inch wheels on summer performance tires.

Those who want their Avant to reach 190 mph will have to shell out for carbon-ceramic brakes, but we’d spend that money on massage chairs up front and the Executive package (more leather-covered surfaces, heated rear seats, soft-close doors, and a head-up display). Of course, our wagon needs the optional sport exhaust so we can revel in its intoxicating engine sounds.

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Audi endows the RS6 Avant with a twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V-8, which generates 591 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque. The powerplant combines with a 48-volt hybrid system that’s found on other Audi products, such as the A8 luxury sedan and the Q8 crossover. The RS6 Avant feeds its standard Quattro all-wheel drive through an eight-speed automatic transmission. The combination helped rocket our 5031-pound test car to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds and complete the quarter-mile in 11.5 ticks at 120 mph.

But those numbers don’t accurately demonstrate the wagon’s glorious ability to increase our heart rates and tingle our ear drums with its breakneck acceleration and badass soundtrack. Rolling on a set of 22-inch wheels with summer performance rubber and buoyed by a sport-tuned air suspension with adaptive dampers, our Tango Red RS6 Avant test car was able to deliver a relaxed or rollicking ride depending on the selected drive mode.

The long-roof Audi also felt extremely agile thanks to its four-wheel steering and torque-vectoring rear differential. Ours stopped from 70 mph in a tidy 160 feet with the standard brakes. A set of front and rear carbon-ceramic stoppers are available for a sizable sum, and the upgrade unlocks a higher top speed of 190 mph.

2021 audi rs6 avant

Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG

The RS6 Avant is expected to earn 15 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, which is in line with what the E63 S and Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo manage. Once we can run the RS6 Avant on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, we can evaluate its real-world mpg. For more information about the RS6 Avant’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.

 

Interior, Comfort, and Cargo

Inside, the RS6 Avant showcases a sophisticated design and cutting-edge technology. The driver faces a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, and the dashboard features a pair of large touchscreens between the front passengers. The rest of the cabin is covered in leather and accentuated with racy materials. The RS6 Avant has a roster of upscale standard features, including heated and ventilated front seats, four-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and wireless phone charging.

Buyers can order a head-up display, massaging front seats, richer leather, and heated rear seats for more coin. The wagon has 30 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats too. A power rear liftgate comes standard; a motion-activated one is optional.

2021 audi rs6 avant

Infotainment and Connectivity

A 10.1-inch touchscreen handles the infotainment system. It supports standard features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Bang & Olufsen stereo, built-in navigation, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Below the upper display is an 8.6-inch touchscreen that contains settings for the climate controls as well as other vehicle functions. While both screens have large icons that are easy to spot and use, they can be distracting to the driver, especially the lower one. We miss the old scroll knob that used to accompany Audi’s infotainment systems.

Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

The Audi wagon offers some standard driver-assistance technology, with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist both available. For more information about the RS6 Avant’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:

  • Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
  • Available night vision with large animal and pedestrian detection
  • Available blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross-traffic alert

 

Warranty and Maintenance Coverage

Audi’s limited and powertrain warranties align with plans offered by Mercedes and Porsche.

  • Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
  • No complimentary scheduled maintenance

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Specifications

2021 Audi RS6 Avant

VEHICLE TYPE
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

PRICE AS TESTED
$119,840 (base price: $110,045)

ENGINE TYPE
twin-turbocharged and intercooled V-8, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement
244 in3, 3996 cm3
Power
591 hp @ 6250 rpm
Torque
590 lb-ft @ 2050 rpm

TRANSMISSION
8-speed automatic

CHASSIS
Suspension (F/R): multilink/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 16.5-in vented, cross-drilled disc/14.6-in vented, cross-drilled disc
Tires: Pirelli P Zero PZ4, 285/30ZR-22 (101Y) AO

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 115.4 in
Length: 196.7 in
Width: 76.8 in
Height: 58.6 in
Passenger volume: 101 ft3
Cargo volume: 30 ft3
Curb weight: 5031 lb

C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 3.1 sec
100 mph: 7.8 sec
130 mph: 13.6 sec
150 mph: 19.6 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 4.4 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.6 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.1 sec
1/4 mile: 11.5 sec @ 120 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 156 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 160 ft
Braking, 100–0 mph: 318 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.94 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 17/15/22 mpg

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