The Only RS4 We Need (And Won't Get)

2012 Audi RS4 Avant

This is the B8 generation of the Audi A4 and, as with any A4 generation, there's no small wagon quite as scintillating as an RS4 Avant. The U.S. has never been gifted with this heavy hauler, and that is just one of life's many injustices. Even with the previous B7 generation that Audi pushed hard to popularize worldwide, the stunning Avant never came to the U.S. In fact, the only wagon we'll be getting for some time from Audi is the A4 Allroad, which feels like a token consolation prize.

This all seems an odd choice by Ingolstadt since the U.S. was quite a good market for the last RS4, but there's rationalization in the air. Audi is building the RS4 only in the Avant variation, while it's sticking coupe-wise with the RS5, then later adding an RS5 convertible. So we'll still get our fair share of Rennsport in two-door form.

But if you studied your Audi-ology, the small RS Avant is where it's at.

2012 Audi RS4 Avant side view2012 Audi RS4 Avant side view2012 Audi RS4 Avant rear view

This Avant feels tremendously more happy being pushed around than any of the previous RS4s.

We were allowed onto the precious Red Bull Ring in bucolic Austria for many laps in the now 444-horsepower (was 414-hp through 2008) third-gen RS4 Avant. The company's familiar 4.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 still produces 317 pound-feet between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm. Though this new draggin' wagon weighs 187 pounds more than last generation's already hefty model, a new crown-gear center differential with torque vectoring (introduced with the current RS5), its 40:60 default torque split, added horsepower at the still-glorious 8,250-rpm peak and improved options that pep up the steering and dynamics make this Avant feel tremendously more happy being pushed around than any of the previous RS4s.

In our jobs as testers, we've frankly been driving an inordinate number of single- and bi-turbocharged sporting cars lately, not enough supercharged ones, and only the occasional singing naturally aspirated road rod. So it was great to rev this car's free-breathing eight-cylinder along the straights and turns of a track well suited to the densely packed Quattro sausage, ever moreso because our last experience in the B7 RS4 Avant was on a thoroughly inappropriate obstacle-course type "track" marked by cones that we felt like killing. It succeeded only in showing how inappropriate any RS car is on a DMV motorcycle circuit.

2012 Audi RS4 Avant engine

It really is sad that there's no six-speed manual to go with the longitudinally mounted FSI V8.

Having said that, the Red Bull Ring is artfully simple but not an especially long circuit. As a consequence, we never engaged anything beyond fourth gear of the seven-speed S-tronic gearbox. Right out of the pits, though, we were free to rev for as long as we pleased. This engine begs for it and dropping below 3,500 rpm only reveals the clunky side of the S-tronic tranny, as well as the fact that for everyday use at low revs, you may as well buy an S4 Avant or even a top trim A4 Avant with the attractive S-line look and larger wheels. That will save you oodles of dough in the process.

It really is sad that there's no six-speed manual transmission available to go with the longitudinally mounted FSI V8 and "true" Torsen form of quattro. We were begging for it at several moments, but the S-tronic performs at its very best with the naturally aspirated ingredient and accompanying high revs. Downshifts are much more readily conceded through the left shift paddle here versus any lower-redline turbocharged setup that refuses our downshift whims oh so frequently. In the end, we definitely adapted. The slight left and uphill dogleg section right out of the pits was the place to gun it most, and shifts right at 8,200 rpm were perfectly rewarding.

2012 Audi RS4 Avant interior2012 Audi RS4 Avant front seats2012 Audi RS4 Avant rear seats2012 Audi RS4 Avant rear cargo area

We're envisioning a little sport wagon with the biggish price of around $70,000 USD.

The RS4 Avant also did extremely well in the few hard bends we encountered. With plenty of track width to use and a resultant better line to and through, the heavy little Avant (4,123 pounds) let itself go to great effect. Admittedly, the test car used here had every bell and whistle aboard to make all of this even more possible – optional variable ratio dynamic steering, sport suspension Plus with hydraulic dynamic ride control, rear sport differential and the added carbon ceramic brake discs with six-piston calipers. Add all of this to a car that would already start at around $70,000 and we're envisioning a little sport wagon with the as-loaded price of around $85,000. Zing-o!

But let's just selectively choose not to listen to that financial argument for a moment because this car kicks and hauls a lot of ass. This is also a chief reason why people in general are so passionate about the Audi A4 Avant Quattro: They just want the danged thing so bad and the setup is slick beyond reproach. The RS4 Avant presents myriad reasons not to buy it for the majority of folks not interested in throwing their monies at a deep, dark niche. But for those who let their lust outweigh their reason...

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2012 Audi RS4 Avant

Acceleration from 0 miles per hour up to 60 mph would easily happen in 4.4 seconds with the Audi Drive Select interface set to Dynamic all around. The Torsen-based crown-gear Quattro system is also much improved over the dull neutrality of the previous generation, so you actually have some say in the line the car takes when calculating curves at hot speeds, not to mention nudging its tush out just like you planned in your head.

This multi-windowed speedster needs all of those options mentioned already, and that can make us angry. How come, on an RS trim car, we have to pay extra for the added 57 pounds of the rear sport differential? This is the marketing department feeling overly cocky about their perfection of the options list mystique. C'mon, Audi, if we're committing to an RS relationship, give us the damned whole hog in the base price.

2012 Audi RS4 Avant rear 3/4 view

Passionate U.S. customers "get" these Euro specials arguably moreso than the home crowd.

The standard 19-inch Continental ContiSportContact tires – 265/35ZR19 98Y – showed little wear and tear to the shoulders of rubber after a full day of use on the track. If you want an undue beating at any cost, go for the optional 20-inch setup. (But trust us, the 19s are way better.) As if Audi knew the good Contis weren't providing quite enough of a sports car tune in their infrequent squealing, there is the Boysen-engineered optional sports exhaust, which was also aboard our car and what a tune it doth provide. (Check out the track video above for some sense of it.)

So, no, we're not getting it in the U.S., which is sad because passionate U.S. customers "get" these Euro specials arguably moreso than the home crowd. And you could justify bringing it here, too, since this engine on the new chassis improves fuel efficiency and emissions by some 26 percent over the B7 generation. Sure it's bloody costly, but just think of the trees you'll save!

At least we get the entire same powertrain/chassis in our RS5 body variants.