Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
A standout option on the Audi configurator is Dynamic Ride Control, a clever suspension system that uses three-mode dampers that are diagonally linked with hydraulic fluid. If that’s a bit too much detail, just think of it as a similar system to that used on high-end McLarens, with the promise of outstanding low-speed comfort coupled with excellent body control in corners.
And on that first claim, it certainly delivers. Where rivals such as the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 are firm around urban routes, the RS4 smooths over the worst of battered bitumen. In fact, it’s like the McLaren 720S, in that it’s a performance car that makes you marvel at its plush ride.
However, the magic of the McLaren system is that it can offer firmer responses when the road becomes more challenging, and that’s where the RS4 begins to struggle. Through quick direction changes, the RS4 pitches and rolls on its springs, robbing you of confidence on the way in to and out of corners. Ramping up from Comfort to Dynamic driving mode brings increasing authority to the body control, but the car never feels as tied down as the conventionally suspended M3, C63 or Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Dynamic Ride Control is standard on the top-spec Vorsprung trim, while the lesser versions get RS Sport Suspension. This should be our natural default choice, because it saves you the upgrade cost and offers far less float over severe crests, giving you the confidence to push on when driving on demanding country roads. But the downside is that the stiffness required for this level of control translates to a pronounced thumping and fidgeting over rougher roads, which, after an hour of motorway driving, can get on your nerves. So the choice is an RS4 that’s reasonably agile but too firm, or one that’s comfortable, but pricier and not very enjoyable to drive.
Another option that Audi likes to promote is Dynamic Steering. It varies the weight of the steering and how many turns of the wheel you need to get from lock to lock, depending on your speed. It sounds good in theory, also costs a reasonable amount and helps you get around tighter turns more easily. However, it also removes any sense of connection with the front wheels and robs you of confidence in the front end. Keener drivers are far better sticking with the standard system, which is more accurate and has a more natural weight.
The standard steering still doesn’t key you into the Tarmac as well as the C63’s or Giulia QF’s will, but, on the plus side, it makes it easy to place the front of the RS4 on entry to a corner. And with quattro (Audi’s four-wheel drive system) fitted as standard, traction out of the corners is equally mesmerising. Unfortunately, there’s none of the adjustability offered by the rear-wheel-drive Giulia Quadrifoglio, M3 and C63. It will get you, your family and your ski gear up a snowy mountain in St Moritz more easily, though.
And if you decide to visit the slopes of the Black Forest instead, you can be safe in the knowledge that the RS4 packs more than enough punch for the German Autobahn. With 444bhp, the RS4 can get from 0-62mph in just 4.1sec and onto an electronically limited top speed of 155mph (this can be increased to 174mph as an option).
That performance comes courtesy of a turbocharged V6; an engine shared with the Porsche Panamera 4S. In normal use, it’s a smooth and refined unit that fades into the background, while in Dynamic mode it howls and parps as you want it to. However, a turbocharged V6 will never be able to compete with the monstrous V8 in the C63 – an engine that sounds truly wonderfully and more engaging at almost any speed.
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