Used test: Audi RS4 Avant vs Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
Two cracking performance estates, but which one makes the most sense bought at a couple of years old? Read on to find out...
Audi RS4 Avant V6 TFSI quattro
List price when new: £62,175
Price today: £48,600
Available from: 2018-present
The RS4 Avant offers twin-turbo V6 power, and its performance is explosive.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
List price when new: £70,325
Price today: £46,000
Available from: 2016-present
Twin-turbo V8 and rear-wheel drive chassis: the perfect fast estate car combination?
Price today is based on a 2018 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Years ago, cars had very clear-cut roles. You had a performance car to go very fast in and an estate to carry your family and your dog around in, and never the twain shall meet. Now, though, things are very different, and if you want a splendidly quick family car you can have it, with performance to rival a supercar and plenty of room for the children and the dog and the luggage and even old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.
Take the Audi RS4 Avant, for instance, which has been scaring grandparents witless since the year 2000. Previous generations have been powered by a turbocharged V6 and a thunking great V8, and this 2018 version we’re testing here is powered by a 444bhp twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6. With it, the RS4 covers the 0-62mph sprint in a claimed 4.1sec and has a top speed (optionally de-restricted) of 174mph. Bought at just under a couple of years old, as here, it looks like a bit of a bargain, too, and the answer to a family man’s prayers.
Or is it? You see, Mercedes-AMG fields a super-fast C-Class Estate in the same class, and it doesn’t look any less compelling as a used buy when stood next to the RS4. With more power from its twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8, the C63 S Estate is clearly capable of being a serious thorn in the RS4’s haunched side.
What are they like to drive?
Whereas performance saloons can get by on good looks and sharp driving dynamics, their estate brethren have to fulfil a broader remit. Not only do buyers crave dynamic exuberance and neck-snapping performance, but such ability also needs to be wrapped up in a practical and refined package.
In standard form, the RS4 rides pretty firmly. However, If you can find one fitted with the optional Dynamic Ride Control (a system that uses three-mode dampers), it exhibits the kind of low-speed compliance that is usually reserved for plush SUVs. Where the C63 S bumps and thumps its way around urban routes, the RS4 smoothes out the worst of battered bitumen.
However, the RS4, whether with or, more especially without the optional dampers, begins to struggle when the roads become more challenging. Left in Comfort mode, the RS4 feels like a fishing trawler caught in a storm, wallowing and pitching under acceleration and braking. Both Auto and Dynamic modes improve the RS4’s body control, but it never feels as well tied down as the conventionally suspended C63 S.
In fact, it is the rear-wheel-drive C63 S – a machine that has developed something of a bad boy reputation over the years – that gives you the most confidence on demanding roads. The RS4, with its vague dynamic steering and unpredictable handling, tends to leave you guessing on the way into corners, whereas the C63 S positively bristles with feedback, with its feelsome steering and accelerator allowing you to exploit its potential at every opportunity.
The RS4’s four-wheel-drive traction doesn’t net it much of an advantage in a straight line, either. Yes, from 0-60mph the RS4 fires out of the gate like a rocket-propelled greyhound (3.8sec versus 4.3sec), but at higher speeds the C63 S claws back the advantage. Better yet, this muscular performance is accompanied by a delicious V8 growl and angry rasps from the tailpipes during upshifts.
The RS4 is altogether more subdued, generating less engine, wind and road noise than the C63 S – so it’s less tiring on long journeys. However, for an Audi Sport product – a car that should excite and move in equal measure – it’s a little bit disappointing.
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