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Used test: Audi RS4 Avant vs Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
You can save up to £20,000 if you buy one of these cracking performance estates used, but which should take pride of place on your driveway?...
Audi RS4 Avant V6 TFSI Quattro
List price when new £62,175
Price today £50,000*
Available from 2018-present
Explosive performance and incredible grip, the RS4 Avant is a twin-turbo V6 rocket ship.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate
List price when new £70,325
Price today £50,000*
Available from 2016-present
While it too is twin-turbocharged, the rear-wheel drive C63 S has a V8 with more power to back it up.
*Price today is based on a 2018 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
Engineering is a marvel, isn't it. We live in a world where a heavy, sensible, luxurious estate car can be transformed into an incredibly capable, lightning-fast performance car with very few compromises. The model becomes a wolf in sheep's clothing, you might say. The current Audi RS4 Avant and Mercedes-AMG C63 S Estate spring to mind here – both are powerful, plush and practical, and they now make tempting used buys.
So, which is the more accomplished fast estate? The RS4 certainly has a lot going for it on paper, what with a 444bhp twin-turbo V6 under the bonnet and a claimed 0-60mph sprint of 3.8sec. The grip and overall performance benefit from Audi's quattro four-wheel-drive system being present, too. It's rapid, even with five people and the weekly shop on board.
The C63 S Estate, with its 503bhp twin-turbo V8, is superior in terms of sheer grunt, but has rear-wheel drive only, and can't quite match the RS4's 0-60mph time – it does the same sprint in 4.3 seconds. That said, rear-wheel drive isn't necessarily the worse option, and this test really comes down to how both drive rather than straight-line speed.
Interested in discovering what it's like to be behind the wheel, as well as how spacious and luxurious they are? Perhaps you want to know the buying and running costs for these cars at three years old, and which fast estate is best. Continue reading to find out.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Whereas performance saloons can get by on good looks and sharp driving dynamics, their estate cousins have to fulfil a broader remit. Not only do buyers crave dynamic exuberance and neck-snapping performance, but they also want that ability to be wrapped up in a practical and refined package.
In standard form, the RS4 rides pretty firmly. 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.
The RS4 begins to struggle when the roads become more challenging, especially without the optional dampers. In Comfort mode, it almost feels like a fishing trawler caught in a storm, wallowing and pitching under acceleration and braking. Auto and Dynamic modes improve body control, but it never feels as well tied down as the C63 S.
In fact, it's 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 through its feelsome steering and accelerator. That allows you to exploit its potential at every opportunity.
The RS4’s four-wheel-drive traction doesn’t give it much of an advantage in the straights, either. Sure, the RS4 is quicker off the line, but at higher speeds it's the C63 S that has the greater amount of grunt. 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. That's less tiring on long journeys, but for an Audi Sport product – a car that should excite and move in equal measure – also a little bit disappointing.
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