2012 Audi RS4 Driven
What did we think? One word springs to mind: Immense
Back in May Audi UK contacted us regarding a competition they were holding for RS4 owners- the winners car being part of Audi UK's display at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Fast forward to July, and we were at the event (coverage on line at some point in the near future), seeing not only the latest and greatest of their offerings (A1 Sport RS3, through to S6, S7 & S8) but also some heritage of the RS range- namely an orginnal right hand drive RS2 (one of 2 owned by Audi), through to a B5 RS4, B7 RS4 (the winning car) and to the "All new" B8 RS4. We had a good look around the car (it would be rude not to!) and managed to take some photographs.
Fast forward to the end of July, and I'm on a plane headed for Copenhagen. ON this trip, along with sampling the all new A3 and the A6 Hybrid, while at a race circuit south of Malmo in Sweden, as well as sampling the new S6, S7 & S8 on the circuit, I also managed to have a look a SQ5 AND there was a Misano Red RS4 on display (as opposed to the Grey & ORange variants on display at Goodwood earlier that month)
Fast forward again, this time to September, where Audi UK invite me to an RS4 drive & ride day. The choice was either Oulton Park (available on a Saturday) or Millbrook Proving ground on a Thursday (which meant a day off work... the hardship!)
Moderator on the site, quattrojames, also had an invite, and as he was limited with work shifts (and he lives almost on the south coast)- he'd booked the Thursday. I figured it would be a good idea if we went the same day so that we could take photos of each other, etc.
Not so. A few days before it was confirmed that the taking of photographs is strictly prohibited...... (insert own choice of words here!)
Millbrook is a massive place, and I can understand why they prohibit the use of cameras- a LOT of manufacturers use the facilities for testing out various aspects of a vehicle before it is released. And by vehicle, we mean ANY vehicle. Sports cars? Tick. Road Cars. Tick. Pieces of French stuff you wouldn't be seen dead in. Tick. Buses. Tick. Tractors and trailers (slow down and give plenty of room!). Tick. You name it, we saw most of it today.
Upon arrival, you have a nice red "security" sticker stuck over the lens of your phone (they didn't ask if I had any cameras with me...) and we were escorted to the main holding area to park the car and take in coffee and breakfast. Great start to the day.
Audi TV's Grant O'Hara was also at the event, so it was good to chat with him and James about various things before the event started.
First a history lesson.
The "original" RS model was the Audi RS2. Co-developed by Porsche in the late 80's, the Audi 80 Avant based S2 formed the base for Porsche to "work their magic"- most notably in the engine, suspension & braking departments, but with some subtle changes to the interior, mirrors and the wheels. Performance for the 2.2 litre 20 valve 5 cylinder engine went from 230bhp upto 315bhp (with braking increased to suit using Porsche components). This wasn't a "mass production" car; 2,908 examples were produced worldwide, with only 182 making it to the UK in right hand drive (of which Audi UK own 2) A top speed of 163mph, with 0-62mph approaching with a kick in the back from the turbo lag in 5.4 seconds. No slouch, and a great drive.
This was followed by the Audi A4 Avant based B5 platform RS4, which was available in 2000. Only available in Avant form, as per the RS2, this time the performance tweaks were handled by Cosworth Engineering (owned by VW/ Audi at the time). Performance took the 2.7 litre, 30 valve V6 bi-turbo powered car upto 380bhp, with a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds. Production numbers increased, with 6,045 available worldwide, with 400 right hand drive versions officially imported into the UK. Values still hold steady for these, and the RS2's- and are often sought after as a second car to keep for "special occasions".
The RS models typically arrive towards the end of a life span- typically as a "swan song" to the outgoing model. (An example of this would be the RS3 released last year- the new A3 has been released this year). Surprisingly, though, there was no RS4 for the B6.
The next RS4 was based on the B7 platform, and was released in 2005. Utilising FSI technology from the cars raced in LeMans, it produced 420bhp from the V8 engine, with a 0-62mph coming up in 4.8seconds. This one -although "special", was where -for me- the RS badge started to become "diluted". Where as previous versions were "limited numbers" and only available in Avant, the B7 RS4 was available in Avant, Saloon AND Cabriolet form (and residual values don't possibly hold quite so well)- that and the fact that 3,393 models were sold in the UK.
Fast forward, then, to the B8 platform. 2012 sees the new RS4- back to it's "roots", as it were, and only being available in Avant form. (So as not to detract from Sales of the RS5 & RS5 Cabriolet, perhaps?) The new version utilises a 4.2 litre V8 utilising FSI technology. 0-62mph comes up in 4.7 seconds, and is only available with the 7 Speed S-Tronic gearbox (also available in the new A3). The quattro system has been "tweaked", now utilising a self-locking crown gear centre differential with a sports rear diff. Also notable on this (and expect to see it on future models across the range) are "Wave profile" disks. These help with heat dissipation, but more importantly, weigh 3Kg LESS per wheel than a "traditional" design disk. I have nothing but praise for the S-Tronic gearbox; (It maybe a different story in 10+ years time, depending on reliability), utilising a double clutch arrangement to change gears. (This can be either automatically, via paddles behind the steering wheel or using the forward and back in the gate similar to previous gearboxes) As well as the changes to the centre and rear differential already mentioned, this new variation of quattro doesn't sit at a 50:50 split like in those of old- this is now 40:60 (front:rear) - this -according to the information provided- gives better traction and stability, along with the wheel-selective torque control, which supports cornering.
If you take a look at the configurator (http://www.audi.co.uk/new-cars/rs/rs4-avant.html) the on the road price starts at £54,925 (OTR)- but when you start to add "extras" (should you so wish), such as the Cermaic Brakes, all the little "incidentals" can push this above £70,000.....
Standard specification includes "Tech Pack Low" (DVD, AMI, Parking Plus), RS4 Sports suspension, Audi Drive Select (as seen in the new A3), Xenon Plus lighting including Adaptive lights, Super Sports seats in Leather/ Alcantera, Matt Aluminium mirrors, honeycomb grille, carbon inlays and a flat bottomed steering wheel.
The cars available on the day varied in colour and specification, not knowing what you were in until you read the spec sheet within the car. For myself, the programme was for three of us to take a car out (2 cars) "following" a guide- although we had a route map, mileages (to check against) and a radio (in case of issues). I was teamed up with Philip & Tina from London (Who currently own an RS3), with each of us getting the opportunity to drive the car on real roads. It gives you a good idea as to what it's like to spend some time in one of these.
My first time? I was in the back seat.
Phil selected Dynamic Drive in the Audi Drive Select- this firms everything up, from the suspension through to the steering. It also alters the gear changes and throttle response, blipping between gears on change down. MY suggestion would be that if you owned one of these cars on the 20 inch wheels, don't select if you have rear passengers. The car sticks to the road like glue, naturally, but in the rear you felt like you were crashing about in the back. Trying to write notes while Phil was doing a brisk pace acclimatising to the car's capabilities was- basically- impossible. I'm not a neat writer, but the last time my writing looked that great I was in junior school and not too bothered if I stayed on the page or not.
The car is. "Brisk".
It's a Hooligan trying to get to his first ASBO as soon as possible.
One word has sprung to mind from my experience today, relating to the car.
Don't ask me what the MMI is like.
Or the sound system.
I have absolutely no idea.
All I know is that the V8, on full chat when giving it beans the warble from the exhaust is glorious. Nearly as good as a straight 5, or a V10- but not quite. It is, however, a pleasant sound, and something I could definitely live with.
Next up was Tina; traffic subdued her ability to realise and enjoy the potential the car has to offer- although it did give me the opportunity to write a couple of notes, before I had the opportunity to "have a go".
Driver change -off site- also gave me the opportunity to get a few quick photos (apologies, taken with a phone quickly while changing drivers).
And then it was my turn.
First thing I noticed that the comfort levels in the front were completely different for the driver- you didn't feel like you was crashing about (maybe I wasn't trying hard enough), but the car felt very, very surefooted. The car went where you told it to- point, press and gone. Speeds capable of losing your license on a motorway come up alarmingly quick- and the car is that surefooted and responsive, you could quite easily get lulled into a "false sense of security" if not keeping an eye on the speedo. (Which trying to read at 30 mph isn't as easy as it sounds when it tops out at 200....)
Once back at Millbrook, we were then taken out in a different car, and I was paired up with Richard from Wragby (also an RS3 owner)- Richard has a LOT more experience of the RS models than myself, having previously owned two RS5's. We had a few laps on the Alpine Circuit (famously used in a few films, as well as by Top Gear, etc.) followed by some high speed laps of the bowl. Richard also selected Dynamic" in the drive select- but as a front seat passenger the ride wasn't so bad. The high speed bowl is a 2 mile circuit deisgned in such as way that each lane has a minimum speed, starting at 40mph. In reality, if you do the minimum speed while driving, technically the car will drive itself around, with no manual input on the steering wheel from the driver. We were only allowed upto lane 4 (no outer lane for us today) but we eventually achieved a constant speed of 100mph.
Then it was my turn.
We put the car into "automatic" mode on the Audi Drive select, and I took the car for a few laps around the Alpine Circuit. The circuit is great- not long, but with lots of varying inclines and twisty bends. Maximum speed on here is 55mph- and in some places, you would not get (or want to get) much faster. There was a certain area where the car was slightly "unsettled" due to the quick camber change in the road as you exited a bend, but the car was surprisingly comfortable & agile to drive. The "standard" brakes are a revelation; they were what most impressed me about the car all day. Some brake can tend to be harsh in their application, and it's almost the "binary effect"- all or nothing. These are progressive, responsive and give plenty of feedback. No inclination for brake fade, and they were very reassuring.
For the last lap, we placed the car into Dynamic using the Audi Drive Assist- I couldn't believe the difference. It was literally like night and day. The road surface we started on you felt everything (you couldn't drive the car on 90% of UK roads because of their poor condition)- but the way the steering firmed up and the handling on the car. On the first few laps the car was more than capable of handling what was thrown at it, with the exception of the afore mentioned unbalance (made the car feel less sure footed). Now this wasn't an issue- corners, acceleration/ deceleration- everything- was more "in tune" for the situation we were in, and it made a complete difference to the driving experience (made it more enjoyable). We even managed to get a little bit of "air" on the "blind crest"- more was possible but I bottled it- after all, it isn't my own car and I didn't feel right trying to give it a complete thrashing. That said, I think the car is more capable than I am....
For my turn on the high speed bowl, Richard "modified" the Audi Drive select so that the steering, throttle & gear changes were "enhanced" but the suspension settings were set to adaptive/ automatic. This made the whole experience much better as a driver, and obviously he has spent some time in previous RS models to obtain optimum benefit- so something to definitely look into setting up if an option.
You would have thought that was plenty of an experience for one day to give you a good "all round" look & feel for the car. It was, but once back at the meeting point, it was time to put on a crash helmet.
Here, Audi had some professional drivers to take us in pairs around a handling circuit that comprised of polished concrete, to show us the car "at the limits".
The way the car was put through it's paces showed just how capable the car could be in the right hands. Approaching corners at speeds that you would feel were almost suicidal, and the car was set up and pushed litterally to the limits. 4 wheel drifts with 450bhp on tap is something I'm probably not going to experience for a long time.. and everybody who got out of the cars after this had a massive smile on their face. (I would be surprised if the tyres were any good after a days use)
So what was my overall experience of the car at the end of spending 4 hours in it, in various states?
Special thanks go to Audi UK / Audi Fleet for supplying (and providing permission to use) images taken by Scott Dennis Photography, (and for the event invite!) as well as Oliver Hammond- http://www.simonscarspots.com for use of the Millbrook image.
All the rest- Copyright www.audifans.net 2012