The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

Audi RS4 wagon is a supercar wrapped in domestic bliss

ONE boot-full. Then a corner. That was all it took to be convinced of the sublimity of this Audi Avant.

Yes, it's a wagon. Shock and awe in an automotive world where SUV models show more domination than the Fifty Shades franchise (Audi is Christian Grey's choice of weaponry, too).

While the R8 supercar is the brand's pin-up, this RS4 Avant is the unassuming underling.

Emissions targets are forcing manufacturers to downsize engines, with days of the honking V8 vanishing.

Bent-eights graced the two previous iterations of the RS4. Now it has a twin-turbo V6 beneath the skin that delivers the same power output but more torque than the engine it replaces.

But what about the sound? Never fear, this delivers a classic tune to make Mozart weep.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

VALUE

For circa $150k you'd expect a lot for your coin. In exchange for the sizeable investment you get a whole lot of mechanical nous, although there are ample luxuries that deliver ride comfort befitting the four rings.

Apart from the lack of a touchscreen (it's amazing how quickly you get used to modern niceties - you have to trim through the various menus and operations via Audi's central dial), it's equipped with some nice kit.

RS sporting apparel throughout sets the athletic tone, including a leather flat-bottom steering wheel with gear-shifting paddles, top-shelf Bang and Olufsen sound system with smartphone mirroring apps, leather-trimmed seats that provide massages for those up front, all in a cabin sitting on big 20-inch wheels (available in three styles) with stand-out red brake calipers.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

The brand's "virtual cockpit” is extremely cool and enables the driver to configure the instruments on a 12.3-inch screen to suit conditions and preferences, from satnav directions to a G-force meter.

Added extras on our test car included pearl effect paint for $1846, carbon inlays ($1000) and the Technik pack that includes a head-up display, LED headlights and wireless phone charging ($3900).

The latter should be standard at this price.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

DRIVING

Looks are deceiving. From the outside it's a slick-looking body-kit-clad wagon.

Pump the right pedal and it's a raging bull that has the ability to push supercars. With its most raucous mode engaged the RS4 can reach 100km/h in 4.1 seconds from standstill.

It may not have the same V8 gravelly exhaust soundtrack, but the bangs, crackles and pops (with enhanced noise pumped into the cabin via the speakers) combine to add theatre and presence. Little upsets the wagon, which bites the bitumen, eats changes in direction and embraces working to the redline.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

Among the secrets to improved dynamics is trimming the cylinders. The lighter V6 engine has helped afford weight loss of up to 80kg, in a car which is longer (+62mm), wider (+16mm) and lower (-12mm) than its predecessor.

Dexterity bolsters the RS4 appeal. It's not just about pure power and hitting bends. Engage "normal” or "comfort” settings and it's an adept cruiser on the highway, doing the school run or filling the sizeable boot with groceries.

When you want the power, it's on tap. It sounds fast and it lives up to the aural hype.

Using "dynamic” is best suited to smooth conditions when you really want to unleash, with each corner's suspension firmed for rail-like performance.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

SAFETY

Maintaining a five-star safety rating, it comes with radar cruise control, which can take complete control of acceleration and steering in traffic, exit warning system to avoid "dooring” cyclists, rear cross-traffic assist, blind spot warning, 360-degree camera as well as autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection.

HEAD SAYS

Wagons may be as popular as Peter Dutton, but the RS4 is brilliant. While there is a coupe version of the RS4 available, the Avant covers family necessities with an ability to rip up the bitumen without needing a kidney belt.

HEART SAYS

While it's not a V8, the bi-turbo V6 offers better performance, fuel efficiency and a wonderful soundtrack. Love the ability, love the Quattro grip, love the luxury, love the fact my bike and surfboard fits in the back.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

ALTERNATIVES

MERCEDES-AMG C63 S ESTATE FROM $159,340

One of the few still using eight cylinders and good for 373kW/700Nm, the AMG-honed wagon is delightful and marginally quicker than the Audi. Impressive on-road manners, long features list and tough to beat.

JAGUAR XF SPORTBRAKE 30D FROM $123,450

Equally beautiful in design but the twin-turbo V6 diesel is only good for 221kW/700Nm. Doesn't match the performance with a 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds but high levels of luxury.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

THE VERDICT

Looking like a classy "pimped” wagon, the engine, chassis and suspension works in harmony. It can sneak into a carpark with refined subtlety and then deliver a sledgehammer blow at the whim of your right foot.

The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6
The brilliant 2018 Audi RS 4 Avant, powered by a twin-turbo V6 Mark Bramley

AT A GLANCE

Audi RS4 Avant

PRICE $152,900 plus on-roads (expensive but good value)

WARRANTY AND SERVICING Three year unlimited km warranty (short, but on par for luxury cars), servicing is annual/15,000km, no service plans

ENGINE 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 331kW/600Nm, 8sp auto, AWD (rocketship)

SAFETY 5 stars, 8 airbags, AEB, blind zone alert, exit warning, rear cross traffic alert, 360-degree camera, front and rear sensors, adaptive cruise, traffic jam assist (good)

THIRST 8.9 litres/100km (not bad)

SPARE Space-saver (expected)

BOOT 505L/1510L (good)


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