2008 Audi RS 4
In its last year of production, we can’t help but feel a pang of regret that the wonderfully aggressive Audi RS4
sedan is going to be sent out to pasture to make way for the RS6. Lucky Europeans have had the pleasure of driving this car in Avant form since 1999, but it has only been available in the U.S. for the past two years. Based on the A4
, the 420 horsepower RS4 is pitted against some serious competition. Its 0-60 mph time of 4.6 seconds makes it faster than the BMW M3
, a hair slower than the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG
and equal to the Lexus IS F
. Not bad bedfellows. Drive quality is fantastic, as is Audi’s keen attention to interior details, but all of it comes at a higher price - $66,910 to be exact - than the others. Still, pushing on the throttle of the RS4 has a tendency to make you blissfully ignorant of the multiple dollar signs.
What's to Like
The all-wheel drive and roomy interior give the RS4 function beyond what equally powerful sedans can provide. Its 420 horsepower can really tug the car around corners, and the Audi build quality is evident throughout the interior. Although the car is incredibly fast, meandering around town is still comfortable.
What's Not to Like
An outdated instrument panel is boring and button-heavy, especially without the optional navigation screen. The cruise control stalk is hidden directly behind the steering wheel, making it hard to reach and difficult to activate - though we suspect most people would want to be fully in control of this V-8 anyway. The price tag tops the more elegantly swathed BMW M3
, and with expensive options, the price can skyrocket.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Factoring in the RS4’s crucial deficits, namely the fact that the engine sits well ahead of the front axle and that the sedan weights a hefty 3,950 pounds, it would seem that the RS4 could be slower and more lumbering on the road than its competitors. However, Audi has masterfully engineered the car to feel lithe and incredibly well balanced when pushed hard. Its 40 percent front and 60 percent rear split of the all-wheel drive helps quell the potential for understeer. The RS4’s steering feels tight and body roll is reduced through the competent Dynamic Ride Control, which utilizes diagonally connected dampers to control body movements and results in a more fluid ride. A touch of the sport button heightens throttle response and makes the engine growl aggressively as more engine valves fly open, sounding as beautiful as the church bells of Neckarsulm.
Engine and Drivetrain
The RS4 is powered by a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8 engine that delivers 420 horsepower at an almost Japanese racecar-like 7,800 rpm and 317 lb-ft of torque through a 6-speed manual transmission that lets you blip through gears with unnatural effortlessness. The Quattro all-wheel drive has the ability to divert power to the front or rear depending on the necessity, and unfortunately for us, resists those ever-alluring burnouts. Drat.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
A premium package, at a lofty cost of $4,000, adds those little luxuries missing on the abundant standard feature list like navigation, heated rear seats, Bluetooth connectivity and a thumping Bose sound system with either an iPod interface or six-disc CD changer. Most will manage just fine without the package, as power everything, an MP3 compatible CD player, satellite radio, a sunroof and tire pressure monitoring system require no check of an option box. For the price, we think the RS4 should come stock with the premium package.
Key Technology Evaluation
To help you see the corners more clearly, the RS4 uses steering input to swivel the headlights up to 15 degrees into the turn. Audi’s stability control lets the driver make mistakes without interfering too much and only when you really throw the car out of line does the system correct. A backup sensor comes standard and beeps to warn the driver of an impending obstacle. We’re surprised there isn’t an available backup camera.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
In view of all the power churned out of the RS4, it’s no wonder it returns 13 mpg city and 20 mpg highway, winning itself a fat gas guzzler tax. This is significantly less than the Lexus IS F
, which gets 16 and 23 with its 8-speed automatic. That said, the Audi receives an LEV-II emissions rating.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
An awkwardly placed center armrest is settled directly above the difficult-to-grab e-brake, and the whole instrument cluster feels regrettably passé. But plush standard interior leather and heated front seats with lumbar support bolster the occupants nicely. In addition to a ski pass through, the rear seats split 60/40 and there’s 13.4 cubic feet of cargo space in trunk. We know, it’s a racecar, but still, we want more.
Compared to the A4, the RS4 is lower by 1.2 inches and wider by 1.5 inches in the front and 1.9 inches in the rear, which gives the car a sharply aggressive stance while still maintaining the stately look of an Audi. Fat wheel arches accommodate the 19-inch wheels and a gaping grille provides a finishing touch for the RS4-badged Audi.
Market Segment and Pricing
A $66,910 starting price makes the RS4 sedan more expensive than the more richly appointed BMW M3
and the faster Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
It’s also pricier than the Lexus IS F
, the newbie to the sports sedan game. If you’re looking for this kind of driving fun but on a budget, try the $32,990 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
. To feel the wind in your hair, a convertible version of the RS4 bumps the price up to a heart jolting $81,900. Yikes!
What We Think
Within the A4 family, the RS4 is the mischievous younger brother, treading the fine line between control and mayhem. It maintains a superb drive quality, especially in corners, and carries all the comforts expected in an Audi, while giving you power that will throw you back in the leather upholstered seats. The price will be an issue for some, but snatch the model up now before it’s too late - this is the last model year for America.