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2018 Audi RS4

When we first drove the latest Audi S4, which is powered by a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, we were a bit underwhelmed: It’s a bit less responsive and less exciting than the previous model. There clearly remained space for a meaner beast at the top of the lineup. Now, at the Frankfurt auto show, that car has arrived in the form of the all-new Audi RS4 Avant, a vehicle that always sets our hearts to racing—even though there are no current plans to offer it in the United States.2018 Audi RS4 Avant: A Most Capacious Ass Kicker

The RS4 Avant is mechanically similar to the RS5, with those two sharing many components—most notably the awesome 450-hp 2.9-liter V-6, which is a twin-turbocharged variation of the S4 sedan’s single-turbo 3.0-liter engine. This powerplant springs from an engine-development partnership with Porsche in which Audi handles the V-6s and Porsche the V-8s. You can also find it installed in the Porsche Panamera S and the upcoming next-gen Cayenne S.

Beyond being powerful, it is torquey, with all 443 lb-ft served on a fat plateau from 1900 to 5000 rpm. The power is channeled to all four wheels through a ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission and a rear-biased all-wheel-drive system. The time of manual transmissions is over at Audi Sport, the brand’s performance sub-brand, but judging from our experience with the RS5, most customers will be exceedingly happy with the automatic. It’s as good as automatics get, although there’s no doubt we’d still enjoy shifting for ourselves.

As for aural output, the twin-turbo V-6 will be no match for the RS4’s previous naturally aspirated V-8, but at least the cabin can be filled with sporty noises, depending on the driving mode selected. Zero to 62 mph takes a mere 4.1 seconds, Audi says, while top speed is governed at 155 mph, or 174 mph if you’re willing to cough up a bit of extra dough.

Based on our experience with the RS5, we expect the RS4 to handle exceedingly well even with its standard suspension and 19-inch wheels. Twenty-inch wheels are optional, as are a mode-adjustable suspension, dynamic steering, and ceramic brakes. Those ingredients make the RS5 capable of heroic performance, even if the combination doesn’t quite deliver the most visceral experience. At Audi’s claimed curb weight of 3946 pounds, this RS4 station wagon is no lightweight, but it is said to be 176 pounds more svelte than its predecessor despite added safety and comfort equipment.

The RS4 Avant is clearly differentiated visually from its lesser siblings, with blistered fenders inspired by those of the original Quattro making it 1.2 inches wider front and rear. It also gets a rear diffuser, a roof spoiler, and two fat oval tailpipes. The optional Nogaro Blue color evokes the classic RS2 Avant (it was also used on a limited run of previous-gen RS4 Avants). Inside, there is pure blackness, accentuated with RS-specific gauges and carbon trim with aluminum contrast elements.

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To be priced at the equivalent of about $95,000 when it appears in European dealerships in early 2018, the Audi RS4 Avant is slightly cheaper than its RS5 coupe sibling in Germany. And its station-wagon body makes it spacious, striking, and, to our eyes, incredibly desirable.

But while it hasn’t been categorically ruled out, the RS4 Avant is unlikely to come to the United States, since Audi believes we don’t like station wagons. It’s worth noting that an RS4 sedan is unlikely to see production any time soon, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we at least get an Audi RS5 Sportback, which has a hatchback sedan body, and we’ll continue to beat the drum for more high-performance wagons on our side of the pond.

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