Audi RS4

audi_rs4_interior.jpg

Allow me to dispense with the unimportant stuff. The RS4 looks like Shawne Merriman in a tight blue shirt, its mirrors are too small and the interior is stereotypically Audi-perfect minus the ugly, useless strip of tacky carbon fiber trim half-circling the dash. The stereo sounds tinny and the back seats are a joke. Got it? Good.

Most buff books clock the RS4′s 0-60 time at 4.6 seconds. That’s stupid fast indeed, just ahead of its main competition, the M3. However, what they leave out is that the RS4 can do 0-110 in 4.7 seconds. Or at least it feels like it can.

Blindfolded, you would swear the Audi is being launched from a trebuchet. Sitting forward of the front wheels is an all-aluminum, 317lbs., 4.2-liter miracle of human imagination. Yes, it makes 420hp, but so does a Dodge SRT-8. While fun, the Dodge Boys’ 6.1-liter Hemi is far from miraculous. The RS4′s V8 is nothing short of a revelation.
audi_rs4_01.jpg

Let’s say you’re cruising at 80mph in sixth-gear and the engine is doing 3,000rpm, the mechanical equivalent of sipping a latte. You downshift to fifth and the engine quickly and smoothly spins up to 4,000rpm. In most cars, the engine would slow you down; the RS4 just screams louder and burns more gas. Your velocity remains unchanged.
In first gear, release the clutch without touching the go-pedal. You won’t stall. You’ll go. Also, a V8 with an 8,250rpm redline is mechanical heroin.

Fine, so the engine is a torque-tastic beast, but they put it in an Audi so it’s nothing more than a bloated understeerer totally devoid of road feel and reflexes, right? Dead wrong. I have a turgid, secret back road I use to evaluate the handling prowess of my testers.

Until this week, Porsche’s Boxster was the champ. I could whip it through the turns at 70mph. For comparison’s sake, the nearly-as-nifty handling Miata could “only” do the twists at about 60mph. The RS4 dominated the two-mile stretch at 100mph, and if I wasn’t so ham-fisted it could have gone faster. Much faster.

Audi used every trick in the playbook to get the RS4 – with 58% of its weight over the front wheels – to handle near-on perfectly. Credit the DRC (Dynamic Ride Control) which hydraulically links the diagonal suspension bits to each other. As the front wheels read the road, the rear shocks preemptively (and correctly) react. This setup works so well the WRC just banned it.

The engineers also made sure every body panel in front of the doors is composed of kilogram saving aluminum. And the 19″ Pirellis are fantastic. While the initial turn in isn’t as effortless and eager as say an EVO, this two-ton all-wheel driver can safely carry more speed through a corner than you can handle. After the apex, the RS4 can blast sideways with such force that you will swear you are piloting violence.

And that’s before you push the innocuous little button marked “S.” Normally, the RS4 is faster than whatever car you are driving next to, sounds bonkers and has a devastatingly punishing ride. Push the button though, and three things happen.

First, the throttle control is remapped so that the rev-happy mill will crank faster with less input. Second, valves open in the mufflers changing the sound from Howard Dean’s scream to Gunnery Sgt. Hartman showing Joker his war face. Lastly, the shocks get firmer and the ride goes from mercilessly painful to f-you. I absolutely love it. Forget violence, you are now driving war.

There aren’t enough superlatives (or space) to properly describe the vulgar joy of driving an RS4. For instance, I haven’t even mentioned that the brakes are stolen from Lamborghini’s Gallardo. Nor did I tell you that while normally quite brave and stupid, I was too frightened to turn off the handling nanny. In short, if you have the means, the RS4 is your end. Right. Now excuse me. I’ve got some sinning to do before the Audi man comes and it’s time to repent.

Scribbled on November 15th 2006 in robson.m3Rlin.org
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