In a world where carmakers seem to focus on fulfilling clients’ requests for SUVs, the estate car is still out there, and with the release of several new models, the market segment of hot, potent estate cars seems to have made a resurgence. One of those members that saw daylight at the end of last year is the Audi RS4 Competition Plus, or just Competition; the name depends on the package you have chosen and the country you are living in.
The Audi RS4 has always been a benchmark for high-performance sports cars, and the latest iteration, the Audi RS4 Competition Plus, takes this to a whole new level. With numerous upgrades and enhancements, this car offers an enhanced driving experience for enthusiasts who demand the very best. The German engineers made a smart selection of hardware and software upgrades, making Audi’s iconic performance wagon sharper and more fun to drive. Or shall we say, a little less German?
History of the Audi RS4
The Audi RS4 has been around since 1999, with the first-generation model being introduced as a sedan. Since then, the RS4 has been offered in both sedan and estate versions, and the latest model is no exception. Over the years, the RS4 has earned a reputation for being one of the most exciting and high-performing cars in the Audi lineup, thanks to its powerful engines, sport-tuned suspension, and Quattro all-wheel-drive system.
With the release of the facelifted fourth-generation B9 RS4 Avant in late 2019, the Germans introduced a refresh, mostly focused on subtle cosmetic changes and new LED headlights and taillights. The updated model also featured a fresh interior design, highlighted by a new 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen that includes Audi’s latest MMI acoustic response technology, which replaced the previous model’s rotary controller.
Of course, all these changes were part of the RS4 test car provided to me by Audi AG for a two-week road trip to the UK. Dressed in Nardo grey, a color not available on UK Competition models, the RS4 with its Competition (Plus) packages is a step above the standard Audi RS4 Wagon in several key areas. Both packages are offered as optional extras and not as specific model variants. However, this depends on where you live because, in the UK, you can order the Competition model, which is limited to only 75 units and doesn’t come with those lovely carbon buckets.
By opting for the Competition package, drivers can enjoy a maximum speed of 290 km/h, amplified engine noise through the updated RS sports exhaust system, and new 20-inch alloy wheels that are 2kg lighter than the standard ones, accompanied by the standard-fit carbon-ceramic brakes. During the summer, the car comes equipped with 275/30 front and rear tires, with the option to upgrade to ultra-high-performance Pirelli P Zero Corsas. The Competition Plus package goes a step further by offering enhanced handling capabilities, featuring an upgraded quattro sport rear differential, quicker fixed-ratio steering, and RS sport pro suspension with coil-over steel springs on the front axle, which is both height-adjustable and features adjustable rebound and compression damping.
As you can see, there is a notable list of changes. However, one key area has been left alone, and that is the car’s 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine, which produces 444 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. The absence of more oomph doesn’t mean this car isn’t faster because enhancing the performance can be done in different ways.
And here is where the geeky upgrades start, so inconspicuous that you need to open up the bonnet, dive under the car, and really switch on your senses while driving to feel the differences. They are there; you just have to search and find them.
Let’s start with the software. The engine now revs to 5,000 rpm instead of 3,800 rpm at standstill. The onboard engine control unit was recoded for a faster throttle response, the gearbox mapping revitalized for quicker, shorter shifts, and a quicker 1:13.1 steering was installed as well. It is one of the quickest fitted to a modern production car. I hope you now start to understand where we are heading here. The engineers in Ingolstadt took a magnifying glass and tuned the RS4 to perfection, allowing the car to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.8 seconds, which is 0.2 seconds faster than its ‘normal’ brother.
Handling & Agility
One of the standout features of the Audi RS4 Competition Plus is its handling. The wagon has a sport-tuned suspension system with adjustable dampers, allowing the driver to fine-tune the handling to their liking. Yes, you read that right… A performance wagon with a three-way adjustable suspension. You can’t get any more niche in this segment! The struts have new damper calibrations and are connected to stiffer anti-roll bars. They also allow you to lower the body by 20mm, in two steps of 10mm each.
The combination of all this new hardware transforms the RS4 into a family-friendly toy that is fun, agile, and a lot less serious. It feels nimble on its feet, and through further recalibration, the Bavarians have been able to create a package that is an absolute must-have for those seeking more “connectivity” from their Audi RS4. The front end of the wagon exudes an additional level of authority, the steering feels more precise, and the enhanced responsiveness of the chassis and throttle make the vehicle a joy to drive.
Inside the cabin, you are treated to the usual Audi refinement, combined with those wonderful carbon bucket seats that are incredibly comfortable and offer excellent support for both the driver and passenger. The rear bench provides enough space for two additional adults, not a third, and in the trunk, you have plenty of room for your luggage. There is nothing out of the ordinary here, with every aspect performing its task splendidly.
After driving the RS4 for two weeks and later experiencing the new BMW M3 Touring, the most noticeable detail and significant change compared to the standard RS4 is how all the new features make the car feel more light-footed and the ride quality more poised on its coil-overs than any of its competitors. The vehicle never feels harsh, but you can sense its track-ready nature when encountering bumps and potholes.
The overall dynamic package feels more cohesive than ever before and is also more approachable for engaged drivers. While the new BMW M3 Touring may be more capable on the track, you only truly tap into that nature when you push it to its grip limits. With the RS4 Competition Plus, you have more fun throughout its range of abilities, even on a daily commute along country roads. It doesn’t constantly strive to exceed expectations like the touring version from Garching does.
All in all, the RS4 Competition is a special machine, meant for purists who understand the niche it occupies. The car’s flared wheel arches, sharp lines, and large air intakes give it a muscular and athletic stance, similar to the standard RS4. However, the absence of any competition badging across the car makes its limited nature even more noteworthy and unassuming. Especially in a package that doesn’t prioritize visual showmanship, but rather puts the driver first without compromising the everyday practicality that made it desirable in the first place. And that, precisely, is something we should appreciate in today’s world where generic driving experiences and over-the-top design choices seem to dominate conversations.[Photos by @MSCK64 on Instagram – Vincent Toth]