The most important aspect of improving anything is to make it noticeable. While the RS line-up is unashamed in its breadth of expansion, at no stage is a retrograde step taken. This is never more obvious than with the latest RS4 Avant. As a mainstay of the RS line-up, the revised design stance is stretched to new limits, with an integrated front radiator grille, even bolder wheel arches and a blisteringly rapid, 444bhp, bi-turbo-petrol V6, 2.9-litre engine. Visually different, its sensorial appeal is on another plain.
Set for launch in early-2020, around which time the UK prices will be confirmed, it is a powerhouse of memorable status, capable of scorching from 0-60mph in a mere 3.8s, the engine weighs a mere 182kgs, which benefits its dynamic qualities hugely. Armed with 442lbs ft of torque from less than 2,000rpm, its maximum speed (when specified in RS Dynamic form) is given as an electronically restricted 174mph. By installing the twin turbochargers within the vee of the inline engine, it is a remarkably compact under-bonnet design. According to the latest WLTP rating, it is capable of 30.7mpg, with CO2 emissions pegged at 211g/km. Allied to its probable (over £40k) price tag, it is going to present a hefty annual road tax bill.
The quattro drivetrain allows constantly variable torque to be applied to either end of the car, which ensures the ultimate handling agility and traction, regardless of conditions. The driver needs to forget all about the conventions of under, or oversteer, because the drivetrain adapts constantly to create a neutral handling envelope. No matter how hard the RS4 is pushed into a bend, it manages the torque transition to precisely where it can be of greatest and safest benefit. Yet, the taut feedback and near roll-free handling proves to be surprisingly entertaining to the driver.
Standard 19.0-inch forged alloys can be swapped (at extra cost) for 20.0-inch alternatives and, if the standard brake system is insufficient, a ceramic system is also available as an option. The customary MMI and touchscreen have been improved, the central touch display now being 10.1-inches and featuring a new touch-sensitive operation, with acoustic feedback. The range of information pages that can be drawn-up verges on mind-boggling. As with the main digital instrument display, it can be reconfigured to driver requirements and accessed via an RS button on the steering wheel.
Lowering the rear seats expands the boot capacity from 495-litres to 1,495-litres, with electric access to the boot. The rest of the interior is familiar RS fayre, with diamond stitched Nappa hide covering the seats and door cards and coloured mood lighting (from a selectable choice of around 30 shades) picking out the centre console and door areas.