The “RS” prefix signifies a performance version of a regular Audi model; it’s the mark of Quattro GmbH, Audi’s version of BMW’s M Division and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG in-house tuner. To show that the RS4 is more than an ordinary station wagon, Quattro gave it some more aggressive exterior styling, including a new front fascia with larger, lower air intakes, flared wheel arches, and a rear diffuser with cannon-sized tailpipes.
On the inside, the RS4 gets a flat-bottomed steering wheel and carbon-fiber trim to distinguish it from an ordinary A4. It will probably get strongly bolstered bucket seats as well, to keep the driver in place through hard cornering.
The RS4 shares its platform with the RS5 coupe, so it is not surprising that it shares its two-door cousin’s heart: a 4.2-liter V8. This is the same engine that was used in the previous RS4, and the R8 supercar. It will likely produce 450 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque in the RS4, mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The RS5 goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds; the heavier RS4 will probably take a bit longer, but will still be pretty quick for a wagon. Like most German sport sedans and wagons, the RS4 will be limited to 155 mph, but Audi will raise the limit to 174 mph for an extra charge.
The RS4 will only be available as a wagon (Avant in Audi-speak), which is a bit of a regression for Audi. The first “RS” model, the RS2, was only built in wagon-form because, critics said, Audi was afraid to take on the BMW M3 directly (BMW has never made an M3 wagon).
Many critics still claim that four-wheel-drive Audis, especially the high-tech RS5, keep the driver isolated from the action and are consequently less enjoyable than the rear-wheel-drive BMW M3. Nonetheless, when Audi built the first V8 RS4 sedan, BMW answered it with a V8 M3. When Audi and Quattro replaced that car with the more fuel-efficient S4, BMW decided to scrap the V8 M3. It might be a coincidence, but it seems like the M Division has been watching Quattro pretty closely.
Corporate rivalries aside, the RS4 will definitely be the fastest station wagon in production when it makes its official debut at Geneva next month.