The 2020 Audi RS 4 Avant proves the best car is always a wagon

Performance SUVs are sprouting up like weeds, but performance wagons offer similar practicality without the added weight and higher center of gravity. That argument hasn’t helped sales of wagons, which remain a niche category in the United States. So, while Audi plans to import its latest RS 6 Avant hot road wagon, the smaller 2020 RS 4 Avant remains out of reach.

The RS 4 Avant is a performance version of the Audi A4 Avant wagon. Audi recently gave the rest of the A4 lineup an update, and the RS 4 is now following suit. On the outside, Audi changed the shape of the headlights, altered the grille, and added a redesigned rear diffuser. On the inside, the RS 4 Avant gets a new 10.1-inch touchscreen for the Audi MMI infotainment system, with RS-specific graphics for both the screen and the Audi Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster.

No changes were made under the hood, so the RS 4 Avant continues with a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that makes 444 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. The engine is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive. The latter defaults to a 40/60 front/rear split, but can send up to 70 percent of power to the front wheels, or 85 percent to the rear wheels. A torque-vectoring system can also redistribute power to individual wheels using the brakes. An optional “Sport Differential” does basically the same thing, but only for the rear axle, and with more gusto.

Audi claims the RS 4 Avant will do 0 to 62 mph in 4.0 seconds. The top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, but the limiter can be raised to 174 mph as an option.

The RS 4 Avant also gets sportier suspension with adaptive dampers, model-specific 19-inch wheels, and upgraded brakes. Steel brake rotors are standard, but carbon ceramic rotors are also available. Another option is “Dynamic Steering,” which automatically adjusts power-steering boost based on speed. Like many new cars, the RS 4 Avant has multiple drive modes, including RS-specific RS1 and RS2 that include more aggressive settings for the engine, transmission, steering, suspension, and all-wheel drive system.

The 2020 Audi RS 4 Avant isn’t coming to the U.S., but Audi offers the mechanically similar RS 5 in coupe, convertible, and Sportback (five-door hatchback) body styles. U.S. wagon enthusiasts can also look forward to the 2020 Audi RS 6 Avant, a bigger wagon boasting a 600-hp twin-turbo V8.

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