This is the Audi RS4 Avant, a 444bhp super-estate. It's the Mk3 RS4 Avant, and it will only be available as an Avant (the first RS4 was an estate-only twin-turbo V6, the second a brilliant V8-engined rival for the M3 and available in saloon and Avant guises).
Important things first – how much space does the Audi RS4 Avant have for my Labrador and luggage?
There’s up to 1430 litres of boot space. Moving on…
The RS4 Avant is effectively a five-door version of the RS5 Coupe. On the one hand that’s a good thing: there’s a high-revving 4.2-litre V8, four-wheel drive, and a clever seven-speed dual-clutch S-tronic gearbox. That means 444bhp produced at 8250rpm, plus a chunky 317lb ft from 4000 to 6000rpm. 0-62mph is dispatched in a dog-slammed-against-the-rear-window 4.7 seconds, top speed is limited to 155mph, and if you give Audi a little more cash, that limit can be raised to 174mph. Official fuel consumption is 25.7mpg.
So what’s the bad news?
The bad news is that the RS5 Coupe wasn’t much cop. Quality levels are superb, as is the high-speed stability, and you can go quickly with the minimum of fuss. But it’s not entertaining. We’re not talking about sideways slides that are irrelevant to 99% of the population either, rather the lumpy ride and leaden steering that made even tackling a roundabout unexciting.
The R8 supercar aside, the last RS4 was Audi’s best car for generations, so this third-gen über-wagon has a lot to live up to.
What else do we know about the new Audi RS4 Avant?
Quattro four-wheel drive is, of course, standard, with a crown-gear centre differential sporting a standard 40:60 front-to-rear power split, but with the ability to send 70% of torque to the front or 85% to the rear. And there’s torque vectoring too, with the electronics braking the inside wheels to reduce slip, while the optional Sport differential can distribute power between the rear wheels.
Chassis-wise the RS4 Avant sits 20mm lower than a regular A4 Avant, and it’s also 20mm longer and 24mm wider thanks to the RS4-specific bodykit. Silver wing mirrors and twin oval exhaust also mark out this RS model. Forged ten-spoke 19in aluminium wheels are standard, with 20in rims as an option. There’s a brake upgrade too (365mm front discs) with 380mm front carbon-ceramic discs a costly extra.
Audi’s Drive Select system is standard-fit and offers Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes for the steering, S-tronic ‘box and throttle, while Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) is an option and features diagonally linked shock absorbers to aid stability during cornering.
The interior features a host of RS upgrades, from sports seats to carbon trim, a smattering of RS4 badges, while chunky bucket seats are an optional extra.
Audi UK has yet to announced prices, but reckon on £55k-£60k when the new RS4 Avant arrives on our shores later in 2012.
>> Click here for more news on the Audi RS4 from our sister website Parkers