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Much like the difference between a merely competent steed and the legendary Seabiscuit, there's quick and then there's quick. If you're a driver looking for breathtaking performance in an ultra-performance sport sedan, then there's little need to look further than the Audi RS4. Gobbling distance with ruthless speed and efficiency, the RS4 is endowed with all the traits that leave enthusiasts salivating like babies.
Other German manufacturers have performed like straight-A students in this segment, but the RS4 indicates that Audi did its homework. Ridiculously powerful engine? Check. The RS4 sedan came ready for the smackdown thanks to a V8 that, with more than 400 horsepower, offered more muscle than a WWE cage match — just what you'd expect from a car in this rarefied class. Superior ride and handling? Check. Audi's runner even managed to best the rear-wheel-drive competition by a nose thanks to its all-wheel-drive system. And the RS4's extraordinarily supportive seats meant your back wouldn't ever beg you to plead "time out" from all the festivities.
Downsides? The RS4's compact dimensions added welcome nimbleness, but they also resulted in rear seats that were somewhat on the cramped side. And then there was its rarity, as it was sold for just two years. With patience, though, one will certainly be able to find a used model. Price? Well, it's expensive. But don't let that stop you. Retirement plan, schmetirement plan. An object of desire if ever there was one, the Audi RS4 is the type of sport sedan that puts the fun in reckless spending.
The Audi RS4 sport sedan was sold in North America for the 2007 and '08 model years and was a product of Quattro GmbH, Audi's performance division. (There's some inherent confusion here, as Audi brands its all-wheel-drive system "Quattro" as well.) Essentially, the RS4 was an amplified version of the S4 sedan, itself already a performance variant of the third-generation Audi A4 sold from 2006-'08. Highlights included a higher-output V8, specific suspension tuning with Dynamic Ride Control, modified all-wheel-drive components, more powerful brakes, special 19-inch wheels and high-performance tires. Identifying the RS4 was more aggressive exterior styling, including flared fenders and a unique rear deck lid spoiler. Overall, this super sport sedan had a look that said "performance" without shouting it.
The RS4 came in just one well-equipped trim level. Heated leather seats, dual-zone automatic climate control and bi-HID headlights all make an appearance on its standard features list. Motivating the Audi RS4 was a high-performance 4.2-liter V8 good for 420 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque; the engine offered 80 more horsepower than you'd find in the S4. Only one transmission was offered: a six-speed manual. Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system made sure the wheels never broke their kiss with the road.
This Audi's cabin placed an emphasis on clean lines. Though there was the requisite supple leather, plushness wasn't the focus; rather, the car's interior championed a pared-down aesthetic that favored sleekness over opulence. The RS4's sport seats looked good and felt good, offering bolstering that cradled you in the corners without ever being too overwhelming. There was ample room for those in front, but rear seat passengers typically found their accommodations a bit cramped.
But of course, this sport sedan was all about performance. At its debut, the Audi RS4 seemed to have a couple of strikes against it. Weighing in at about 4,000 pounds, it was one of the more porcine players in the class. And its design placed the V8 engine heavily over its front axle, compromising steering feel and weight distribution. But somehow the RS4 managed to transcend all this the way a Teflon politician transcends a scandal.
Certainly helping matters was the Dynamic Ride Control system. DRC linked the diagonally opposite front and rear dampers with a gas-charged reservoir to allow more compliance when front and rear dampers were compressed at the same time, ensuring a comfortable highway ride with minimal compromise during performance driving.
In reviews, we found that the RS4's handling was near perfect, with the sort of steely composure that remains undaunted no matter what. Acceleration was explosive, shifts were quick and a broad torque band ensured that there was ample power underfoot for all situations. In testing, we measured a 0-60-mph time of just 4.3 seconds.
It should be noted that although the RS4 was new to the United States when it debuted, there was an older RS4 briefly sold in Europe. Sold for 2000 as an Avant wagon only, it came with a 375-hp, turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 engine.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Audi RS 4 page.