Used 2008 Audi RS 4
Edmunds' Expert Review
Want high-end sports car performance, but need an actual backseat and trunk? The 2008 Audi RS 4 may be just what the doctor ordered, as it's more fun than an M5 and much less expensive. No one will ever call it cheap, though.
Audi made a giant leap when it shoehorned a V8 into a compact luxury sedan with the S4. To make sure it wasn't quickly outdone by its perpetual rivals from Munich and Stuttgart, the 2008 Audi RS 4 is its pre-emptive strike of sorts, boasting a manic 420-horsepower V8 attached to a tweaked version of the Quattro all-wheel-drive system that skews power to the rear wheels. Beyond its fiercer V8, the RS 4 further differs from the relatively tame S4 via a more sporting chassis, bigger brakes and 19-inch wheels. These additions create a car that is simply superb in all the areas that make a top-notch performance car: acceleration, braking, ride quality and cornering.
For 2008, the RS 4 sedan is joined by a Cabriolet model that will be available in limited numbers. With the same supremely powerful V8 squeezed under its hood, the RS 4 Cabriolet should provide some of the most topless fun one can have outside the Playboy mansion. Like the tamer S4, the convertible version has less aggressively bolstered sport seats and a slightly different interior design, as well as obvious reductions in body rigidity.
As BMW and Mercedes prepare to up the ante in the ever-increasing horsepower war with their respective new M3 and C63 AMG, Audi can rest assured that it already has a thoroughly awesome weapon ready for battle. In a comparison test, we even picked the RS 4 over the BMW M5. The shocking price tag attached to the 2008 Audi RS 4 (and its new competitors) will probably make some people think twice about ponying up that much for a compact sedan, but between its power, agility and utility, the Audi makes a rational case for itself against similarly priced sports cars and larger luxury sedans.
2008 Audi RS 4 configurations
The 2008 Audi RS 4 is a compact ultra-performance car based on the Audi A4, and it's available in sedan and convertible body styles. Standard features include 19-inch wheels with 255/35 high-performance tires, Dynamic Ride Control suspension, xenon headlights, Recaro sport seats with power adjustment (the Cabriolet has less aggressive, non-Recaro seats) and front seat heaters. Silk napa leather upholstery, carbon-fiber cabin trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 10-speaker audio system with six-disc CD changer, a sunroof (on the sedan, obviously) and rear park assist are also standard.
A premium package is optional on the sedan and includes auto-dimming mirrors, a navigation system, an upgraded Bose audio system with satellite radio, heated rear seats, Homelink, a power rear sunshade and Bluetooth capability. These items are all standard on the limited-production RS 4 Cabriolet. Integration for an iPod is a stand-alone option on the sedan and a no-cost option in place of the standard six-CD changer on the Cabriolet. The Titanium and Audi Exclusive Packages add special exterior and interior trim features to the RS 4 sedan.
Performance & mpg
A 4.2-liter V8 engine powers the RS 4. Equipped with direct fuel injection and sporting a 12.5:1 compression ratio, this powerhouse makes 420 hp and 317 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual gearbox (the only transmission offered) sends the power to all four wheels through Audi's Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which has a 40/60 front-to-rear power split in this application. During instrumented testing, an RS 4 sedan shot to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 13 seconds at 107 mph, which should be good enough to hang with the new M3 and C63 AMG.
Stability control, antilock brakes, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags are all standard on the 2008 Audi RS 4. (The Cabriolet doesn't have the curtains, though). Official crash tests have not been performed on the RS 4, but one could assume with fair confidence that its scores would be similar to the good ratings achieved by the regular A4 sedan.
With more than 400 hp and the grip of all-wheel drive, the 2008 Audi RS 4 has no problem catapulting itself off the line or out of a corner. With a broad torque spread, there's always power on tap. Apart from the incredible acceleration, the RS 4 makes a strong showing in the braking and handling departments. Through the curves, the RS 4 is a composed master despite its hefty curb weight. Inside Line testers recorded a slalom speed of 70.6 mph, which puts the RS 4 in an elite circle of cars with four doors. In fact, we awarded it first place in a comparison test against the BMW M5. Confidence and grip from the front tires are superb, balance is good and steering feel at speed is better than any Audi we've ever driven.
Audi consistently produces some of the finest automobile interiors, and the 2008 RS 4 is no exception. The sedan design differs slightly from the Cabriolet's, but both models feature superb materials, excellent fit and finish, and efficient controls. The navigation system isn't the most user-friendly design, though. As a serious performance car, the S4 sedan is saddled with standard Recaro front seats, which feature aggressive bolstering to hold one in place when zipping around corners. Although the rear seat is fine for small children, adults seated back there will likely complain about a shortage of legroom. Of course, it's a welcome amount of space compared to sports cars that offer similar performance.
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We can hardly believe our eyes. We're part of a group huddled in the pre-dawn light of Paris, and no one has stepped up to snag the keys to the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet present for our edification. Yes, that RS4 — the one with the fantastic 420-horsepower V8 up its nose now comes as a convertible.
Apparently everyone else is afraid that by wading into the notorious Parisian traffic they risk getting brushed off the road by a wayward bus, into the path of an apple cart or a row of café tables.
Enough of this. Haven't they seen the short film Rendezvous (1976) by Claude Lelouch? You know, the one where a guy races through the pre-dawn light of Paris in what is supposed to be a Ferrari 275 GTB to meet with his sweet mademoiselle near the steps of the Sacré Coeur? Decision made. Hand over the keys already.
Rendezvous With a 4.2-Liter V8
Years after Lelouch was arrested by the French police because they believed he had broken every traffic law on the books, the director finally said that Rendezvous is actually a masterpiece of automotive lip-synching. Lelouch admitted on French television that the car to which he lashed his camera was in fact a Mercedes sedan, not a blood-red Ferrari. Tire squeal and damn good engine noises were dubbed in.
With the top peeled back on the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet, we get a full dose of the spine-tingling DOHC 4.2-liter. And it puts Mr. Lelouch's admirable sound effects out to pasture. By sheer luck, our route is nearly identical to that taken by Lelouch for the first half of his short film, almost corner by corner, so the 420-hp (SAE) wail of the Audi V8 echoes off many of the same walls — and more than a few buses.
We don't run nearly as many red lights down the Champs-Élysées as Lelouch did on his infamous run, and there are more scooters jockeying for position these days. But this simply presents us with more opportunities to stab the loud pedal and ratchet up and down through the six-speed manual transmission, blipping the throttle rather more than necessary in pursuit of more noise. As with the RS4 sedan, the six-speed manual is the only gearbox offered for the RS4 Cabriolet.
Who knew that Audi's all-wheel drive makes it a cinch to put down 420 hp, even on greasy cobblestones?
Two Doors, Top Down
The top itself is standard fare from the A4 Cabriolet. Though there's lots of enthusiasm these days for hardtop convertibles, this one remains a fabric contraption trimmed with a handsome lining. All-electric operation ensues with the touch of a button; there's no need to manipulate additional levers or interlocks.
Any mechanism for a convertible top takes up space in the passenger package, and the RS4 cabrio is no exception. Rear-seat legroom shrinks from 34.3 to 32.4 inches, and narrower quarters dictate that only two can sit back there. The trunk also gets smaller, but not by much — it's 10.2 cubic feet instead of 13.4. But this figure stays constant, top up or top down. A hard tonneau covers the folded top, leaving no bustle to impede the hustle.
There is no such thing as a coupe in the A4 nation, so the two-door body is specific to convertible variants like the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet. The changes to the RS4's rear quarters take some of the aggression out of the car's stance. But fear not, because the RS4's well-tuned suspension, massive brakes and 255/35ZR19 Michelin Pilot Sport tires reside within the flared wheel arches of the RS4 Cabriolet.
It's a good thing, too, as the rubber has a bit more work to do. Based on our editorial calculus (official figures are still pending) we expect the RS4 convertible to weigh nearly 4,300 pounds, upward of 340 pounds more than the RS4 sedan.
This weight, combined with the structural side effects of roof decapitation, is sure to dull the edge of the RS4 Cabriolet's performance. But it's impossible to know or care here on the streets of Paris. Final word will have to wait until we can get our hands on one back home in America. Last time we checked, there was plenty of RS4 performance to go around.
Finally clear of town, the RS4's 420-hp V8 has no trouble propelling us at ludicrous speed. Our baseball cap doesn't stand a chance of staying in place, yet we don't mind going without, as the wind buffeting isn't too bad if the side windows are rolled up. An effective windblocker can also be fitted across the rear seat.
Cabriolet versions of the A4 and S4 typically cost between $8,000 and $9,000 more than their fixed-roof counterparts, so this makes the $82,675 price tag for the RS4 Cabriolet a real jaw-dropper, as it's some $15,000 higher than the cost of the RS4 sedan. As it turns out, the RS4 Cabriolet will come fully loaded with all of the options of the RS4 sedan as standard equipment, but we're thinking this is still a lot of money for something that looks like an A4.
Audi of America realizes that the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet will appeal to a limited audience. But it's in the lineup now because there are always those who want to be seen in the most exclusive model, even if it means trading a portion of the go for a bit of extra show. You probably won't ever see one on the showroom floor, however, since a special order is necessary.
Meanwhile, Somewhere in France
As our turn at the wheel of the RS4 Cabriolet comes to an end, rain begins to fall and the top goes up. Outside Paris, the roads prove to be smooth and straight as an arrow, with no chance of enjoying what the V8 has to offer.
We're glad to have roared around Paris in the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet with its top down. The City of Lights has been in full view, the 19-inch Michelin rubber lightly chirped on the cobbles and the engine provided a suitably fierce soundtrack.
Are you ready to film a sequel to Rendezvous, Monsieur Lelouch? We've got the car for you, and no lip-synching will be necessary. You'll need a bigger budget, though.
Used 2008 Audi RS 4 Overview
The Used 2008 Audi RS 4 is offered in the following submodels: RS 4 Sedan, RS 4 Convertible. Available styles include quattro 4dr Sedan AWD (4.2L 8cyl 6M), and quattro 2dr Convertible AWD (4.2L 8cyl 6M).
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Audi RS 4?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.