Audi RS4's a pocket rocket.
I see people are still paying mountains of money to book a place on a rocket into space some time in the future. Silly. For a mere pounds 50,000 they could have their own pocket rocket, permanently-- and now.
Welcome aboard the Audi RS4. Here we have the most powerful medium-sized car Audi has ever built, steeped in racing tradition and, simply, one wow of a driving experience.
In fact, let's skip the looks ( the skirts, the coathanger shoulders over 19in low-profile tyres, the spoilers, the gills, two big chrome tailpipes etc ( and get to the heart of this treat.
Into an A4-sized car is stuffed a 4.2-litre V8 FSi direct injection engine, revving all the way up to an amazing 8,250rpm, and it is, frankly a beast in the nicest possible way.
Power is well past the 400bhp mark, while torque reaches a mighty 318lb/ft. That's at 5,500 revs, but, tellingly, 90% of that pull is available from 2,200, so lift-off is there any time you want it.
Press the starter button and feel the V8 throb; tighten the electronically-adjusting bolsters to grip you still more in the bucket seats and step on the aluminium accelerator.
In well under five seconds you are passing 60mph and the G-forces are mounting; keep going and you would reach 155mph, and probably well beyond it if a limiter was not in place.
There is a price to pay, as you expect; the engine likes Super Plus unleaded, delivers 21mpg on average and churns out an awful 324g/km of carbon dioxide. Wallet and conscience are severely damaged.
But back to our drive. The growing jungle roar of the V8 is a spine-tingler all by itself, but there is quick appreciation of how the RS4 handles all this power. It's set 30mm lower than the standard A4 and with wider tracking, there's a high-performance aluminium suspension beneath it all, four-arm front axle and trapezoid-arm rear axle, and the car is concrete-solid in its build.
The ensuing ride is also a bit concrete-like in its firmness but the control is magnificent; likewise the grip and steering feel and accuracy, a real joy as you weave through bends. I sought out the nearest thing I could find near here to the "Route Napoleon" to savour the joy of it all, and then went back and did it again.
It does get a bit noisy ( the engine and those big tyres ( but that's the racecar nature of the RS4.
Audi has cleverly teamed the V8 with a short-throw six-speed manual gearbox to deliver the best-possible driving experience, with flowing ratios. Given the power and pull, even top gear is impressively responsive.
What I haven't even mentioned yet is the all-wheel drive. The car actually arrived in a snow storm, which had motorists slithering and sliding everywhere. Not the RS4, where you could feel the ABS and traction controls managing the ice-rink conditions with aplomb.
Not so obvious was the brake-drying function, in which the pads are automatically lightly applied to the discs just enough to remove any water. Audi has donated the majority ( 60% ( of the drive to the rear wheels in normal circumstances for greater control, working in conjunction with Dynamic Ride Control, which gives enhanced damper control whenever a shock absorber is compressed. Away from the technical stuff, the RS4 is not the roomiest of cars, particularly for those at the back, but the cabin is a welcoming place to be.
Audi has an expertise in decor and here you get liberal use of aluminium, carbon fibre and leather with white stitching.
The specially-designed steering wheel is a major plus, offers reach and height adjustment and includes remote audio controls, with a cruise control stalk behind it.
The compact-dash console is sensibly laid out ( perhaps the info/optional satnav screen could be set higher ( and sweeps through the centre of the car to a central armrest which can be flipped out of the way. Trip computer read-outs ( and a shorthand version of the satnav, if fitted ( are displayed in front of the driver between the major dials.
Equipment levels are extensive and include, in addition to items already mentioned, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, front and side airbags, electric windows and heated door mirrors, 10-speaker radio/CD system with MP3 compatibility, front foglights and Xenon Plus headlights. No one is going to buy the RS4 for use as a family runaround, but as a pleasure machine it is right up there with the best of them.