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Audi RS4's a pocket rocket.

Byline: By John Scantlebury

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.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 3, 2007
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