2008 Audi RS 4 Expert Review

You'll Like The 2008 Audi RS 4 If...

The 2008 Audi RS 4 offers the best of both worlds for anyone turned on by the guttural sound and performance of a highly-tuned V8 muscle car, but who also demands the sophisticated agility of a European sport car. All-wheel drive satisfies those who live in four-season climate zones and crave a high-performance sport sedan that does not have to hibernate during snowy winters.

You May Not Like The 2008 Audi RS 4 If...

The 2008 Audi RS 4 is definitely for the hardcore driving enthusiast willing to put up with a stiffer ride, snug-fitting sports seats and an engine that can, when provoked, sing louder than the stereo. Those who prefer looking sporty while riding smoothly will be better served by an S4 or A4.

What's New

A two-door Cabriolet version joins the Sedan, with a limited run of just 300 cars. SIRIUS satellite radio is made standard and two new packages are offered on the Sedan: the Titanium Package adds titanium-colored 19-inch wheels, black grille and trim, black headliner and Piano Black inlays, and the Exclusive Package adds red leather seat centers, contrasting red piping and red stitching on the shift boot, hand brake and steering wheel.

Interior Features

Carbon fiber, aluminum and leather dominate the interior, with the steering wheel, shift knob and emergency brake handle covered in leather with grippy perforations. Thickly-bolstered Recaro sports seats, supportive but a bit snug, are covered in luxurious Nappa hide with embossed RS 4 logos in the upper backrest. The pedals, including a substantial-sized left footrest, feature aluminum accents. A stopwatch with lap timer function has been added to the standard full-color LCD display panel that dominates the center stack.

Exterior Features

The 2008 Audi RS 4 pushes the already-aggressive stance of regular production Audis, with boldly-contoured fender flares draped over seven-spoke 19-inch wheels that have, in comparison to the S4, been stretched farther apart by 1.5 inches in front and 1.9 inches in the rear. To save weight, the front fenders and hood are aluminum. Flared lower side sills enhance the effect of the 1.2-inch lower suspension height, the rear deck lid incorporates a spoiler lip that flows into the rear fender contours (Sedan only) and aluminum-colored side mirrors are mounted on twin-stalk pedestals. Up front, the grille opening is basic black honeycomb discretely accented with narrow silver bright-work. Cabriolet models features a power folding cloth soft top that tucks away beneath a body-colored tonneau cover.

Driving Impressions

The RS 4 is one of the best handling cars -- with either two or four doors -- we have driven recently. The DRC suspension, which controls pitch and roll via fluid transfer between diagonally-connected dampers that share a central reservoir, makes the RS 4 feel incredibly balanced no matter the speed or road conditions. At the same time, the ride, though firm, remains comfortable enough to not rattle your teeth. The combination of DRC and a sport-tuned all-wheel-drive system produces an incredible level of cornering grip that, in concert with the responsive and communicative steering, allows the driver to place the RS 4 exactly where desired, and the big disc brakes provide confident and impressive stopping power. The growl and responsiveness of the V8, however, is more like an American muscle car. Pushing the dash-mounted "S" button invokes the Sport Mode for an even louder exhaust note and quicker throttle response -- the latter best suited for the track. Audi claims acceleration for zero to 60 miles per hour of 4.8 seconds, but that seems conservative.

Pricing Notes

The 2008 Audi RS 4 Sedan's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts just under $70,000, while the Cabriolet starts around $85,000. Due to limited production you should expect to pay close to MSRP, but special circumstances can drive up the price. Be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for RS 4s in your area. The RS 4 competes well with the slightly less-expensive BMW M3 coupe as well as the new Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. We project that the RS 4 will retain its better-then-average residual value and will perform as strongly as the BMW M3 over time.

Notable Equipment

The list of standard equipment for the RS 4 includes a 420-horsepower 4.2-liter V8, six-speed manual transmission and permanent all-wheel drive. Other features include a 1.2-inch lower ride height, Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension, 19 x 9.0-inch alloy wheels with 255/35 tires and large brakes that feature cross-drilled rotors and are cooled from ducts in the undertray. Standard equipment also includes dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system with six-disc in-dash CD changer and MP3 capability, multi-function steering wheel controls, 12-way power-adjustable leather Recaro sports seats with memory, rear parking sensors, power glass sunroof or power operated cloth top, five-function trip computer and heated windshield, headlamp washers and exterior mirrors. The safety items include dual-stage front airbags, seat-mounted side airbags, side-curtain airbags (Sedan only), tire pressure monitoring system, automatic self-leveling Bi-xenon headlamps and adaptive front lighting that pivots with the steering at certain speeds.

Notable Options

Since the RS 4 Sedan is marketed as an exclusive vehicle tailored for luxury sport driving enthusiasts, the list of options is a short one. A Premium Package includes a DVD-based navigation system, Bose premium sound, HomeLink, Bluetooth phone preparation and heated rear seats. These features are standard on the Cabriolet, which has no options. Other packages for the Sedan include the Titanium and Exclusive. Rear-seat side airbags are a stand-alone option on the Sedan. No-charge options allow for deletion of the sunroof and substituting brushed aluminum for the carbon fiber interior trim.

Favorite Features

4.2-Liter FSI V8 Engine

The heart of the RS 4 is the high-revving 420-horsepower V8. It responds instantly to any degree of accelerator-pedal pressure in any part of its wide-ranging operating band. Adding to the rush of instant acceleration is an exhaust note that ranges from a low growl to a high-pitched wail as the engine works toward its redline at 8250 rpm.

Dynamic Ride Control (DRC)

The simple, but extremely effective, Dynamic Ride Control works better than many electronically-adjustable suspension setups in adapting to changing road conditions. It provides a firm ride that never seems to get caught out by dips, potholes or other irregularities in the road surface. The result is a car that responds with a high degree of precision in practically all driving situations.

Under the Hood

The RS 4 is powered by a high-performance, normally-aspirated version of the 4.2-liter V8 used in the A6, A8, and Q7. The four-valve, all-aluminum engine features FSI direct gasoline injection, delivers a maximum of 317 pound-feet of torque at 5500 rpm, with 90 percent of that torque available between 2250 and 7600 rpm, and makes 420 horsepower at 7800 rpm. It thus achieves the traditional high-performance target of 100 horsepower per liter, and gives the RS 4 a weight-to-power ratio of just 10.6 pounds per horsepower.

4.2-liter V8

420 horsepower @ 7800 rpm

317 lb.-ft. of torque @ 6000 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 13/20

Editors' Notes

The 2008 Audi RS 4 is the German automaker's latest effort, especially in the U.S. market, to establish itself as a brand known for performance and exclusivity. The limited-production RS 4, which is offered as both a sedan and two-door convertible, fits perfectly with Audi's marketing philosophy that a commitment to racing and high performance will impress and attract more buyers to the regular production series of A4 models.

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