If PCOTY was held purely on-road, the RS4 Avant might have made the podium. Time and time again during the judges’ chat Audi’s super wagon was described as “a road car”. But it wasn’t damning with faint praise, as this was usually prefaced with “brilliant”.
Audi has changed tack dramatically with the latest RS4, abandoning the high-revving atmo V8 for a twin-turbo V6 and ditching the stiff-riding, handling-first model for compliance and comfort.
In doing so, the RS4 returns to its roots and is all the better for it. The new engine is magnificent, with huge power (0-100km/h in 3.87sec!), great response and a stirring howl under heavy load. Switching to an eight-speed auto ensures no dual-clutch stumbles, while there is now genuine ride comfort. For long road sections the RS4 was the pick of the PCOTY litter and even switching the dampers to Dynamic didn’t destroy its composure.
This softer setup results in plenty of body roll when cornering hard and the RS4 can feel heavier than its 1715kg suggests, but the extra movement makes it easy to judge the limits. What truly brings this Audi alive, though, is the diff setup. Trail brake into a corner, use the weight shift to help pin the front to the ground then simply step hard on the throttle; power is shuffled exactly where it needs go with ruthless efficiency.
There is none of the dreaded on-throttle understeer that afflicted Haldex-equipped Audis of old and combined with the enormous grunt under the bonnet, the RS4 is capable of covering ground – in all weathers – at a pace that would make a few supercars sweat. It now works with the road surface rather than fighting against it.
Unfortunately, a lot of what makes the RS4 Avant so brilliant on the road handicaps it on the track. It might seem churlish to mark a car down for its circuit ability when it’s clearly not designed for it, but we’re looking for the ultimate performance car and every car ahead on the list works to a very high standard in both environments.
There is enjoyment to be found, as long as you don’t push too hard. The RS4 is obviously very quick in a straight line, but it’s also surprisingly adjustable and, again, those diffs work their magic in keeping more than 1.7 tonnes pointing in the right direction.
However, beyond eight-tenths the engine feels 500rpm short of true excellence and there just isn’t enough tyre, body control or brakes to make the RS4 fun. Nonetheless, as a fast family hauler it’s fantastic.
All about the drive on Performance Car of the Year 2019
2019 AUDI RS4 AVANT SPECS:
Engine: 2894cc V6, DOHC, 24v, twin-turbo
Power: 331kW @ 5700-6700rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1900-5000rpm
0-400m: 12.02sec @ 187.25km/h
The Bend lap time: 1min 34.0sec
Dylan Campbell - 5th
"Seriously good. V6 is ace but can I still wish it got a twin-turbo V8? "
Louis Cordony - 6th
"So much car. And those looks. But an S4 makes more sense."
David Morley - 7th
"This is the daily you’ll take out of the shed. Even on a Sunday."
Scott Newman - 6th
"Audi Sport discovers compliance and adjustability. Nice."
Rick Kelly - 8th
"A smart, comfortable everyday car that packs a punch."
PCOTY 2019 Scoring