All generations of Audi RS2/RS4 B4/8C, B5, B6, B7,B8 and B9

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Four generations of RS4 Audi B5-B9. Andrew Chapple looks back over the history of the RS 4, from its beginnings as an Audi 80 S2 Avant-modified by Porsche, through four generations of high-performance holdalls...


All generations of Audi RS2/RS4 B4/8C, B5, B6, B7,B8 and B9
All generations of Audi RS2/RS4 B4/8C, B5, B6, B7,B8 and B9

RS2 (1994-1995)

There can be few three character model designations that elicit quite as much emotional response as that attached to the commodious rump of the compact Audi estate car famous for its supercar baiting turn of speed, the RS 4.

The seed was sewn back in 1995 with the RS 2, based on the B4 platform Audi 80 Avant. This defined the breed of the fast estate car just as the Mk 1 Golf GTI had done for the hot hatchback 18 years earlier. Using the S2 Avant as its foundation, Porsche was commissioned to take the 230 PS version of the rally-winning in-line 5-cylinder 20-valve engine to the next level.

This was achieved by using a larger turbocharger, intercooler and injectors, along with a unique camshaft and more efficient intake and exhaust systems, resulting in a heady (for the time) power output of 315 PS. This outgunned the contemporary Ferrari 348 and every normally-aspirated version of Porsche’s own type 993 911, including the 3.8-litre RS models. Famously, even McLaren’s F1 supercar had to settle for second in a sprint to 30 mph, with the RS 2 going on to hit 60mph in a brutal 4.8 seconds, barely any slower than an Audi R8 4.2 V8.

Bigger brakes and even the wheels were lifted straight from the Porsche parts list, though body styling remained restrained, with only a more agape front bumper and 911-style full width rear reflector dropping hints at what lay within. For owners wanting to make more of a statement, the unique and distinctive colour of ‘RS blue’ was available. Later renamed ‘Nogaro blue’ this continues to be the RS 4’s signature colour to this day.


TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Audi RS 2 (1994-1995) Avant only

Engine 2.2-litre 5-cylinder 20V Turbo

Power / torque 315 PS / 410 Nm

Transmission 6-speed manual, quattro 4WD

Performance 0-62 mph: 4.8s / 163 mph


Above: RS 2 defined the breed of high performance estate car. Below: Porsche-tuned 2.2 20 VT engine developed 315 PS / 410 Nm.

‘THE RS 2 OUTGUNNED THE FERRARI 348 AND EVERY NORMALLYASPIRATED VERSION OF THE 911, INCLUDING THE 3.8 RS...’


 

B5 RS4 (1999-2001)

A range reshuffle in 1994 saw the 80 replaced by the new A4 and in 2000 the B5 (Type 8D) generation RS 4 took up the baton.

This time Northamptonshire-based Cosworth Technology, then owned by the Volkswagen Group, did the fettling – significantly re-engineering the 265 PS 2.7-litre V6-cylinder twin-turbo-motor from the S4 to an eye-widening 380 PS.

This 43 per cent increase in power output was achieved much like that of the RS 2, with bigger turbos forcing more air into the engine and higher flow injectors supplying more fuel. Less obvious was the Cosworth manufactured cylinder head, forged in their Worcester foundry, which massively increased cylinder head efficiency. The upshot of this was a turbocharged engine with a glut of low-down torque that also liked to rev, two normally mutually exclusive characteristics.

The B5 RS 4 also established the style and sheer physical presence for models to come, with its wider arches, unique front and rear bumpers and side sills plus tailgate spoiler. Although a couple of prototype saloons were built, the production model was only ever a five door Avant.

In a world now over-populated with speed cameras, a flop might have been expected but it was far from a disappointment for the marketing team. The modest UK allocation of 400 sold out promptly, with residuals remaining rock solid until a rival came along in 2005 to tempt buyers away.

With other brands trying, but failing, to capture the RS 4’s unique combination of practicality, all weather ability, blistering pace, long-distance refinement and brawny wide-body good looks, the only replacement form any was another RS 4 so the B7 (Type 8E) model of 2005 couldn’t come soon enough…


TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Audi B5 RS 4 (1999-2001) Avant only

Engine 2.7-litreV6-cylinder biturbo

Power / torque 380 PS / 440 Nm

Transmission 6-speed manual, quattro 4WD

Performance 0-62 mph: 4.9s / 163 mph


‘THE B5 RS 4 ESTABLISHED THE STYLE AND SHEER PHYSICAL PRESENCE FOR MODELS TO COME...’

‘COSWORTH TECHNOLOGY RE-ENGINEERED THE 2.7-LITRE V6 TWIN-TURBO ENGINE TO ACHIEVE 380 PS / 440 NM, PROVIDING BLISTERING PACE...’


B7 RS4 (2006-2008)

Although initially launched as a saloon only, an Avant version of the B7 RS 4 soon followed – as did a cabriolet version – all benefitting from the wide track and swollen arches pioneered by the B5, albeit slightly less prominently. While the basic format continued largely intact, big changes occurred under the now aluminium bonnet (steel on the Cabriolet)

Gone was the torquey twin-turbo V6; instead, a high-revving direct injection 420 PS version of the 4.2-litre normally aspirated V8 took its place. While it shared its displacement with the V8 in the S4, A6 and A8, this was where the similarities ended.

It was no coincidence that contemporary F1 cars were V8-powered and some of this knowhow trickled down to the road cars. V8s traditionally offered lots of mid-range grunt but very little incentive to explore the upper reaches of the rev range. Thanks to extensive re-engineering the reverse was true with the RS 4, where lowdown tractability was sacrificed in the name of top-end response. For those who liked to work an engine hard this was a real joy, with 5000 rpm seeing it really get into its stride, accompanied by a NASCAR style growl all the way to the 8200 rpm rev limit!

Big steps were made in the chassis department too – hydraulically linked Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension first seen in the original RS 6 was adopted, to provide amore finely tuned balance of ride and handling than in the firmly sprung S4. This gave the RS 4 sufficient compliance to cope with the UK’s crumbling road network while remaining competent on the race track where the optional carbon ceramic brakes were most likely to prove their worth.

Inside, heavily bolstered bucket seats (without the usual side airbags) were a standard fit, though buyers could choose a more conventional seat as a no-cost option. Likewise, a Lamborghini style flat-bottomed steering wheel was standard but for those with more pragmatic tastes this could be swapped for a conventional circular three-spoke rim.

A ‘Sport’ mode was available, activated by a button on the steering wheel or dashboard depending which steering wheel was fitted. This sharpened the throttle response, opened the valves in the exhaust tailpipes and, if bucket seats were fitted, inflated the seat bolsters to provide extra lateral support.

Unusually for an Audi RS model, the B7 RS4 became the darling of the UK motoring press and with no limit on numbers, sales were buoyant – bolstered by cheap finance in precredit crash Britain. Some grumbled about the lack of mid-range response they’d become accustomed to with the previous turbocharged generation, citing occasions when hard-driven TDIs would get the better of the V8’s tardy in-gear response. This was small beer and to this day the B7 RS4 continues to be exceptionally desirable and remains a high watermark for Audi RS brand dynamics.

THE B7 RS4 REMAINS A HIGH WATERMARK FOR AUDI RS BRAND DYNAMICS...’

‘HIGH-REVVING DIRECT-INJECTION 420 PS VERSION OF THE 4.2 V8 IN THE B7 RS 4 PRODUCED A NASCAR-STYLE GROWL ALL THE WAY TO THE 8000 RPM REV LIMIT...’

Below: B7 RS 4was also available as saloon and cabriolet.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Audi B7 RS 4 (2006-2008) Saloon, Avant, Cabriolet

Engine 4.2-litreV8-cylinder FSI nasp

Power / torque 420 PS / 430 Nm

Transmission 6-speed manual, quattro 4WD

Performance 0-62 mph: 4.8s / 155* mph

* electronically limited (250 kph)

B8 RS4 (2012-2015)

While the B7 saw a significant change in powerplant, for the B8 model (Type 8K) launched in 2012, based on the MLB platform, it was the transmission that rang the changes (excuse the pun).The 4.2-litre V8 remained, with its output now up to 450 PS thanks to air intake improvements, but gone was the 6-speed manual gearbox, its place taken by a 7-speed double-clutch S tronic unit making the first ever automatic RS 4. With no manual option, it was clear that quattro GmbH had confidence going in this direction and this proved well founded.

Not only did the self-shifter increase Use ability, an important factor as most first owners choose them as a daily driver, but it also made exploring the upper rev range more inviting. Why worry about in-gear acceleration tardiness when your gearbox will seamlessly seek out the power band for you? A standard ‘launch control’ function also optimised standing-start acceleration, making it an easy car to drive fast, though some might say too easy…

A 162 mm wheelbase stretch also boosted practicality, with the cramped rear quarters of the previous model now accommodating fully-grown adults with ease. More metal meant more weight, though, and a 6.66 per cent increase in power compared to the old model benefitted the power-to-weight ratio by just 2 per cent.

While the open-top derivative continued with the RS 5 Cabriolet, the saloon was consigned to the history books, the RS 5 Coupé providing an alternative for those who found an estate car too sensible.

The RS trademark wide body returned, but the method of widening the wheel arches changed. Inspired by the Ur-quattro, the smoothly sculpted wheel arches of the B5 and B7 generation were swapped for boxy arches with amore angular profile. ‘Audi drive select’ took over from the basic Sport mode of the previous generation; as well as controlling the exhaust flaps and throttle response, now the power steering, gearbox shift points and electronically-controlled dampers could be switched between dynamic, comfort and automodes.

An individual mode was also provided to allow settings to be mixed and matched in line with personal preference.

The inflating seat bolsters were no more, but a locking ‘Sports differential’ was now standard and a sports exhaust could be ordered as a factory option. With electronically-adjustable dampers now standard, Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension was consigned to the options list where it joined the widely disliked Dynamic Steering.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Audi B8 RS 4 (2012-2015) Avant only

Engine 4.2-litreV8-cylinder FSI nasp

Power / torque 450 PS / 430 Nm

Transmission 7-speed S tronic, quattro 4WD

Performance 0-62 mph: 4.7s / 155* mph

* electronically limited (250 kph)

‘GONE WAS THE 6-SPEED MANUAL GEARBOX, ITS PLACE TAKEN BY A 7-SPEED DOUBLECLUTCH S TRONIC UNIT...’

‘A STANDARD ‘LAUNCH CONTROL’ FUNCTION ALSO OPTIMISED STANDING-START ACCELERATION, MAKING IT AN EASY CAR TO DRIVE FAST, THOUGH SOME MIGHT SAY TOO EASY...’

Audi B9 RS4 (2018-2022)

Now 2018 sees the introduction of the fourth generation of RS 4, based on the B9 A4. For the first time with an RS 4 there are significant changes to both the engine and transmission.

Consigned to history is the charismatic 4.2-litre V8, with an all-new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 filling its shoes. Parallels with the twin-turbo original are inevitable, but nearly 20 years of engine development are not to be sniffed at, with a big jump in performance and an even bigger leap in fuel-efficiency.

Initially the new model’s 450 PS headline figure may seem disappointing, exactly the same as that of the previous generation. But if ever there was case of the devil being in the detail this is it, as the torque – which is key to making rapid progress in real-world driving conditions – is now up to 600Nm, an uplift of 39.5 per cent over the old V8, disproving once and for all the theory that ‘there is no replacement for displacement’.

Couple this with a reduction in weight to the tune of 80 kg and this swells the torque-to-weight ratio from 240Nmper tonne to 350 Nm per tonne, a scarcely credible 45.8 per cent increase over the old model, itself hardly a sluggish performer.

Automatic transmission remains the only option, but gone is the twin-clutch 7-speed S tronic, its place taken by an all-new 8-speed Tiptronic torque converter transmission which is far more capable at dealing with the huge amount of torque that it’s now being asked to process.

Things have moved on significantly since Tiptronic auto last shifted gears for a fast Audi and while it will never rival S tronic for seamless shift speed when driven flat-out in anger, for nearly all drivers, nearly all the time, the new gearbox is a positive move with no discernible penalty in terms of performance or fuel efficiency, something torque converter ’boxes used to suffer from.

‘WITH THE NEW B9 RS 4, IT LOOKS LIKE THAT DREAM MIGHT HAVE FINALLY COME TRUE...’

After considering all the attributes of the RS 4 throughout the years, perhaps the perfect car for die-hard enthusiasts would be the balanced B7 RS 4 chassis in combination with the head-spinning twin-turbo V6 of the original, although perhaps with a lot more power and torque. With the new B9 RS 4, it looks like that dream might have finally come true.

TECHNICAL DATA FILE SPECIFICATIONS Audi B9 RS 4 (2018-2022) Avant only

Engine 2.9-litreV6-cylinder bi-turbo

Power / torque 450 PS / 600 Nm

Transmission 8-speed Tiptronic, quattro 4WD

Performance 0-62 mph: 4.1s / 155* mph

* electronically limited (250 kph) / optional 174mph (280 kph)


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