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RS4 experience at Nurburgring


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Audi RS4 experience at the Nurburgring GP circuit.

Arrived at the Dorint hotel checked in and headed up to my room. Wandered out on to the balcony to see what was making the racket outside. Looked out onto the start/finish straight to see and hear a RS4 entering the pit lane, taking it easy but sounding great as it drove past. At this point I spotted another entering the pit lane and then another. In fact there was a continuous stream of RS4s making a fabulous V8 burble.

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Anyway drag myself away to go to the briefing. This is where we are told about the new model and how it has the same compression ratio as the Audi R8, also some background info on the upgraded ESP system that will actually allow the car to slide a little before coming in later and harder than in previous releases. Also the new 4wd, which splits the power with a greater bias towards the rear. Ominously, get warned that acceleration in the new RS4 feels different from what we might be expecting. Apparently the human body can only feel changes in acceleration not acceleration in and of itself. With the 4.2 FSI engine the torque is fairly constant across 90% of the rev range, as such, the rate of acceleration is constant and you don’t feel it as you might expect. Undaunted by this info I look forward to tomorrows chance to get my hands on the car.

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The big day 8.15 am. Head out, in glorious sunshine, onto the pit lane to see 20+ red and silver RS4s, wow what a sight. They look great, even if not that different from the rest of the range.

The 32 of us split up into 4 groups and find ourselves a car.

The interior isn’t quite what I was expecting the trim is largely the same as any other A4 but the carbon fibre effect doesn’t work for me. The seats look mighty impressive.

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Have a quick play with the air bolsters and move the manual seat (to save weight apparently) and then we are off to the first learning discipline. This means starting up. So turn the key, depress the clutch and press the button. One thing is for sure the car certainly sounds great, it’s a cold engine so no revving, we’ve already been told to take it easy and try to save the clutches.

Right so off to take the car to the 2 corner complex.

Having already been briefed on the correct seating position and hand placement, 9 and 3 o’clock. Have several runs through these corners, car handles well and can certainly corner competently at speed. Not a particularly exciting exercise but it’s a great way to get to know the car. The engine is very smooth and has loads of power, the speedometer make good progress regardless of gear. All too soon it’s time to swap over and let the other driver have their turn.

Aaronuk is a touch more aggressive in his driving style than I but the RS4 is completely unphased and takes the corner smoothly if a touch wider now that we are making better progress.

Getting to grips with the car more now so have another go. This time after I press the button of joy on the steering wheel. The S button alters the throttle response to make it sharper, also alters the sound of the exhaust so it takes on a throatier sound and put some extra air into the bolsters. I must admit after the first couple of times I didn’t even notice this last feature, a definite gimmick. A few more runs each and then off to the next discipline.

Fast lane change

Last time I did this at Silverstone it was pouring with rain I had an RS6 and the ESP was off, it didn’t go well. A sunny day, a new car and this time ESP. Unsurprisingly it went much better, ok so I clipped a cone once or twice but much easier to judge the gap. It’s a lighter, smaller car so that’s to be expected, what surprised me most was the lack of body roll. Watching the other drivers the car made the lane switch virtually flat, very impressive.

A quick coffee break and then out to learn how to brake through a corner.

A fairly complex exercise with ESP off, 1st gear to 4500 revs into 2nd and accelerate hard, towards a 180 degree corner, till you get to the cones doing around 50-55mph. Turn in too much so the car under steers, reduce the turn and then as the car starts to correct, brake gently as you counter steer. Sounds easy right, well it baffled me. Several goes later and I have it almost there, by luck more than judgement, I fear

All too soon it’s time to move on. A handling parcours, or about a kilometre of slalom including negotiating another hairpin bend. A slow speed drive through following the instructor and then we are let loose. For a fairly big car it handles very well, the slalom course was tight in parts but the RS4 was up for the challenge, a light touch on the throttle and all was well, linger a fraction longer and the speed difference made it all a bit more interesting. This is fun though, big grins all round. Best bit so far, definitely getting to know the car better now.

After lunch, lapping of the whole circuit following the instructor. Getting to drive the car using all the gears and rev range (except 1st). This is one quick car, I’m still unsure about the gearbox though. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt seeing as it’s the first time I’ve driven a LHD but I found it a bit of a pain. We’ll put it down to operator error on my part. Getting to know the circuit much better and the instructor is getting us round the course in a much more respectable state. We are all still going in a bit hot and the poor tyres are getting abused round some of the corners, but we’re definitely learning. The speed of the car is deceptive. Secluded in the cabin it’s all too easy to believe that all is well. A couple of drivers get caught out by the speed at which the car will get you into trouble. Take the wrong line or carry in a tad too much speed and it’s a bit hairy. Nothing major occurred, just a wheel off the track here and there, but it’s a definite reminder that this is a serious bit of kit and 100% concentration is required all of the time.

A serious talk from the instructors concerning not pushing you or the car past sensible limits follows. Then they let us out free lapping. This was an unexpected event; they trusted us with their £50000 car.

Aaronuk and I actually got a different car for this part as we had a brake warning light come on during the last lap of the previous session and it was taken away for new discs and tyres. As it turned out though, our new car had a dodgy synchromesh and finding 3rd was troublesome at times.

So in the final session there were 6 laps followed by one cool down lap each, after each lap you entered the pit lane to allow a decent separation between cars. What a great experience, whilst there is no doubt that I probably lapped much quicker following the instructor. I started with a steady pace and got faster through progressive laps and by my sixth and final lap I was hitting the apex on all the corners and was highly impressed with the overall pace but all too soon it was over.

I have tried to keep this review positive in that it is a great car and it was a great day out. Thanks Audi. However I came away from the whole experience disappointed. I went to Germany fully expecting to fall in love with this car, I came away knowing that I would never buy one. Whilst it is a fabulous car, and I respect anyone who gets one (I’m sure they will have lots of fun with it) I think it is too good, too well engineered. It will take you to silly speeds all too quickly and sound great doing it. I felt detached from the whole thing, there was no thrill associated with the driving experience; perhaps it was all too easy.

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