2012 Audi RS4: Dynamic what now?
Audi's new super Avant is available with plenty of technical toys – but what do they all mean?
Ian is going to bring you the full MSN Cars verdict on the 2012 Audi RS4 tomorrow, and we’ll also have a video for you shortly, but I just thought I’d run through a few of the optional performance enhancing accessories. Namely the Dynamic Ride Control, the Dynamic Steering and the rear sport differential.
Dynamic Ride Control is an RS staple for big Audis. Going beyond the already RS4-specific spring and damper settings – which take the excellent S4 as their starting point – Dynamic Ride Control hydraulically links the diagonally opposed dampers in order to keep the car flatter through the corners.
Compression is counter-acted by the flow of oil across the car, and the system is able to control the amount of lean into turns without completely trashing the ride quality. Even with the system dialled up to sportiest setting – Dynamic – the sharpest of bumps are rounded off, allowing you to carry speed where conventionally stiffened cars would probably see you slowing down. It is very effective.
The Dynamic Steering is a little more troubling. It’s a variable ratio system, which can vary that ratio by almost 100 per cent. Like all such systems the idea is to make the RS4 easier to manoeuvre at low speeds, quicker to react through a challenging sequence of corners and more stable on the motorway. It exists because Audi’s paying customers want a car that’s easy to park yet also pointy to drive, so it would be churlish to dismiss it as mere technological indulgence.
It is slightly weird, though. Left to its own devices, the system can go from being mega light at the helm to super heavy within the space of about 20 yards. But once it detects that you’re having a go, the directness, weighting and general reactions become fixed and it begins to feel pleasingly natural. And as with all these additional items you can change the settings with the Audi drive select button, forcing its hand as you prefer through Comfort, Auto and Dynamic choices.
What the Dynamic Steering doesn’t do is translate what’s happening at the road surface with utter transparency. As with all recent fast Audis the front end of the RS4 feels rather glassy at times, and you’re forced to trust the quattro four-wheel drive system’s ability to find grip rather than sensing it doing so. Thankfully it general does the job quite brilliantly.
However, just to throw a further element of doubt about the authenticity of the car’s responses into the mix, the Dynamic Steering is capable of autonomous counter-steering “at the handling limits”. Meaning it can automatically correct the car – albeit slightly – if the back end steps out. Suddenly it’s less clear exactly who is in charge here, and when you also add in the excitable sport differential this can lead to some interesting results.
The sport differential is an optional extra on top of the RS4’s already highly technical quattro. It adds a kind of electronically controlled limited slip differential to the rear of the car. Together with the fast-acting “crown-gear” centre differential and torque vectoring on all four wheels, it creates a hard-charging estate that won’t just attempt to cling on during fast cornering but actively propel itself into the turn harder if it senses this is the kind of high performance action you’re after.
Superficially, this is all marvellous. Switch from Auto to Dynamic with the drive select, and instantly you can palpably feel the RS4’s rear end impose itself – forcing the car to change direction, getting you round that bend faster. As this increases your confidence in the quattro’s capacity to divine grip you inevitably get cockier with the accelerator. Applying the power earlier and more aggressively, you’ll then discover another of the RS4’s remarkable talents – which is to say it’s a four-wheel drive Audi that’s quite happy to oversteer.
With the Dynamic Steering at its quickest and all that other mechanically and electronic proficiency, this is largely a graceful, user-friendly experience. But with 450hp up front you do still need to be careful, and that lack of definite transparency at the wheel can occasionally look to bite you. Descending a wet Austrian mountain road I had a seemingly unprovoked moment that required a very definite amount of corrective lock. Do not expect this car to be fool proof.
That said, overall it’s hard to imagine any of the RS4’s rear-wheel drive rivals carrying so much speed so easily in such greasy conditions. And the faster you go the better this Audi seems to get.
As for my earlier musing about the previous RS4 and the lack lustre RS5, the new car is most definitely closer to the former than the latter. It lacks its predecessor’s raw enthusiasm – that featured a manual gearbox compared to the new S tronic paddleshift auto, and didn’t so much accelerate as hurtle – but once you and the car are in tune with each other you’ll find it’s got bucket loads of enthusiasm.
Here's hoping it still feels the same way when we finally get to drive it in the UK – which will probably be around about September.
there was nothing spammy or hyperlinky at all about my first post but msn has decided to be a tool and block it so everyone now has to miss out on my rather funny comment about businessmen with no teeth being able to mash up their food in the boot on the way home from the supermarket
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