2008 Audi RS 4 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 17, 2008

The 2008 Audi RS4 sedan and cabriolet bring rocketlike power and price tags to the otherwise humble A4 lineup.

The resident car enthusiasts at TheCarConnection.com read all the most respected reviews on the new 2008 Audi RS4 from around the Web to put together this conclusive review. TheCarConnection.com's editors also drove the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet recently so that we can help you navigate the raft of reviews, figure out who's right and who's wrong, and help you decide if the Audi RS4 is the car for you.

The most powerful compacts in its lineup, the 2008 Audi RS4 lineup includes a sedan and a cabriolet model, both fitted with a 420-horsepower V-8 engine and a choice of six-speed automatic or manual transmissions. Performance is exotic-car fast; a 60-mph sprint takes less than 5.5 seconds, but fuel economy suffers predictably at 12/19 mpg for the Cabriolet.

The Audi V-8 is a thrilling choice, but it no longer makes the RS4 sedan the fastest vehicle in its class. That title goes to either the Lexus IS-F or the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, with BMW's M3 running not far behind. Unlike the first two but like the BMW, the Audi RS4 also comes in Cabriolet trim—at a huge price premium over even the $70,000 RS4 sedan.

Both versions begin life as rather sedate shapes, but with the right massage, they get some visual teeth. In either the ragtop (yep, the RS4 Cabriolet has a canvas roof, not a folding hardtop like the cheapest Pontiac G6 has) or the sedan, the RS4 gets deft cosmetic touches inside and out that make it look tuned, but not tweaked. One package offers 19-inch wheels and piano-black interior trim, on top of Audi's classy, well-screwed-together dash; another installs red leather on the seats and stitching on the shifter and steering wheel.

Review continues below

Driver and front passenger will be comfortable for hours in either the sedan or convertible, thanks to well-bolstered sport seats. But while the sedan has decent head- and legroom, the Cabriolet's rear seats are more for occasional use. The sedan's smallish trunk gets trimmed back even more in the Cabriolet and probably won't carry luggage for four.

The top itself, while fabric, is a nicely executed piece. It takes a little more than 20 seconds to raise or lower, and it insulates the cabin from harsh road noise. Inside you'll find a navi-gation system, Sirius Satellite Radio, and Bluetooth connectivity standard.

Pricing is stratospheric. The 2008 Audi RS4 sedan hovers just below $70,000 base, while the Cabriolet checks in north of $84,000 once you factor in gas-guzzler taxes and destina-tion charges. Of course, for that much money, you'd expect more than just a muscle car, and you'd be right. The Audi RS4 Cabriolet is a near-exotic in performance and in price.

7

2008 Audi RS 4

Styling

The 2008 Audi RS4 arrives on the scene with tons of class—and a little less flash than its hot-blooded personality could justify.

For those looking for a blazing-fast sedan or convertible but without the unwanted attention (usually from the police) that goes along with owning a traditional supercar, Audi has introduced the 2008 Audi RS4.

The 2008 Audi RS4 lineup includes two body styles: a traditional sedan and a convertible that Audi deems the Audi RS4 Cabriolet. According to reviewers at MyRide.com, “Audi has made ordering the 2008 RS4 Cabriolet a simple affair—there’s but one trim and it’s fully-loaded,” and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the same holds true for the Audi RS4 sedan. The exterior of the Audi 2008 RS4 gets mixed reviews, with some praising its subdued styling and others wishing for more of a visual impact. Mother Proof, however, is taken with the “strong lines, confident stance and just the right amount of sparkle” on the 2008 Audi RS4. Cars.com notes that “the RS4 closely resembles the S4,” though some “revisions include a 1.5-inch wider track, lower bumper extensions and side slats ahead of the front wheels.” ForbesAutos reviewers feel the “visual subtlety is intentional, with upscale body touches that say ‘high-class sport sedan,’ not ‘rich kid running wild with Daddy’s money.’” One exterior feature that many reviews don’t appreciate is the folding soft top on the Audi 2008 RS4 Cabriolet. While a soft top may be lighter than a safer hardtop, Car and Driver still finds that “the conversion from sedan to convertible cuts the door count to two and adds about 300 pounds to the RS4’s saddle bags.”

The interior styling of the Audi RS4 lineup wins high praise from reviewers for its combina-tion of slick styling and impressive materials. Cars.com appreciates the “Nappa leather up-holstery” that comes standard on the 2008 Audi RS4, while the “carbon fiber [that] spans the dashboard and door panels” provides a sporty appearance to the interior. ForbesAutos adds that “the interior follows the sophisticated but understated performance theme,” though their one criticism is that “the abundance of buttons and switches on the dash and center console does spoil the aesthetic a bit.”

10

2008 Audi RS 4

Performance

The 2008 Audi RS4 offers impeccable steering feel, neck-snapping acceleration, and a sporty but firm ride.

The 2008 Audi RS4 gets its motivation from a massively powerful V-8 engine and has the agility to dance with the best European sports sedans. Those seeking one of the best-performance drives on the road today won’t be disappointed with the Audi RS4.

According to reviewers at Cars.com, the 2008 Audi RS4 boasts a “4.2-liter V-8 [that] makes 420 horsepower and 317 pounds-feet of torque,” which is “an increase of 80 hp and 15 pounds-feet of torque over the S4.” Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com reveal that the engine is an absolute beast, and Edmunds claims “the 2008 Audi RS4 has no problem catapulting itself off the line or out of a corner.” Car and Driver says that even the Audi RS4 Cabriolet, which is 300 pounds heavier than the sedan, is “good for 0-to-60 toots in 4.8 or so seconds,” which compares favorably with the 4.5 seconds posted by the Audi RS4 sedan. Even the exhaust note of the engine wins over reviewers, with Car and Driver finding that “the 4.2 screaming to its 8250-rpm redline is one of the tastier exhaust symphonies this side of $100,000.” Audi 2008 RS4 drivers who are just dying to push the car to its limits might be disappointed to find the 2008 Audi RS4 has an “electronically governed 155 mph top speed,” according to ForbesAutos, but they add “it’s been reliably reported” that “the car will hit an indicated 165 mph.”

The Audi 2008 RS4, in either sedan or Cabriolet form, comes with just one available transmission. ForbesAutos describes it as “a close-ratio six-speed manual transmission” with “no Direct Sequential Gearbox or automatic option.” Edmunds notes all-weather capabilities are enhanced by the fact that the transmission on the Audi RS4 “sends the power to all four wheels through Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, which has a 40/60 front-to-rear power split in this application.” Cars.com reviewers love the transmission, which they call “precise” and say “moves easily from gear to gear” with “rather light” clutch pedal effort.

While that big, powerful V-8 engine may be a boon for enthusiasts, it certainly isn’t one to brag about to the environmentalists in the family. The 2008 Audi RS4 sucks gas at an impressive rate, and the EPA estimates the RS4 sedan will get just 13 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. The 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet is slightly worse, managing a meager 12 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway.

Reviewers are impressed by the engine and acceleration in the 2008 Audi RS4, but they are absolutely floored by the car’s impressive handling. Cars.com loves that “the RS4 also features the Dynamic Ride Control adaptive suspension,” which they say “is designed to lessen body roll as well as acceleration squat.” The DRC seems to work, since Edmunds calls the RS4 “a composed master” in the turns “despite its hefty curb weights.” The steering also gets high marks from reviewers, and Edmunds goes so far as to say the “steering feel at speed is better than any Audi [they’ve] ever driven,” and Cars.com reports the “variable-assist steering system provides plenty of boost for easy parking lot maneuverability, but once the car is up to speed the assistance lessens.”

Ride quality is the one area where reviewers express some disappointment with the 2008 Audi RS4. ForbesAutos feels the 2008 Audi RS4 will “sharply but not painfully [communicate] bumps in the road, at least on manicured German roads,” but Cars.com says “that firmness will become an issue if the roads you drive on are in poor repair,” since the 2008 Audi RS4 “crashes over expansion joints on the highway with seemingly enough force to knock your fillings loose.” On the positive side, all reviews read by TheCarConnection.com praise the brakes on the 2008 Audi RS4, and Automobile points out that the brakes, which are “borrowed from the Lamborghini Gallardo,” boast “huge rotors” that “kill energy with the finiteness of a master switch.”

9

2008 Audi RS 4

Comfort & Quality

A price tag well above $60,000 for the 2008 Audi RS4 will buy you an incredible interior and a pair of comfortable, supportive racing seats, but don’t expect to haul much in the back.

Aside from some minor quibbles regarding backseat space, the 2008 Audi RS4 swaddles its occupants with comfort and high-quality materials definitely befitting the four-ring badge on the grille.

Both versions of the 2008 Audi RS4 have seatbelts for five, but Cars.com remarks that even the sedan, with its four doors, isn’t “ideal for carrying four or five adults in comfort.” They say that “while it’d be possible to do in a pinch, the backseat is rather small overall and there’s not a lot of legroom.” It's a common complaint in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and Edmunds adds that “although the rear seat is fine for small children, adults seated back there will likely complain about a shortage of legroom.” Up front is a different story, however, and ForbesAutos loves that “the seats hold you tightly in corners, but not with a death grip that doesn’t let go.” MyRide.com reviewers also mention the “well-bolstered sport seats,” although Cars.com criticizes the Audi RS4 because “lower back support is only decent, and that’s after adjusting the four-way lumbar support.”

The Audi 2008 RS4 isn’t designed to offer the greatest cargo capacity, but reviews read by TheCarConnection.com appreciate the little touches that Audi’s engineers have bestowed on the Audi RS4. Inside the 2008 Audi RS4, Mother Proof is disappointed to find “there’s very little storage up front for the essentials, and clearly the vanity mirror was not exactly a priority” for Audi’s designers. Cars.com, however, is impressed that the 2008 Audi RS4’s “trunk measures 13.4 cubic feet, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat is standard,” and they say “other automakers ditch this practical feature when engineering high-performance models, so it’s nice to see Audi retain it from the A4.” While trunk space is respectable on the sedan, the Audi RS4 Cabriolet’s is understandably more limited when the top is folded into the trunk.

If there’s one thing that Audi and its high-end German competitors are known for, it's near-infallible build and materials quality. The Audi 2008 RS4 extends Audi's tradition of top-notch interiors, thanks to materials ForbesAutos considers “as polished as James Bond and exquisitely crafted.” Edmunds reviewers agree and praise the “superb materials” and “excellent fit and finish,” while Cars.com raves about the “real aluminum and carbon fiber trim” that pervades the interior of the 2008 Audi RS4. Even the fabric top on the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet features a “triple-layer” design that MyRide.com says is “designed to limit noise intrusion.”

Speaking of noise intrusion, overall the Audi RS4 lineup does an impressive job of limiting outside sounds. For the most part, all you’ll hear inside the 2008 Audi RS4 is the exhaust note, which “gets even louder” if you “push the ‘S’ button on the dashboard,” according to Popular Mechanics.

9

2008 Audi RS 4

Safety

The results are in, and the 2008 Audi RS4 is safe enough to handle most any sticky situation in which you may find yourself.

Safety features are certainly not contested when it comes to the 2008 Audi RS4 lineup. De-spite offering the capabilities of a sportscar, the 2008 Audi RS4 contains a number of safety features to offer peace of mind for drivers.

The Audi RS4 has not yet been crash-tested by the IIHS, but the NHTSA has released some official crash-test ratings for the Audi RS4. Among the highlights of those ratings are a perfect five stars in the NHTSA’s driver side-impact test, along with four-star ratings for frontal impact and passenger side impact tests. One of the important safety categories for those looking at the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet is the rollover rating, where the Audi RS4 earns four of a possible five stars from the NHTSA.

Safety ratings may be easy for a manufacturer’s PR department to tout, but perhaps more important are the safety features included on a car. In terms of standard safety features, the Audi 2008 RS4 doesn’t disappoint. MyRide.com says the 2008 Audi “RS4 Cab features a generous assortment of safety equipment, such as front-side airbags, a tire pressure monitor, and antilock disc brakes.” In addition to those basics, Edmunds states that “full-length head curtain airbags are” standard on the 2008 Audi RS4 sedan, and Cars.com reports that both models feature “an electronic stability system that’s designed to be less intrusive.” One of the more interesting safety features, according to Automobile, is that “in the wet, the [brake] discs are intermittently swept dry to improve response and stopping power.” For those who want added crash protection and don’t plan to mount multiple child seats, Cars.com notes “rear-seat side-impact airbags are a $350 option.”

Visibility is another area where the 2008 Audi RS4 lineup excels, especially with the top down in the Cabriolet. The sedan and top-up Cabriolet configurations also offer good overall visibility, and ConsumerGuide notes that the 2008 Audi RS4 comes standard with a “rear-obstacle-detection system” in case you lose sight of what’s behind you.

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2008 Audi RS 4

Features

The 2008 Audi RS4 has enough high-tech standard features to tempt even the most finicky driver.

The 2008 Audi RS4 lineup comes essentially fully loaded, and while definitely serving to drive the price up, it also guarantees that your Audi RS4 will be one of the most feature-packed vehicles on the road.

The standard features list on the 2008 Audi RS4 sedan is quite long, and on the Cabriolet, MyRide.com says “there’s but one trim and it’s fully-loaded.” On both variants of the Audi RS4, standard items include “xenon headlights, Recaro sport seats with power adjustments…and front seat heaters,” according to Edmunds. ConsumerGuide adds that the sedan features a “power sunroof,” while both convertible and sedan Audi RS4’s boast a “wireless cell phone link.”

For audiophiles, MyRide.com is pleased to report that the 2008 Audi RS4 Cabriolet “features a nine-speaker Bose sound system complemented by a six-disc CD changer and Sirius satellite radio service”; in addition, Audi throws in a “navigation system” and “host of creature comfort features.” Edmunds finds that the controls are “efficient,” though they also point out “the navigation system isn’t the most user-friendly design.”

Options are nonexistent on the Audi 2008 RS4 Cabriolet, but Cars.com says that “selecting the $4,700 Premium Package” on the Audi 2008 RS4 sedan “adds most of the RS4’s remain-ing features.” Edmunds writes that the Premium Package brings “auto-dimming mirrors, a navigation system, an upgraded Bose audio system with satellite radio,” and “heated rear seats,” which amounts to the standard spec on the Cabriolet. If all this seems a bit too much, ConsumerGuide finds Audi offers a “power sunroof delete” on the 2008 Audi RS4 sedan, which will save a bit of weight and free up some headroom.

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9.0
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 10.0
Comfort & Quality 9.0
Safety 9.0
Features 10.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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