Audi RS4 Cabriolet - The Verdict

Non-expert drivers can exploit the power-hungry RS4 in safety on all manner of roads, says Sean O'Grady - but it's going to be thirsty work

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £59,625
Engine: 4.2 litre V8, normally aspirated 414bhp
Performance: 0 to 60mph in 4.9 secs; 155 mph top speed Fuel consumption: 20mpg
CO2: 336g/km
Worth considering: BMW M3 Convertible; Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG; Jaguar XK

Sometimes you can be glad of a dodgy satnav. When you're on a mission in an Audi RS4, for example. A mission to Littlehampton, that is.

Being impatient by nature, I just punched in the address and expected the satnav to get me there. It did, but instead of being set to "fast and use motorways" it was set to "shortest route, not motorways". Or "never mind the M25 and the M23. Are you mad? A car like this and you want to go that way? No. It's A-roads all the way for you my son; nice twisty ones at that. You'll get there later but enjoy the drive much more".

And so it was to be. The RS4, in case you were wondering, is awesome on motorways, where, like most Audis and, indeed, most modern cars, it felt completely secure and well-planted all of the time. But it's on the more entertaining roads where you can properly explore its amazing potential. Safely, too.

It would be far too easy to just shove in a massive 4.2-litre V8 under the bonnet and hope for the best - well, not that easy because the A4 isn't that big, and that V8 is more at home, physically at least, in an A8 limo or Q7 SUV. Still, they shoehorned it in somehow, but that, tricky as it was must have been, was the easiest bit. For then the Audi engineers were faced with the task of ensuring all that power reached the Tarmac.

This, too, they achieved with their customary quattro system. This may be a relatively cumbersome way of achieving four-wheel drive (Mercedes seems to have developed a more compact and efficient system, sadly not available on right-hand-drive cars) but it does work remarkably well, maybe because its biased towards the rear wheels (60 per cent of the power heading back there).

There's also the Dynamic Ride Control and other electronic driver aids (which always stay on when I'm driving) and huge brakes (eight piston calipers at the front; enough to stop a space shuttle). The whole package means you get a very controlled, civilised delivery of massive power in a way that the non-expert driver can exploit usefully and practically.

In other words, it's better than a Lamborghini. And you get to take the roof off. It even has two (very occasional) seats in the back. Perfect.

Well, almost. I had two quibbles: the handbrake is fouled by the armrest and it drinks petrol at an alarming rate. This extraordinary thirst is compounded by the RS4's normal-sized petrol tank (designed for 2-litre diesels and the like) to make for a very short range. Especially if the satnav takes you via the scenic route.

Tony Potts, 32, police officer, Watford, Hertfordshire

USUAL CAR: RENAULT MEGANE COUPÉ

My first impression of the car with the hood down and the engine growling was an impressive one. Audi has created an appearance of beauty and power. Having driven it, I was no less impressed. This car accelerates with such force and determination it seems like all other road-users are standing still. Whether the car stops accelerating or not is a question I am unable to answer, for fear of my licence being torn up. Cornering is exemplary, with the renowned quattro system seeming to straighten out the long, sweeping corners on our A roads. With the electric hood - which operates in around 20 seconds - up or down, the car looks very pleasing.

Doug Bentall, 40, PR director, Tonbridge, Kent

USUAL CAR: AUDI A6 AVANT 4.2 QUATTRO

With breathtaking acceleration and so much torque, it is happy pulling away in virtually any gear. The throaty roar is awesome, even more so when you press the sport button. The hip-clenching seat bolsters, activated by the same button, are bit "ooh" too. It feels rock solid, but not as plush as my A6. The hood is slick, but the all-black interior is a bit claustrophobic. The front-centre arm rest is a pain and the starter button is silly. The car sticks to a twisty road like glue, and isn't as rough over bumps as I was expecting. I wouldn't buy one, but I have started saving for the RS4 Avant: it's £8,000 cheaper and easier to get past the wife's "is it practical?" test.

David Lundy, 32, local government officer, Hayes, London

USUAL CAR: MINI COOPER S WORKS

It's the way the V8 burbles. The soundtrack is intoxicating and burned into my memory. This is an outstanding car. It has the looks, the engine and the street cred. If I had the £60,000 to have it on my driveway, I would. The RS4 does not have a lot of competition. I have never been a great Cabriolet fan, due to the fact that the British weather restricts your roof-down time, but with the Audi RS4, the combination of the power, soundtrack, build quality and ground-covering ability is hard to resist. Scuttle shake is just noticeable when the road is badly surfaced and the steering wheel can kick back some of this vibration, but this is the only negative point.

THE VERDICT

If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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