B8 Audi RS 4 Test Mule Spied Testing at Nurburgring

This story was originally posted on our sister site Fourtitude.com.

A new Audi test mule with HN (Neckarsulm = quattro GmbH) has turned up yesterday testing at the fabled Nurburgring. The car is interesting, obviously based on the body of an A4 Avant but with some very notable changes. And though some of the styling cues suggest S4 like the quad exhausts and the badge on the grille, we’re nearly certain this is a preproduction drivetrain mule of the RS 4 Avant.

What makes us think it’s an RS 4? The RS 5 20-inch wheels and immense RS-labeled brakes are the first clue, though a closer look shows widened wheel arches on the front fenders and some makeshift rear lip extensions to cover the wider stance of an RS car. None of these are S-car fare. Also, an S-car mule would likely use plates that start with IN for Ingolstadt and not HN as is the case with quattro GmbH test cars.

Our spy sources say the car may make use of a new biturbo V6 but we highly doubt that. Originally (i.e. going on two years ago) we’d been told the RS 4 will share drivetrains with the RS 5 and that would be the high-rev 4.2-liter V8 found in the current RS 5. A board level source told us this and that Audi can’t justify two different drivetrains for RS 4 and RS 5 so expect RS 4 to mirror RS 5… or rather the engine the RS 5 has when it gets a product improvement (PI a.k.a. facelift) next year. We expect they’ll both keep the 4.2 high-rev though we wish they’d swap it for the 4.0T FSI.

While Stefan Reil of quattro GmbH once told us a biturbo V6 was examined for the B7 RS 4 but then later not used and another biturbo V6 was examined for use in the B8 S4 and again it was not chosen, we still doubt it. Audi has shown a push for downsizing though making a mid-lifecycle change is unlikely. We ran a story recently hypothesizing about a 4.0T-powered RS 5 and RS 4 but were met by Audi sources with an unfortunate “no”. Those sources still said 4.2 high rev was the direction and a quick check-in today only bolsters this expectation. Expect a 4.2 high-rev.

Other websites have said a high-output 3.0T FSI supercharged is an option and we’d again rule this out. First, the 3.0T as it sits is not a quattro GmbH developed engine and they’ve never made an RS car without a quattro GmbH developed engine in the past. Further, that same board level source was resolute two years ago when he told us superchargers don’t suit RS cars and that turbos are better for this application.

We’ve rendered a few shots of the RS 4 Avant were it built in current pre-facelift guise and it can be seen above in Ipanema Brown and in other popular Audi Exclusive colors that can be found in our photo gallery linked below. It’s worth noting though, the RS 4 won’t be revealed until after the facelift.

Looking closely at the mule, we believe we can make some guesses of how the post-facelift RS 4 Avant will look. We’ve been told by other inside sources that the new A4 will move toward the A6 in styling. That said, we’re wondering if hard parts like the hood and front quarter panels will remain. Note this mule has what looks like a finished RS nose on it, but it uses the old grille and headlights.

Also appearing to be production-ready are those front bumpers. They skip the box flares of the RS 5 and previous RS 6 for a more integrated rounded arch as seen on the RS 3 and like the RS 3 those fender are probably also made of lightweight carbon fiber. These fenders with their wider arches and clean fit around the existing headlight housing look production ready, making us think that design will stick and so too will the basic shape of the A4’s headlight.

At the rear, the car is much more test mule and less production. Those fender lips look like they were pulled from the Q7 S-line partsbin and are essentially tacked on to cover the car’s wider track. We’d expect arched rear fenders maybe of aluminum to be used when the car hits showrooms and as such it’ll likely skip the box flares we integrated into our render above and that are currently on the RS 5.

When will we see the RS 4? The new A4 is also due summer of 2012 as a 2013 model alongside the A5/S5/RS 5 and we know the RS 5 will come to market immediately as it’s due in the USA about that time. The soonest we guess Audi will show the RS 4 Avant will be that time though it could very well wait for a more gradual rollout. This remains to be seen.

The chances for the RS 4 Avant in America are actually quite good… better than A4 Avant and better than S4 Avant surprisingly. When the A4 facelift first launches the A4 Avant will disappear from the US market and be replaced by the A4 allroad. Audi of America thinks this will sell better and that’s probably true if you look at Outback and XC70 sales versus their wagon equivalents. Still, the A4 allroad in the USA means the Avant body structure is still in market and that makes bringing the RS 4 Avant easier. Audi of America is quite serious about bolstering its RS chops in the USA and we were a fly on a wall during a conversation between quattro GmbH and Audi of America executives where they discussed “the Avant” and “the (RS 5) Cabriolet”. We’re hoping we see both but would settle for just the Avant.

Don’t expect to see an RS 4 sedan. Audi AG used US numbers to justify the B7 RS 4 sedan (the only RS 4 sedan in Audi’s history). The RS 5 was the smarter move here and with that model already in market, there’s no business case for a sedan.

Check out more spy photos including other details and angles as well as renders of the RS 4 Avant via the gallery link below.

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For more photos of the car in this story, click on the link to our gallery at the right.