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By Jonathan Crouch
Added 13th October, 2017
, updated 4th October, 2019
Ballistic estates have become something of an Audi touchstone and they don't come any better than the latest RS 4 Avant. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Back in 2015, Audi's A4 needed to up its game in the face of tough competition from BMW's 3 Series, Mercedes' C-Class and the Jaguar XE in the image-conscious mid-sized executive sector. In fifth generation B9-series form, it did. The styling of this MK5 model may be evolutionary but underneath are serious revisions that challenged rivals harder than ever. Let's check out the original version of this model as a used buy.
With the original R8, Audi set out to prove that it could build a junior supercar. With the MK2 'Type 4S' model, it did. The aim here was twofold: to perfect the original package and then prove it capable of edging towards the more exclusive territory occupied by Lamborghini, McLaren and Ferrari. A step too far?
No. The four rings don't give this car the rarefied appeal of a Huracan or a 488 GTB, but in most meaningful respects, this MK2 model can match them car-for-car. Unlike its Italian rivals, it feels bullet-proof. And unlike a Porsche 911 Turbo, it makes a six-figure statement. Audi has clearly benchmarked both approaches and here blended Latin exclusivity with Teutonic day-to-day usability, creating a finished product that's difficult to beat if you want a car of this kind you could drive every day. But does this second generation R8 have quite the charm of the original? Maybe not, but then to some extent, that's the price of progress - quite a hefty price in this case.
Ultimately though, we'll take this R8 as it is, loving its looks, its classic configuration and its determination to stick with melodic normally aspirated power. It's a very Audi supercar. And there's nothing quite like it.
You sense that Audi shifted its point of reference with this car. Earlier versions of the TT were a bit better to drive than supposed rivals like the Mercedes SLK and the BMW Z4, but from the point of view of a committed enthusiast, that wasn't saying very much. A Porsche Cayman has always ultimately still been more of a driver's car - but then you could easily pay nearly twice as much for one of those and then find it too impractical to use every day. For more buyers than ever before, this third generation TT has proved to be a much more acceptable alternative.
Is that because it's faster, better equipped, more affordable, cleaner and more frugal than its MK2 predecessor? Not really. All those things are true of this car and nice to have, but for us what matters is this MK2 TT's status as a better driving machine than its predecessors. If you don't care about that, then we'd understand. Buy this Audi instead for its fashionable tech - the Virtual Cockpit, the clever infotainment - maybe even the aluminium hybrid construction. Whatever draws you to this car though, the experience it offers is a satisfying one. Surprising even, if you're not used to the idea of a TT being more than a fashion statement. Audi, you see, at last got this car right. And made it properly vorsprung durch technic.
If you've ever wondered just how much style and luxury is really possible in a really small car, then it's worth trying one of these. In distilling the essence of 'Audi-ness' into something this compact, the German brand continues to set this A1 Sportback apart in the supermini segment, offering a balance between sportiness, quality and comfort that rivals are still struggling to match. True, ground-breaking technology isn't on the agenda here, but as Audi has already discovered, there's a place for that and it probably isn't in this very price-conscious sector of the market. What's more important is that if you climb out of an expensive A4 or A6 into an A1 costing half as much, the feeling is very much the same
In fact, that's even more the case with this MK2 model with its smarter finish and hi-tech Audi connect infotainment options. All right, so in overall terms, the revisions made to this supermini aren't especially far-reaching, but then they didn't really need to be. There's still nothing else in this segment that's quite as polished and premium. The A1 then, remains a very expensive-feeling car that for you, may well be just about affordable. Exactly as Audi promised.
This current version of Audi's third generation A3 Sportback gets some efficient petrol and diesel engines, the option of the brand's classy Virtual Cockpit instrument display and hi-tech media connectivity. Its strengths remain in excellent build quality, impressive refinement and decent five-door practicality. It's still very much an aspirational ordinary product.
The range now begins with the downsized 115PS 1.0-litre TFSI unit used in the base '30 TFSI' petrol model. Next up is the 1.5 TFSI COD petrol engine used in the '35 TFSI' variant, which offers 150PS. If you want more power, then the next step is the 2.0 TFSI unit used in the '40 TFSI' petrol model. The diesel line-up is familiar, things kicking off with the usual 1.6-litre TDI powerplant used in the '30 TDI' variant developing 116PS. Above that sits the consistently popular 150PS 2.0-litre TDI unit used in the '35 TDI' model. There's also a top diesel variant, the '40 TDI', which uses a 184PS version of this same 2.0-litre TDI powerplant and comes only with the quattro drivetrain.
Otherwise, things are much as they were. Like its three-door stablemate, this Sportback is light in bulk, heavy in technology and as at home in Belgravia as it is in Brixton.
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