Everything began in 1994 with the RS2, which is not included here. Porsche gave the compact Audi 80 Avant 315 turbo-horsepower (232 kW), driving any trace of conservativeness from the car. The idea of a sportscar in the body of a station wagon was born. “Today, I see one of the greatest advantages of this model in the fact that it looks like a normal family car but offers the driving performance of a pure sportscar,” rally driver Walter Röhrl said back in the day. 2,891 RS2 were manufactured within two years, around 700 more than originally planned. From 1999, the firestarters with the usefulness of a family car were known under the name of RS 4. The perfect basis for ABT Sportsline to develop its own powerful ideas – as these fine specimens from three generations demonstrate impressively.
The RS 4 now had six cylinders in the engine compartment – instead of five in the RS2 – and a second turbocharger. This accordingly increased the power from 315 HP (232 kW) to 381 HP (280 kW). The power boost no longer came from Porsche, but rather from Cosworth – an Audi subsidiary at the time. “The car was a real dream, the engine was fantastic,” remembers Hans-Jürgen Abt. There was just one catch: Once again, Audi stopped production of the super station wagon after two years, in 2001. Abt: “That is when we came into play. We independently continued to place the engine into A4 station wagons and added another 19 HP. On special request, even 450 HP were available in total.” The result was called ABT AS400.
In 2005, Audi itself continued the RS saga – but with an ideological turnabout under the hood: high-rpm V8 instead of biturbo V6. “Like many fans, we were sorry to see the Cosworth engine go. Our pragmatic solution was to move the tried and tested engine into the new car,” explains Abt. A power boost to 480 HP (353 kW) was now additionally available for the AS4R from Bavaria. In an independent test at the Oschersleben racing circuit, the ABT version was almost 1.3 seconds faster – an impressive number.
In the spring of 2017, Audi returned to the V6 biturbo with the fourth generation of the RS 4. Shortly afterwards, vehicle tuner ABT presented its own interpretation at the Geneva Motor Show: the RS4-R with 530 HP (390 kW) instead of 450 HP (331 kW) in the production model.
Asked which of the three splendid cars is his favorite, Hans-Jürgen Abt replies wisely: “All three are wonderful cars and each model was absolute state-of-the-art at its time. Of course, the technical progress is obvious when you change from the RS4-R to one of its predecessors, but each one has its own appeal.” Naturally, as CEO of ABT Sportsline, he enjoys the privilege of not having to choose. Red today, light gray tomorrow, anthracite the day after – the trio sits in the company garage, ready to go.
ABT AS400 (2004–2005)
Engine: 2.7 liter V6 biturbo
Power: 400 HP/294 kW or 450 HP/330 kW (production model: 381 HP/280 kW)
Torque: 500 Nm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.7 s
Vmax 290 km/h (180 mph)
ABT AS4R (2005-2009)
Engine: 2.7 liter V6 biturbo
Power: 480 HP/353 kW (production model: 381 HP/280 kW)
Torque: 565 Nm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.6 s
Vmax 300 km/h (186 mph)
ABT RS4-R (since 2018)
Engine: 2.9 liter V6 biturbo
Power: 530 HP/390 kW (production model: 450 HP/331 kW)
Torque: 690 Nm
0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 3.8 s
Vmax 280 km/h (174 mph) (restricted)