Driving an Audi RS4 in Santa's country
A few years ago, my friends and I were driving up a mountain road on our way to a small cottage we'd rented for NYE celebration. We were using a 4WD Honda CR-V and we eventually ended up stuck on a particularly steep hill. As we were ripping our fingernails trying to fit snow chains, our spirit was lifted by a very, very old man happily trundling along in his FWD first-gen Fiat Panda. He lowered the window and sneered at us and kept on driving.
This thousand-year old man was a bit of a bast*rd but he was also right because A, his Panda was a lot lighter than our Honda and B, it was riding on winter tyres and, well, we weren't. Tyres make all the difference in the world. What's the first thing you'd worry about if you knew you were running a marathon? Shoes. Driving a 4WD on the wrong tyres is a bit like running a marathon with running gear and kit, while wearing loafers.
Several months later I'd learnt my lesson and realized how spectacularly naive we had been, thinking we could climb a snowy hill on summer tyres, when I got the chance to drive a few different cars on ice. I went for the 2008 Audi RS4 B7 you see here. I picked it for two reasons. One, I'd already driven anything else and B, it's yellow. And I love yellow cars.
The B7 RS4, also known as Typ 8E, was introduced in 2006 as the sports version of the third-generation Audi A4, originally unveiled in 2004. The RS4 was upgraded with the addition of Audi's flagship Quattro four-wheel drive system, a bit of a necessity when you consider how much power and torque this makes, and Audi also fitted a Torsen T-3 ATB rear-biased (40:60) differential and electronic diff-slip. In plain English, this makes the car easy to use while still requiring some sort of commitment on your part. Anybody can drive it, I know that because I was able to drift it on snow and I have the same drifting abilities as a Capuchin monkey. It can be done, you just gotta be careful.
Under the yellow bonnet, you'll find a 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 making 414 bhp and 317 torques when you're using 98 RON petrol, giving it a specific power output of 99.5 bhp per litre. The standard B7 RS4 weighs just under 1,700 kg but this particular vehicle has been modified by Nokian and LMS for testing purposes, a few unnecessary bits have been removed and that means it's sensibly lighter than that.
If you can afford the running costs, a B7 or B8 RS4, or even the S4, is a wonderful real-world all-rounder. It does everything you need and more, and nothing you don't. They're not even that expensive to buy even though, as ever, we should always remember that if we can't afford the running costs, we can't afford the car.
I've driven this car in Lapland, home of Santa Claus, I tried to call ahead but he was unavailable. I'm assuming he's still got the letter I sent when I was 10, I said I wanted a Dodge Viper 1:18 diecast model. Well, I've changed my mind. I'd like a life-size Audi RS4 instead. Thank you, Santa. 🎅