Where the heck have the past seven months gone? It was May when I last brought forth an update for Project RS4, although it barely feels like it was last month.
The car had been in the care of Regal Autosport who had eked out another precious 40hp from the 4.2-litre V8 courtesy of a good old carbon clean, a bit of intake work, and an ECU remap.
With 420hp on tap and the engine feeling super lively and responsive to boot, I spent much of the year putting miles on the old gal. The whole reason I opted for an RS4 in the first place was for its practicality and fun – a car that I could load all of my camera kit in for shoots during the week, put the dog and bags in at the weekend, and also drive just for the fun of it when the opportunity arose.
Was I asking too much? No! And yes, a little bit.
As a workhorse the Audi swallows all my kit without bother, but it’s not the most practical thing in the world specifically for my job. The uprated suspension and low-profile tyres make it a little on the firm side when I’m doing tracking (rolling) shots, but it’s manageable. The main headache I face is trying to keep it nice and tidy with dragging kit in and out, and with myself and journalists climbing in and out during shoots and generally using it like a bin. Thanks, guys.
On the flip side, I love how this thing drives. It’s got enough power to make me churn through far more fuel that I need to on pretty much every journey, the noise is addictive, and there’s not really anything I can do to upset it in the bends. I’ve always maintained that if you have a spill in any RS model then you’re pushing far too hard for the road.
Having said that, since swapping the stock DRC suspension out for KW Variant 3s, I have noticed a tendency for the front end to push slightly in corners. As the stock suspension is dynamically and opposingly linked between corners of the car, the OEM sway bars are somewhat under-specced. So once you remove the DRC the stock sway bars aren’t as effective as they need to be – we’ll address that shortly.Wider Is Better
The summer was spent driving the RS4 between shoots, UK-based events, and parking it at airports. All was going well up until this year’s Festival of Speed. If you’ve already read my year in review story you’ll know that I suffered a rather big and scary puncture on the motorway on the way back to the hotel, just after a ‘spirited’ and not slow run.
Luckily it happened A.) on the the slip road, and B.) within a reasonable distance from Regal Autosport. The guys there took the car in at 10pm, stuck me in a courtesy car, and got me back to the FOS for the following two days. They are utter legends.
Rather than mess around with replacing a single or pair of Pirelli P-Zeros to match the rest, I stuck by motto of using any and every eventuality to upgrade something. After doing some research online and chatting to people in the know, I opted for a full set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S.
I also chose to step up a tyre width with the replacements, going from the OEM 255/35R19 to 275/30R19 all round. I’d never struggled for grip, but more is always better, right?
I also have in the back of my mind that I’ll be swapping the OEM wheels out in the foreseeable future, and have my eye on a set of 19×9.5-inch or 19×10-inch square setup, which will benefit from the wider rubber.
Regal slapped on the new tyres for me and set the car up with a fast road alignment, as well as raising the height slightly at the back.
The Pilot Sport 4S have been fantastic in the wet and dry so far, although frustratingly I’m yet to get the RS4 on track for any meaningful length of time. It will happen in 2019.Getting A Grip
Fast forward a few months and I got chatting to the guys at 034Motorsport about improving the OEM sway bar situation. They suggested leaving the OEM front sway bar in place and upgrading the rear to their solid adjustable item. Set to its softest setting it offers a 100% increase in sway bar rate over OEM, while at its stiffest setting it’s a 125% boost.
Alongside the sway bar, I also ordered a pair of 034’s billet rear diff carrier inserts to help tighten up the rear end.
A few days later and the parts had made their way from California to sunny (ha!) England and were in the hands of Regal once again for a simple installation.
With the stock sway bar off the car it’s clear to see just how much larger the 034 item is. It’s supplied with some swanky urethane bushings and billet brackets too. While Regal were replacing the bar it made sense to install a set of fresh OEM drop links as well.
Installation is as straightforward as removing the old sway bar and drop links and installing the beefier items. The bar is adjusted between ‘soft’ and ‘stiff’ by simply mounting the drop links in one of the two sets of holes over the other.
While this was happening I had the chance to peruse the current residents in the workshop, most of which were V10-powered and boasting a supercharger. A manual, supercharged V10 R8 in Misano Red is pretty much the dream.
The diff carrier inserts were installed at the same time. These billet discs fill the shaped voids in the OEM rubber bushings, reducing the amount the rubber can compress, and in turn reducing diff movement without adding any noise or vibration into the cabin. Fitting them was literally a case of loosening the diff carrier bolt, slipping the insert in, and tightening it up again.
It’s one of those small upgrades that’s not going to completely change the feel of the car, but is a step in the right direction when it comes to tightening everything up without making it unpleasant to drive on the road.
The rear sway bar, however, is an upgrade I’m really happy with. Instantly the car feels tighter and more flat in corners, and the tendency to wash out at the front has all but disappeared. This upgrade, combined with the KW V3s and the 275-width tyres gives the RS4 an insane amount of grip through corners, with none of the stereotypical Audi understeer bias that some RS models have.
Obviously with good news comes bad news, and the bad news here is that my clutch now needs replacing. With almost 90,000 miles on the clock it’s not done bad at all, so I can’t be mad at it. I’d played with the idea of fitting an upgraded item, however it’s unlikely that I’ll be pushing much more power, and with the OEM item having a decent lifespan I’d rather maintain comfort and drivability.
Alongside getting the clutch replaced over the winter break I’m also planning on bringing the infotainment system up to date with a few upgrades. I spend a lot of time in the car, and up to this point have solely been using my phone to navigate and play music through a crude Bluetooth add on. The RS4’s satellite navigation was designed circa 2005, around the same time as the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and two years before the original iPhone, so it’s old.
With some help from the lovely people at Kenwood UK, I’ll be bringing it up to date with the addition of DAB, Apple CarPlay, and some other clever toys. More to come on this in near-future update…
I’m also still deliberating on wheels, and I can’t actually believe I’ve still not painted the OEM ones silver in the meantime. In fact, I was pretty much ready to pull the trigger and order some replacements when the clutch news came along and ate my wheel budget. That’s a change for early next year then.
There’s the odd bit of paint and bodywork that needs doing to tidy the exterior up, but other than that I’m really happy with where the car is. I keep playing with the idea of changing it for something else, but there’s nothing out there for the money that will do everything this one will. At a minimum, whatever replaces it will need to come with a more sensible ‘daily’ car purchase alongside.
For the time being, I’m sticking put.