MOTOR Magazine Australia|December 2021

AUDI RS4 AVANT versus Alfa Romeo Stelvio Q. Estate versus SUV. Apple versus orange.

Clearly, the competitors in this segment-jumping twin test don’t face off as neatly and naturally as, say, Giulia Q against RS5 Sportback. Or do they? Giulia versus RS5 Sportback does present disparity in body style, in door count and in driven-wheel format.

Ignore categorisation, and the RS4 versus Stelvio make an odd if naturally fit couple. Both are mid-sized wagons boasting their maker’s high-performance gumption and credo, with very similar all-wheel drive powertrains. And each promises all-rounder duality, fit for both school run utility and sunny Sunday morning thrills once uncorked.

And at $146,900 against $147,900 in favour of the slightly more affordable Italian, they want for very similar wedges in what are both recently fettled guises for MY21, too.

The pair occupy a similar groove, even if, by nature of different segmentation, the visually plumper Italian appears to be a tighter squeeze. In the absence of a Giulia Q estate or fullmonty RS Q5, this rivalry on the pages before you is a logical world cup match-up.

Interestingly, the Stelvio Q marks territory as arguably the friskiest and most agile high-performer for a pigeonhole that doesn’t favour such folly: mid-sized SUVs.

In fair contrast, the RS4 Avant is pegged as a pragmatic all-rounder, less visceral than key nemesis Mercedes- AMG C63 S Estate, less heroic than alpha siblings RS6 Avant and big daddy RS Q8: a sweet spot, rather than being renowned as a hot one.

As getaway cars for a bank heist go, it’s a two-minute job with a tape measure to deduce the Alfa Romeo is the smarter place to park more loot though, at 525 litres of boot space against the Audi’s 495L, the practicality advantage is trimmer than you might expect.

The form guide, too, favours the Italian on pace if, again, modestly so.

Both fit 2.9-litre bi-turbo sixes, the SUV’s 375kW at 6500rpm exceeds the estate’s 331kW at 6700rpm, while torque is lineball at 600Nm, the Audi’s peak arriving lower in the rev range (1900rpm plays 2500rpm). Eight-speed torque-converter autos and all-wheel traction are levellers, though there’s a disparity in footprint, the Audi’s all-four 275mm spread differing from the Alfa Romeo’s staggered 255mm front, 285mm rear methodology.

The Stelvio’s 3.8sec 0-100km/h claim, a three-tenths advantage, will surely raise an eyebrow given the difference in physical stature, but perhaps the real shocker is that the Italian’s kerb weight is, at 1830kg, only 85kg heftier than the RS4 Avant’s surprisingly portly 1745kg kerb weight. Further, the Italian’s 283km/h V-max offers 33km/h more ‘getaway’ headroom than that of the German.

Differences, then, are clearly more in shades than strides. Deciding which of the pair is the fitter pulse-raising punt is a more complex and involved proposition. That’s because by the seat of the pants, the two full-fat family haulers are very different animals indeed.

The RS4 Avant is low. Its squat stance and plump proportions are exacerbated by the trim roofline. You fall into its sunken, naturally formed bucket seat squabs. Its centre of gravity seems to skim the Tarmac. There’s a certain lightness to its cabin ambience – techy, lavishly appointed and unapologetically Teutonic – that makes the Audi seem trimmer and leaner than its weighbridge ticket otherwise suggests.

At the helm, the RS4 Avant feels like a thoroughbred sportscar refashioned with a big boot.

By stark contrast, in core vibe, the Stelvio Q feels like a juiced-up plus-sized family hauler. It doesn’t hunker down on its optional 21s (20s are standard) so assertively. You climb into it, propping yourself up in its torso-welding, excessively bolstered seats, hemmed in by a seemingly thicker layer of metal, glass, plastic and carbon-fibre than that of the Audi. Its cabin design is more austere, more classical and certifiably more Italian, right down to the elephant ear column shifters and analogue instrumentation.

For the driver, the Stelvio Q fits more like a boxing glove as opposed to a racing one.

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