Car reviews - Audi - A6 - RS6 Avant
Designer cabin, high-speed stability, wagon practicality, potent engine, big brakes, quattro traction
Room for improvement
Aural experience falls short of the RS4, ride in Dynamic mode very firm
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22 Dec 2014
THE route from Alice Springs to Uluru consists of long, straight and empty roads with raised speed limits and scarcely a corner in sight. It’s this route that Audi chose as the place to host its Australian media launch.
Certainly, a car such as the RS6 seems built for crushing out high-speed miles in just this sort of environment. It was edifying therefore the drive across Australia’s quickest roads. But the review detailing its abilities in the twistier stuff will have to wait, we’re afraid.
Still, we’re quite confident to assert this new RS6 remains a balanced contrast of the sublime and the ridiculous, just like its forebears. It remains a practical family wagon that dines on sportscars on a straight piece of blacktop, and picks its teeth with their bones.
The 412kW twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 under the bonnet is actually less powerful than the old V10, by some 14kW. It does develop 700Nm, 50 Newtons more than before, but the torque curve is narrower, with the full amount now available between 1750 and 5500rpm (compared to 1500-6250).
But don’t go thinking Audi’s gone soft just because it’s downsized, because this 100kg lighter new model is a substantial 0.7s faster to 100km/h than the old one, taking just 3.9s to leap from 0-100km/h.
It’s neck-snappingly fast, that’s for sure. No, you don’t really need this sort of thrust in any car, let alone a wagon. But it’s fun all the same. Simply engage S mode in the transmission and let that four-wheel grip hurl you from the mark. Soon, that desert spinifex becomes a dull-green blur.
Because it has two turbos fitted inside that big, 90-degree ‘V’, it lacks the absolute linearity of its normally-aspirated RS4 little brother. We also think it lacks some of the harsh edges, fewer crackles and pops from the exhaust and a slightly more muffled note.
If you set the Drive Select Mode to ‘Individual’, you can amp up the engine crackle through the rear exhausts – and you’d be mad to do otherwise.
Not to say it loses a sense of theatre – we still symbolically blew the Acubras from more than a few grizzled Outback natives as we rolled into the scattered surrounding settlements.
The eight-speed auto is one smooth operator, although in Audi fashion it holds a short gear a mite too long when engaged in dynamic S mode.
Stability at speed is a highlight: 130km/h feels more like 80km/h for all the fuss it causes. The engine is barely ticking over in eighth gear at fewer than 2000rpm. Of course, we wish it was a decade ago and speeds were still unlimited up there, but you can’t win em all.
Weighing close to two-tonnes and being capable of some colossal pace, the RS6 would want some good anchors. The regular discs – 390mm up front – are up to the challenge, reining the car in fast and hard.
More surprising was the relatively well-muffled road noise (or lack of) emanating from the 21-inch wheels – at least off the coarser-ship stuff – or the compliant ride in Audi Drive Select’s ‘Comfort’ mode. In Dynamic mode, though, it firms up noticeably.
We’re talking about the standard air suspension here – an RS6-first – and this is what we’d opt for. In the right settings, it makes a more consummate cruiser than its forebear.
Over and above this, the Dynamic Package, which features steel springs with three-way adjustable shocks that are connected via diagonally opposed oil lines, sits somewhere in between, albeit towards the firmer end.
The electromechanical steering loads up at speed, and the Drive Select dials in extra resistance should you want it. There’s minimal give on-centre, and the lack of corners made it a little tough to weigh up the car’s balance and its steering feel.
We’ll try to get hold of a car later this year and run it over our favourite patch of twisty roads. Note that the quattro system naturally sends 60 per cent of torque to the rear wheels, something we expect to limit understeer along with a clever differential that adjusts the amount of energy sent to each side of the axle.
The cabin is a wonderful place to idle away the cruising hours. It’s less compromised than the RS4, with softer and more comfortable diamond-stitch leather seats. The fascia is familiar, but laced with carbon-look and aluminium bits to add some glamour.
This crisp design, long features list (although, we’d prefer radar-guided cruise to be standard) and build quality put this car a cut above most. This extends to the exterior, with the 21s, fatter haunches and unique diffuser exuding understated menace and purpose.
You can purchase a pair of rear sports seats, but it comes standard as a roomy five-seater – even with the standard sunroof in place. However, the middle one in the back is a touch compromised.
The standard rails and netting in the cargo space is welcome, and with the seats down in becomes a genuinely practical arrangement. The claimed 1680L capacity and that longer 2915mm wheelbase are enough to stow something substantial from a certain Swedish purveyor of flat-packed goods.
So, our first impressions of the RS6 are a touch incomplete. We know it’s toweringly fast, refined when you want it to be, menacing to look at and practical for a go-fast family. Whether it dispatches twisty roads with equal aplomb awaits judgement.
Even without that, it makes for a pretty spectacular feat of engineering.
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