Car reviews - Audi - A6 - RS6 Avant
Jack-of-all-trades personality, chassis balance, cornering performance, phenomenal driveability, quality
Room for improvement
Steering can feel a bit light and takes some getting used to, not light, far from cheap
New Audi RS6 Avant, RS7 Sportback have towering tech levels to match top performance
24 Jul 2020
THE original RS6 Avant, launched in Australia 17 years ago, was a god. Not as pure as a manual-only, naturally aspirated E39 BMW M5, perhaps, but a legend all the same, and the car that kickstarted Audi’s RS legacy in this country.
Sporting Audi’s iconic ‘Avant’ body style, with quattro all-wheel drive and a wild 331kW twin-turbo V8, the first RS6 debuted Dynamic Ride Control – a diagonally interconnected damping system that transformed the one-note C5 A6 into a sophisticated, supersonic stealth mobile.
But hasn’t the RS6 has blossomed! Now twinned with a coupe-esque RS7 Sportback sibling (as per the previous generation), Audi says the latest iteration of these RS halo models are the most comprehensively engineered high-performance cars to ever wear an Audi RS badge.
First drive impressions
So much engineering effort has gone into the 2020 RS6 Avant that it shares just four panels with its A6/S6 Avant relatives – the roof, front doors and tailgate.
The rest is completely unique, including guards pumped 40mm wider per side in order to house enormous 22-inch alloy wheels with eye-widening 285/30R22 tyres.
And the RS6 is now so high-end, it essentially shares the RS7’s nosecone for a Blade Runner-esque visage and more rearview mirror menace than Predator peering through the rear screen.
The new RS7 Sportback doesn’t need quite as much extra girth to achieve maximum intimidation, but another 20mm for each wheelarch sees it match the RS6’s bespoke look, and equal its almost laughable proportions.
When you’re driving behind a new-gen RS6/RS7, those 22-inch boots protrude so far that any reference to describing a ‘car on steroids’ now has a new visual benchmark.
Not that what’s under each bonnet doesn’t befit that description.
Audi’s 4.0-litre V8 with a pair of twin-scroll turbochargers nestled inside the engine’s 90-degree vee, each feeding its own cylinder bank, manages to achieve 441kW (or 600 metric horsepower) from 6000-6250rpm, and more torque than any RS model in history – a towering 800Nm from 2050-4500rpm.
Tied to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic, there’s an incredibly docile beast effortlessly awaiting your service in the RS6 and RS7.
And there’s also cylinder-on-demand technology (to shut down an entire cylinder bank under light loads), as well as a beautifully seamless 48-volt mild-hybrid system that can activate idle-stop when moving at speeds up to 22km/h or adopt a coast mode between 55km/h and 160km/h.
Audi says the real-world benefit of all this efficiency tech is a fuel saving of up to 0.8L/100km (for 11.6-11.7L/100km on the ADR81 combined cycle). And it’s all incredibly smooth in operation.
However, the drawcard with the RS6 and RS7 is surely what they can do when given some leash.
Weighing an SUV-rivalling 2075kg, the RS6 Avant shows no signs of being held back by its physical size, and nor does the 10kg-lighter RS7.
Audi claims 0-100km/h in a somewhat conservative 3.6 seconds (we managed 3.5s in the old RS7 at Sydney Dragway) and a 0-200km/h time of 12-flat. Top speed has been electronically limited to 280km/h, however you can go another step to 305km/h if necessary – with the optional Dynamic Package Plus, including ceramic brakes.
Underpinning both the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback is Audi’s MLB Evo platform, derived from the latest-gen architecture debuted by the new A8 in late-2017. What that brings is not only the all-round splendour of adaptive air suspension (as standard on both RS6 and RS7) but also four-wheel steering.
And much like in the A8, bringing the rear wheels into play gives these two-tonne tormentors a level of lithe agility that feels utterly physics defying.
The set-up is now deemed so capable by Audi Sport that you can add the aforementioned Dynamic Plus Package ($19,500) to the air-sprung RS6/RS7, meaning track-spec brakes and top speed with the cushier chassis.
But for another $2850, you can option Dynamic Ride Control with steel springs and diagonally interconnected adaptive dampers for even sharper responses, without impacting on the RS6/RS7’s frankly astounding ride, given the size of its wheel package.
The cars I spent the most time piloting were both fitted with the Dynamic Plus package, along with steel springs. Yet so good is the refinement of these RS Audis that you’d almost never know your trick ceramic brakes were the largest fitted to any production car in the world, or that the suspension wasn’t the plusher air-sprung arrangement.
The standard brakes on RS6/RS7 are already-massive 420mm front discs with 10-piston callipers and 370mm rear discs. But the ceramic option ups that to 440mm at the front and saves 34kg in overall unsprung weight!
The real achievement, though, is that they’re actually fairly progressive and easy to modulate, especially once you’ve acclimatised to their prodigious capabilities.
Suspension-wise, even with the steel set-up in ‘Balanced’ (the middle setting), there’s an absorbency and a level of vertical body control that is truly excellent, and totally liveable.
Yet when a twisty road opens up and there’s fun to be had, the keenness of the RS6 and RS7 to change direction, the enormity of their lateral grip and the poise with which these beasts tackle corners is laugh-out-loud delightful.
Sure, the steering could use a bit more weight even in its most dynamic setting, but once you’ve bonded with the RS6/RS7 it’s staggering how rapidly these cars can devour a challenging road.
There’s no doubt that the Audi Sport all-wheel-drive system is doing everything in its powers to shrink their physical size – altering the usual 40/60 drive split to extremes of 70 per cent to the front or 85 per cent to the rear – and it works, along with a rear sport differential (standard on Aussie cars) that shuffles torque across the rear end to enhance turn-in.
Having all that thunderous power helps, of course, yet there’s a synergy with the way all the RS6/RS7’s dynamic parameters operate, on the road at least.
COVID travel-ban restrictions meant that a joyous day feathering tyres in the name of work wasn’t to be had. But the schlep back to Audi’s enormous new $40-million dealership in south-western Sydney (Alto Audi Macarthur) through peak-hour traffic served as a reminder of just how liveable these cars are.
The rumble from that luscious twin-turbo V8 is suavely present even at city speeds, and then there’s the Nappa-leather-clad, screen-laden sumptuousness of the RS6/RS7’s stunning cabin.
It somehow manages to make such a techy atmosphere feel warm.
And the optional Sensory package ($11,000), the highlight feature of which is an 1820-watt, 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D surround-sound system, is a cerebral experience. I could feel air moving around the cabin with the sound as the hairs on my arms stood on end. I think it’s the greatest stereo I’ve ever been privileged enough to enjoy, and for me would be a must-have.
I suppose privilege on all levels is something that’s required to afford a new-generation RS6 Avant, which is priced from $216,000 (plus on-road costs), or the RS7 Sportback, which starts at $224,000.
Indeed, our Tango Red RS6 with its Sensory package ($11,000), RS Dynamic package ($19,500), carbon and black exterior package ($8700), RS Design package in red (Alcantara wheel and gearknob, plus loads of red stitching – $2900), RS Sports suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control ($2850), gloss-black Audi rings and badging ($700), and lovely carbon-twill cabin inlays ($1700) nudged a sobering $263,350 plus on-roads.
But what an awe-inspiring achievement it is – one that feels like it’s worth a quarter of a million bucks. And one that sits proudly atop of the RS6 lineage.
Audi Australia sold more than 500 of the previous-generation RS6 Avant (launched 2013) and RS7 Sportback. In Europe, the collective sales of the A6, S6, RS6 and Allroad Avant models totalled 83,012 units in 2019.
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