Car reviews - Audi - RS6 - Avant performance
Exceptional handling and feedback; prodigious V8 power and soundtrack; epic stopping power; razor-sharp eight-speed auto; plenty of cabin and cargo space
Room for improvement
Reduced insulation may increase road noise; thirsty when pushed; eye-watering price tag and options; Aussie roads are too slow and likely too rough for it
Audi’s most powerful-ever V8 offers thrilling performance at an eye-watering price
23 Nov 2023
By MATT BROGAN
IT ISN’T every day you get the opportunity to hustle a quarter-million-dollar performance car around Australia’s fastest racetrack. But with more power and torque – and even faster acceleration – than ever before, there simply aren’t too many places to stretch the legs of Audi’s most powerful-ever V8 model.
The RS6 Avant performance, which arrives alongside the svelte RS7 Sportback performance this month, is a more energetic, dynamically sharper, and faster take on a recipe Audi has perfected over several decades.
The latest flagship duo is priced from $241,500 and $248,500 respectively, plus on-road costs, railing it close to the Mercedes-AMG E 63 and BMW M5 in terms of direct competition. It’s an eye-watering price tag, no doubt. But one that buys formidable performance, stellar engineering, and a truly luxurious level of trim and tech.
Put simply, Audi has turned up the wick on the RS6 Avant performance and RS7 Sportback performance twins, increasing turbocharger boost pressure (up from 2.4 to 2.6 bar) in the twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine to now offer 463kW of power (+22kW) and 850Nm (+50Nm).
The additional output results in a 0-100km/h sprint now 0.2 seconds quicker than before, Audi quoting a 3.4-second time for both body styles. Top speed is electronically capped to 280km/h.
Power continues to be put to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro permanent all-wheel drive system (which can now send up to 85 per cent of drive to the rear or 70 per cent to the front) with a now more compact self-locking centre differential and torque converter eight-speed automatic transmission, the latter with revised software to enable even faster shift times.
Audi’s drive select dynamic handling system now allows the driver to control the vehicles’ character through four pre-set and two customisable profiles.
With idle-stop, cylinder-on-demand, and 48-volt mild hybrid technology the 4.0 TFSI engine is also more economical than before, consuming 11.8 litres per 100km (with CO2 emissions of 269 grams per kilometre). Maybe on the right stretch of highway… but certainly not on the track.
Dynamic all-wheel steering with RS-specific tuning, RS adaptive air suspension, optional Dynamic Ride Control and some of the largest brakes ever fitted to an Audi are all tucked beneath that stylish body.
Stopping duties fall to Audi’s RS high performance braking system with red painted callipers, the 10-pot stoppers clasping 420mm steel rotors in standard form, and available with 440mm ceramic discs as standard, shaving a whopping 34kg of unsprung mass.
For RS enthusiasts, the performance duo is set to get pulses racing with even greater focus on sensory feedback. Reduced sound insulation levels promise greater mechanical theatre than before, while simultaneously allowing greater enjoyment from the sport exhaust system.
As was the case with the forerunners to the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback, the performance models are highly specified with extensive appearance, amenity, comfort, infotainment, and safety inclusions.
Visually, the RS6 Avant performance and RS7 Sportback performance are identified by a special wheel and tyre package with gloss silver and black metallic 22-inch 5-Y-spoke forged and milled alloy wheels, each 5kg lighter than those of the regular model.
The new wheels are shod with Continental Sport Contact 7 rubber in a 285/30 profile Audi says, “equals or exceeds the previous tyres’ capabilities”.
Matt grey exterior, matt aluminium or matt carbon black exterior elements are available optionally, each altering the look of the front spoiler, front side flaps, side sill inserts, rear diffuser insert, trim strips on the side windows, wing mirror caps, roof rails (Avant only), Audi rings and exterior badging.
Audi will further offer matt effect paint finish (cost option) for the first time, alongside a new Ascari Blue finish available in metallic or matt.
Inside, the addition of a blue RS design package – joining grey and red – join sport seats in Valcona leather upholstery with three-stage heating and ventilation (front) and RS performance welcome lighting. A 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D premium audio system with 1820-watt output is further available.
The performance duo is offered with Audi’s regular warranty and roadside assistance program, as well as five-year service plans, and an extendable factory warranty offering coverage for up to nine years. Audi owners also receive complementary membership during the warranty period to Audi Experience experiences and events.
It almost defies logic that a 2100kg station wagon should be this engaging on track, but those incremental changes made by the boffins at Ingolstadt have sharpened what was already one of the most potent family cars on the planet into a physics-defying weapon of sheer and utter lunacy.
Of course, we mean that in a good way; for there are very few words to describe just how quick and capable the RS6 Avant performance is without dropping the F-bomb.
Mash the throttle, clear the pit exit, and shoot for Phillip Island Circuit’s stupid-fast turn one and it’s immediately obvious we’re strapped into something special – and something we bond with straightaway.
There aren’t too many cars you can get in and drive fast without a hint of trepidation. Will it bite? Is there enough grip on the front-end? Will it oversteer if I’m too eager on the throttle?
Being able to feel and understand a car quickly is important when you only have a few laps to form an opinion – and fortunately for us the RS6 Avant performance speaks ‘fast’ very well.
The way the RS6 Avant performance sails through Doohan before settling for the complex, dual apex Southern Loop shows just how well suited the active diff and sticky tyres are to this sort of driving. You feel everything, instantly. The shift in the body as its mass is quickly curtailed, the grip from left to right – and front to rear – and the granular response through the tiller. Since when do family cars drive this well?
Feed on the throttle through Stoner and line your sights on Miller (formerly Honda) and your head tells you, “this is where things get taily”. But the RS6 Avant performance controls its pitch impeccably, allowing you to set up for and then shoot out of turn four quicker than seems fathomable.
Being able to keep the car planted here allows a tighter line – and faster exit – from Siberia than should be possible. The vehicle is supercar tidy through here, allowing an exacting line that uses every inch of the track for a rocket ship ride up to the Hay Shed.
Simply, I can’t think of too many cars that allow such accuracy through here. What looks like an unchallenging section of track is, in part due to its near-level crown, a spot where balance is crucial, a lift-and-dab approach often needed to readjust and resettle the nose for the fast approach into Lukey Heights.
Hard on the throttle, the quick upshifts of the ZF eight-speed auto feel less aggressive than you’d expect, but still lighting fast – and the soundtrack, wow! It feels and sounds as if we could pile on speed for another kilometre or more, but ‘Lukey’ is a bend that commands respect, and it’s approaching fast.
It is time to brush off speed, and let the hill do the rest. Using the friction of the Conti rubber and metering the throttle the RS6 Avant performance lunges across Lukey, maintaining poise across all four wheels on what is one of the hardest braking points of the circuit – MG.
The parallel streaks of rubber heading off into the sand show how easy it is to stuff it up here, or to spin and face the other direction as weight shifts forward downhill. We’ll have none of that today…
Like the sensation felt at Miller, the RS6 stays flatter than expected, allowing a brisk transition onto the throttle and an easy shift of torque to the rear wheels for the push into 11 and 12. This long, fast arc can have dangerous consequences if you run out of grip – or talent – requiring a holding of nerves, and of throttle, before mashing it to the carpet as you pass the flag point.
Once more, the undersquare vee-eight takes its chance to run for the horizon. Down the chute past the first bridge, then the start line, and cresting the hill to do it all again…. It took a lot less time to finish that lap than it did for you to read this, believe us.
What we learnt here is that the free-revving power delivered up front is strategically matched by a driveline and chassis that harnesses every joule of energy it can to the road. Blending quatto all-wheel drive with razor sharp four-wheel steering, a super-responsive rear diff and accurately metered suspension makes even average drivers look good.
The tactility and tenacity of the RS6 Avant performance might come at a price, but we can’t think of too many vehicles that offer this much performance with room for five and the dog. Take that second mortgage or sell a kidney, you’ll thank us when you do. Just make sure you don’t try and find the vehicle’s limits anywhere but the track.
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