We drive the 552bhp family estate car. Can it give the thrills we want from an Audi RS?[Not a valid template]
Estates, or wagons, depending on your language base, are a relatively rare sight on the streets of the Middle East. Which is a shame, because when you think about it, they’re a drivers’ dream. You get the foundations of a saloon, with the space of an SUV, with none of the high centre of gravity nonsense that messes up the handling. So when a wagon with massive amounts of horsepower arrives in the region, we, as committed petrolheads, want to know more. We want to be able to drop the kids off at school, secure the weekly shopping in the back and then punch it to light speed on the way home. Europe is chock full of such machines, with all the major German manufacturers producing big-bottomed versions of their powerhouses. It’s rare though that any of them make the trip to the Gulf.
But here we have the Audi RS6 Avant – the only form of RS6 you can get. Sorry, saloon fans. As you might expect, it’s an A6 with a ton of power and a greenhouse on the back, but is it actually more than that? I’ve been critical of monster Audis in the past for not bringing enough excitement to the party, considering the invitation comes with an RS badge. Sure, they’re quick, but they’ve felt little more than a regular machine with more power. Where’s the finesse, the drama, the seat of your pants adrenaline rush?
The exception to the rule though was the RS4 Avant, which once you grasped it by the scruff of the neck was really quite entertaining. So which RS pile does the 6 fall into?
All in good time. First, let’s have a look at it. It’s subtle, as one would expect from Audi – rarely one to shout about its performance even when under the bonnet lurks a twin-blown 4-litre V8, replacing the old 5-litre V10 found in the previous generation car. It chucks out 552bhp. Hoo-ee. And yet to the casual beholder, it’s not too far removed from a standard A6 Avant. Peak closer though and you’ll see wider arches, a more aggressive body kit and bulging muscles. It’s smart, but it looks well ‘ard.
Inside, it’s Audi business as usual, which means the best of the best. Short of crazy Bentley money, you won’t find a better screwed-together interior, even if it would be nice to see more fun had with the age-old, safe design. But all the materials are top notch, and the fancy embossed sports seats hug without crushing. It’s classy, not flashy. Anyone that’s been in a standard A6 will notice, seats aside, that it’s familiar save for a flat-bottomed steering wheel and carbon trim. Snazzy.
Although the new car still features monstrous power, it’s down on the old V10’s 571bhp. However, the new machine is also some 100kg lighter, which means a higher power-to-weight ratio, which means it’s faster. The gearbox isn’t the now-familiar dual-clutch unit found in other family models, it’s an eight-speed traditional automatic.
Let’s get one thing clear straight away – the RS6 is blisteringly quick. Squeeze the throttle and there’s a bellow from the big oval exhausts and then your eyes start to water. From standstill to 100kph takes just 3.9 seconds thanks to all that power and all-wheel drive, which is supercar fast in a car that weighs north of two tonnes. It’s ridiculous, but fantastic at the same time. There’s no savagery, but there’s an insistent, silky thrust to its delivery that’s rather addictive.
And yet, once you let off the pedal and settle into a cruise, the RS6 is as placid as an old Labrador. Barely any road or wind noise penetrates the cabin, and the ride is beautifully damped via air suspension. So, when roaring onto a motorway, or when overtaking, there’s plenty of potential for inducing grins. But the smile fades somewhat when going through corners. The steering isn’t the main culprit, but although it’s nicely weighted it feels artificial, with a pixelated texture running through the fingertips rather than full 4K information. The gearbox, which is fine at a cruise, is a shade too slow in manual mode, which is frustrating.
It’s also front heavy; despite the reduction in engine size it still boasts 55 percent of its 1935kg forward of the centre line, which means attempts to carry speed through corners are thwarted by howling front tyres. Driving the RS6 at a lick is very much a case of slow in (not difficult thanks to excellent carbon brakes), wait, spot the exit, then wield the sledgehammer. Try to get on the juice early and you’ll be rewarded with dollops of understeer. It’s a blunt instrument with a finely upholstered interior and space for a Great Dane. Don’t get me wrong, that has its charm, but I wanted such creature comforts on a rapier.
Although the Audi RS6 is a monstrously fast family cruiser, I really wish it was more. The RS4 Avant showed that big bum doesn’t need to detract from the fun possibilities, but that feeling of edginess is missing in its bigger brother. Squirt it in a straight line and it’s hilarious, but show it corners and demand performance and it’ll let you down. I don’t think that’s because it’s an Avant, I think it’s an inherent problem with the car as a whole. I can’t say I didn’t have fun in the RS6, but it’s something of a one trick pony – albeit a beautifully refined one. Nevertheless, I left reminiscing about the RS4 and what it could do in comparison.
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|Engine:||V8 / twin turbo / 3993cc|
|Power:||552bhp @ 5700-6700rpm|
|Torque:||516lb ft @ 1750-5500rpm|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed automatic transmission / quattro permanent all-wheel-drive / sports differential|
|Front suspension:||RS-specific Adaptive air suspension|
|Rear suspension:||RS-specific Adaptive air suspension|
|Brakes:||RS high-performance braking system|
|Wheels:||20in front and rear|
|Tyres:||275/35 R20 front and rear|