Audacious new Audi eats up the autobahn

With impressive pace and precision, the new Audi RS6 Avant is almost a supercar in the body of an estate


In the current harsh economic climate, you’d imagine car manufacturers would find it hard enough to sell standard variants of their passenger car models, let alone high-performance versions. It seems this is not the case for Audi, who will introduce four new RS models for 2013, a year which marks the 30th anniversary of the Quattro.

Following on from the launch of the new Audi RS6 Avant, the RS5 cabriolet, RSQ3 and RS7 will arrive in the coming months.

If you’re one of the lucky few Irish customers awaiting the arrival of Audi’s new RS6 Avant, you’re in for a real treat. In short, the new RS6 Avant is close to a supercar in the body of an estate car; its sheer pace has quite literally blown us away on our recent drive around the outskirts of Munich.

Although it’s unquestionably rapid, however, it doesn’t communicate with the driver or have the agility that a supercar would naturally possess.

The engineering boffins at Quattro have managed to reduce the size of the engine from a V10 in its predecessor to this V8 engine, yet improve its performance and efficiency, with a 30 per cent reduction in fuel consumption. The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol unit in this new RS6 produces 560hp and a colossal 700Nm of torque. The net result is a 0-to-100km/h time of just 3.9 seconds, which is all the more impressive when you consider the RS6 weighs almost two tonnes. It will accelerate to an electrically-limited top speed of 250 km/h; this is increased to 280 km/h with the optional Dynamic package and 305km/h with the Dynamic plus package.

Unrelenting acceleration
On unrestricted sections of Germany’s autobahns the RS6’s acceleration above 120km/h is unrelenting, aided no doubt by the copious amount of torque available. The sound emitted from the engine under load is joyful, with plenty of pops and bangs with gear changes and lift offs, thanks to the switchable flaps in the exhaust system. For those who want to enhance the V8’s rumble further, there’s an optional sports exhaust system available.

The RS6 is fitted with an eight-speed ZF tiptronic transmission as standard. It’s a splendid unit offering silky-smooth gear changes when in comfort mode and quite violent ones in dynamic mode under hard acceleration; it’s a real occasion for all occupants when extracting power in the RS6. Keeping all the power under control and, more importantly, preventing the car from straying off the road is Quattro’s permanent all-wheel-drive system, complete with torque vectoring.

Despite weighing close on two tonnes, the RS6 can tackle twisty sections of road with the precision and poise of a car half its weight. The ride can be altered through Audi’s drive control, with air suspension fitted as standard. The individual setting allows you to tailor the suspension, steering and throttle responses to your own requirements. For motorway driving we found the comfort setting on the suspension to work best, while the dynamic setting was good for country roads to reduce body roll.

We drove two RS6’s; the first had the standard fit, wave design steel brake discs, while the second variant had the expensive carbon ceramic discs. Although the latter may have superior braking power, we preferred the feel from the standard discs which are certainly capable of providing sufficient braking power. The ceramics are really only required if you intend on taking your car on track regularly or daily high-speed commutes on the autobahn, something you probably won’t be undertaking on Dublin’s congested M50.

The RS6 has a wide, muscular visual stance, aided by the flared wheel arches and immense 21in alloy wheels (20in as standard). The large Quattro logo on the front grille takes centre stage, while at the rear there’s a chunky spoiler, rear diffuser and two hefty elliptical exhaust tailpipes.

Customers can choose from two optional styling packs, Matte Aluminium or Carbon, both offering a distinct look. Our test car was equipped with the carbon pack; this includes a carbon front splitter, carbon rear diffuser and carbon door mirrors. The basic interior architecture is closely related to the standard A6 Avant variants, albeit with a more luxurious feel.

Sports steering wheel
There’s a pair of sculpted, figure-hugging sports seats up front, with carbon inlays and a flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel. Within the RS menu of the driver information system is a new feature, a shift light with green segments that illuminate as the engine revs increase; this turns to red and flashes as the revs approach the red line on the rev counter. The menu also displays oil temperature and boost pressure and has a digital speedometer.

In terms of rivals, at this level the RS6 Avant will go up against the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Estate and the BMW M5 Touring. Although BMW are yet to confirm production of a touring variant of the current F10 M5, it would seem a logical step. Both the Mercedes and the BMW have a rear-wheel-drive setup which some purists may prefer.

Audi has no plans at present to introduce a saloon variant of this new RS6, probably because estate variants are more popular across much of Europe. This new Audi RS6 is a highly advanced car with extreme acceleration capabilities; it might not have the precision of a true sports car but you can’t ignore the practicality on offer from this estate car that truly has two sides.

It’s a high performance car for everyday use.