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Driven: Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi RS 6 Avant performance
Absolute power corrupts absolutely... we’re smitten with Audi’s biblically good RS 6 run-out.


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Audi RS 6 Avant performance

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: noise, pace, power, poise, lavish interior, thuggish exterior.

Not so good: the price.

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi RS 6 Avant performance
Price: RS 6 from £79,505; performance from £80,085; car as tested £102,755
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed Tiptronic automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 223g/km (Band K, £650 VED first 12 months, £295 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017; £1,200 first 12 months, £450 per annum next five years, then £140 per annum thereafter, if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 29.4mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited; option to raise to either 174- or 189mph)
0-62mph: 3.7 seconds
Power: 605hp at 6,100-6,800rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 1,750-6,000rpm; 750Nm on overboost at 2,500-5,500rpm

Our view:

The last thing the 560hp/700Nm third-generation Audi RS 6 - based, as it is, on the 'C7' variant of the A6 - ever needed was more power. But with an all-new MkV Audi A6 on the way in 2017, time is running out for the current car and so Audi Sport (what was formerly quattro GmbH, until November 2016) was tasked with making an even more potent RS 6 as a grand farewell hurrah.

Therefore, we're left with the mammoth RS 6 performance, the lower-case epithet being Audi's doing - hotter-than-hot S-model cars from the company get a similar lower-case signifier, which is 'plus'. But never has the word performance meant so much. Tweaks to the engine management give the ultimate Avant peak outputs of 605hp and 750Nm, although that latter figure is only available on a time-limited overboost phase from 2,500- to 5,500rpm; for the rest of the time, you get the same 700Nm as the standard RS 6, across a wider 1,750- to 6,000rpm band.

Audi charges you a £5,580 premium for the performance over a regular RS 6 Avant and if you haven't got a rolling road handy on which you can verify the additional 45hp and 50Nm of the range-topper, then you might be struggling to spot what's different about the performance. We'll give you the salient details: the bumpers are marginally different. No, really; that's about it. The easiest things to identify are the beautiful, bicolour 21-inch alloy wheels, which are specific to the performance, although our car also had the no-cost option matt aluminium pack on the outside, which clothes the air intake strakes, front splitter, door mirrors and the rear exhaust/diffuser surround in the silvery finish.

Inside's much the same story, as it looks pretty much identical to a regular RS 6 cabin. This is not a bad thing in the slightest. OK, so this generation A6 cannot take the Virtual Cockpit TFT instrument cluster yet, which means it has one of those MMI screens that pops up out of the dash and analogue dials with a digital information display in between. Slightly outmoded stuff now, in the era of touchscreen this and gesture control that, but as this is an Audi cabin it's all beautifully put together and incredibly easy to use, while deciphering the various read-outs on the move is a cinch. Particular highlights include the part-Alcantara, honeycomb-pattern, RS 6-branded sports seats, the traditional Audi flat-bottomed steering wheel and the carbon fibre dash trim. The RS 6 performance is as accommodating in terms of space within as any A6, so five adults on board would be no drama at all and the boot, accessed by an automatic tailgate (£750), clocks in at a whopping 565 litres. The car therefore works as well as an Audi Avant as it does at destroying small continents with its sheer grunt.

Hugely desirable the RS 6 performance may be - we'll come back to this matter later - but, despite its robust £85,085 starting price, don't expect to get one out of the showroom for that sort of cash. Witness our test car: loaded with the £2,100 Assistance Pack, that electrically operated boot, the £250 speed limit display, an £810 Parking Pack, a panoramic glass sunroof for £1,300 and Audi Connect with Audi Phone Box (£750), we're already the wrong side of £91,000.

And that doesn't include two more options fitted to this demonstrator, which were the essential RS Sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control adjustable damping (£1,000)... and a simply astonishing £9,375 set of carbon ceramic brakes. Come on, you don't really need these, do you? OK, if you're going to use the RS 6 performance regularly on a circuit you might want them but there are much better track-day cars than a hefty great quattro estate, while if you genuinely require their extra bite on the roads then you'll inevitably be doing the sort of speeds that would make national headlines on the ten o'clock news. You can get an entire Dacia - or a bog-basic Vauxhall Viva, whatever's your poison - and change for this sort of money.

Anyway, the grey, branded callipers tell us they're fitted and this leaves us with a six-figure Audi A6, weighing in at £102,755. That is an incredible concept to roll around your head, especially when a decent A6 allroad quattro with plenty of desirable options will only set you back around £50k. But don't despair. Because, should you have the disposable income to sink into one of these goliath Audi estates, if you then go out and buy one you'll end up with one of the most capable, enthralling and utterly wonderful cars we've ever had the pleasure of driving.

That the RS 6 performance is blindingly quick is not only obvious, but also a colossal understatement. Nothing that weighs 2,025kg with a driver installed should be able to move with such phenomenal speed, grace and control as this. The previous two iterations of RS 6 were both sensationally rapid by their contemporary standards, but neither of them were particularly involving or pleasing things to drive, even though the second-gen Audi had a Lambo-sourced 5.2-litre V10.

Yet this 605hp performance model is magnificent. It's blessed with fabulous steering, lacking any of that stodginess many Audi set-ups have displayed for quite a few years. It's accurate and beautifully weighted, and even possesses some genuine feedback, even though we wouldn't say it was the finest rack in the world. The RS 6 also seems to be entirely lacking in understeer in any form, something that cannot be said of either of its predecessors or a whole slew of Audi S/RS models over the years. The nose just slices into corners cleanly and swiftly, and then clings on no matter how much you provoke it with the car's razor-sharp throttle.

Lift the accelerator mid-bend and something even more wondrous happens, as you can feel the RS 6's tail tweak out into mild oversteer. Yup, you can actually steer a big-power quattro Audi on the throttle. We're not trying to claim it would hold lurid, smoking drifts for hours on end like a full-on rear-driver, but this sort of chassis interactivity has been sorely missing from so many of Audi's performance cars over the ages. That the mighty RS 6 performance has it at all is a thoroughly pleasant surprise.

Which isn't to say it doesn't drive with the same sort of all-weather aplomb as any other Audi quattro. Come rain or shine, endless traction means the RS 6 goes like a massive bullet if you want it to. This is down to that £1,000 adaptive damping, which blesses it with a perfect - yes, perfect - blend of body control to ride comfort. This means that, unlike previous fast Audis (again...), the RS 6 never skitters or bounces over poor surfaces, instead breathing with the road surface and going exactly where you want it to. That engenders more trust, so you squeeze its throttle a bit further and dig deeper into its enormous reserves of pace, and it just keeps gripping and going, informing you all the time of what's going on beneath the fat tyres via the steering wheel and the base of your spine, and the scenery becomes more of a frenzied blur, and... wow. Just, wow.

This isn't even mentioning the noise the RS 6 performance makes, which is obscenely good from idle to redline, whether in Comfort mode or racked up into Dynamic, where the exhaust belches out its full gamut of thudding pops, bangs and crackles during upshifts, downshifts or abrupt lifts of the throttle on the way into a bend. Make no mistake; at no point do you forget you're being propelled along by a smashing V8 engine that makes just 5hp less, and yet 190Nm more, than the V10 motor you'd find in Audi's R8 plus supercar. The RS 6 Performance is just a bonkers, bonkers car, and it's all the better for it.

It works absolutely wonderfully as a regular daily driver, too. Slot the eight-speed Tiptronic automatic (which we've not even talked about, but despite the fact it's a proper, full-on torque-converter unit and not the purists' preferred dual-clutch transmission, it's a flawless gearbox) into D, click the Audi into its softest settings and it's no more challenging to drive than a 1.6 TDI A3. It just whispers along A-roads and motorways with its brutal 4.0-litre engine doing little more than idling, which means (somewhat farcically) we managed to achieve close to its official economy with 28.3mpg on a 2.5-hour, 128-mile motorway run conducted at an average 53mph: 28.3mpg, from a 605hp, all-wheel drive, two-tonne-plus wagon. Even during the course of a week in which we regularly accessed the upper reaches of the RS 6's prodigious performance, it managed to return 20.4mpg across 432 miles. Remarkable.

Stunning to look at, fantastic on the inside in terms of finish, equipment and comfort, ridiculously fast in all conditions, possessed of a scintillating chassis and yet easily able to function in the choked-up traffic flows of modern motoring, it is hard to imagine a better all-round package than the Audi RS 6 performance. It's like the king of Audis and, returning to our earlier comment about its desirability, it would also appear to be akin to catnip for owners of lesser Ingolstadt machinery; you find the bulging wheel arches and muscular stance of the Avant end up assembling a flotilla of modified old A4s, Q3s and A1s that trail along in your wake, all of them wanting to catch a glimpse of the RS 6. One bloke in an A5 2.0 TDI nearly hit the central reservation on the A1 southbound while gawping at the RS 6 performance as he passed, while another three people took the time to walk up to us in car parks and compliment us on our 'superb car'. That's some strong customer want, right there.

A brave thing for us to write, then, but we ultimately sum up with this statement: the Audi RS 6 performance might well be the very finest car we've ever driven. It truly is that stunningly good. Never has £103,000 for a car ever seemed more reasonable...


Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake: the MkII XF doesn't even have an R high-performance model or a Sportbrake so far, so an XFR-S Sportbrake is some time away... but it was epic in MkI guise.

Mercedes-AMG E 63 S: like the Jag, Mercedes-AMG hasn't, as yet, turned its attention to the estate version of the 612hp E 63 S - but you know it will, and you know it will be a corking AWD machine.

Range Rover Sport SVR: about as close as you can get to the RS 6 performance - it's big, AWD, has a stonking V8 and costs around £100,000. SVR is brilliant, but not quite as brilliant as the Audi.

Matt Robinson - 29 Dec 2016    - Audi road tests
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- A6 images

2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.

2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS 6 Avant performance. Image by Audi.


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