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First drive: Audi RS 6 Avant. Image by Audi UK.

First drive: Audi RS 6 Avant
The ultimate family wagon? If you have your own oil well, then yes, but this is an extraordinary car any way you cut it.

 



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Audi RS 6 Avant (C8)

5 5 5 5 5

We used to think we preferred the Audi RS 4 Avant to its big brother RS 6, but now this C8 version has arrived, we're completely clear: if you want the ultimate ultra-wagon, this latest RS 6 Avant is it. Phenomenal thing.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition
Pricing: RS 6 Avant range from 94,890, Launch Edition was from 101,740 (see copy)
Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol with 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical (MHEV) system
Transmission: quattro all-wheel drive with self-locking centre differential, eight-speed Tiptronic automatic
Body style: five-door performance estate
CO2 emissions: 290g/km (VED Band Over 255: 2,175 first 12 months, then 475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 22.1mpg
Top speed: 174mph (limited)
0-62mph: 3.6 seconds
Power: 600hp at 6,000-6,250rpm
Torque: 800Nm at 2,050-4,500rpm
Boot space: 565-1,680 litres

What's this?

It's an Audi RS 6 Avant, a car which shouldn't really need any introduction... although we can't really leave this review there, so we'll continue. However, it's hard not to imagine the powers-that-be at Ingolstadt and Audi Sport to be feeling ever so smug. You see, time was when the RS 6 and its RS 4 relation were the only two all-wheel-drive fast estates; all of the rivals, which came and went sporadically over the years, favoured rear-drive instead, on the pretence/promise of increased driver enjoyment.

But, to many people, the idea of 'rapid estate car' always meant 'something with the mental security blanket of quattro', and so the few that remain today as rivals to the two Audis are all switching to AWD. This is also partly to do with power outputs spiralling out of all reasonable control, but with the Mercedes-AMG E 63 now running 4Matic, the impending and somewhat unexpected BMW M3 Touring almost certainly going to be xDrive, and even the last bastion of the rear-driven wagon in the form of the Mercedes-AMG C 63 probably likely to shift to AWD too when it soon gets replaced (not to mention a rumoured four-cylinder hybrid drivetrain... shudder), then it's clear to see that Audi's quattro influence has had wide-ranging effects.

This belies the thought that people want these 400-500hp-plus estates with the idea of hanging the backside out on every single corner with plumes of expensive tyre smoke trailing out behind them, so maybe now we can be a little bit softer on the Audi's all-grip, all-go ethos. But before we get on to the dynamics, a word on the aesthetics, interior and line-up of the RS 6. There are three models of the 600hp Avant available, beginning with the regular RS 6 which costs a lot (from 94,890), moving to the RS 6 Carbon Black which costs a chuffing lot (from 102,790) and then culminating in the RS 6 Vorsprung which costs a 'how much?!' lot (from 112,290). Our test car was one of the rare Launch Edition examples, of which just 110 came to the UK. Priced from 101,740, it has a smattering of extra kit on it (Navarra Blue paint, black Valcona leather with contrast grey stitching, 22-inch alloys like a Vorsprung, rear-wheel steering, a Sports exhaust, a Gloss-Black Styling Pack for the outside, a panoramic roof and a Bang & Olufsen Sound System being the main distinguishing features) and a scintilla of limited-run glamour too. Don't worry that it's no longer available; you can spec up a regular RS 6 like this, or just add a few bits to the Carbon Black to get the effect. But don't get tick-box giddy at ordering time, because we were originally supposed to be driving a regular RS 6 that had been optioned up to (ready?) 134,655. No, that's not a typo, either.

Anyway, what has apparently divided the petrolhead fraternity is the design of the C8 RS 6. This is the fourth iteration of Audi's top-dog estate and it has been getting steadily more aggressive in appearance in the interim. We mean, it's hardly as if a C7 RS 6 performance was a shy and retiring thing to behold, now was it? And yet, even considering that, the new one looks bonkers. It could not come across as any angrier or more belligerent if it tried, what with its massive front air intakes and Singleframe grille, the almost comically oversized wheel arches, those mean headlights and that ridiculous rear end. There are those who claim the 'lesser', TDI-powered S6 strikes a better visual tone, with just the right amount of subtle menace and tasteful discretion. And we would certainly agree with that train of thought, if not for one thing: when you see a C8 RS 6 Avant up close, it has the sort of startling presence and head-turning ability that was once the preserve of supercars alone. Seriously, this thing draws attention like little else that's fitted with five doors and said attention is always positive; no one threw a bad word nor offensive gesture the way of the Launch Edition. So when you factor in a typically wonderful A6 Avant cabin too, only here enhanced by various RS touches like deeply sculpted bucket seats, a sportier rendition of Virtual Cockpit and Audi Sport-specific displays in the infotainment, you realise what a fabulous all-round package the RS 6 Avant truly is. We wouldn't change a single thing about the way it looks, inside or out.

How does it drive?

Goodness, this thing is epic. Bizarrely, despite the fact it is mechanically identical to the RS 7 Sportback and the RS Q8 SUV, and it also weighs pretty much the same as either of these (OK, it's a bit lighter than the hefty Q8 but still the wrong side of two tonnes), it feels a far more invigorating thing to steer than either of its V8 stablemates. Or any Audi RS we can think of before it. Or, indeed, any fast wagon we've yet had the pleasure of sampling.

This is no nose-led, boringly grippy RS 6. OK, sure, it still favours mid-bend neutrality and confidence-inspiring traction and adhesion over other attributes, but there's more of a sensation of driver involvement here than there ever has been before from mega-power Audis that aren't R8s. Chief weapon in the armoury is the steering, which is lovely. It feels different from Dynamic to Normal to Comfort and yet never comes across as unpleasant; indeed, in Dynamic, it is incredibly well-judged, with superb weighting and decent feedback to work with too. This is coupled to a front end that resists understeer in a fashion that borders on the magical, considering the weight of the biturbo 4.0-litre V8 up front. So you get none of the plough-on feeling of fast Audis of yore, instead revelling in a nose that's super-keen to get turned in to even the tightest of corners.

Then there's the suspension. The Launch Edition runs on the air set-up on both axles but there's an option called Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) which sees passive springs adopted and then teamed to hydraulically cross-linked dampers. All reports say that the C8 RS 6 is even better in the corners with DRC fitted and, if that's the case, then we want a go in a model with that function equipped, right now. Because the air-sprung RS 6 felt tremendous. Never crashy, never overly firm, never really reminding you that there are giant 22s at all corners on slender-profile tyres, this is a suspension set-up that allows you to fully exploit the RS 6's immense grip and quattro bite to the maximum. You needn't fear enjoying the Avant on bumpy roads, because it will breathe and flow across the most tragic of road surfaces with a grace that places it among the greater performance cars of all time. It's supple, yet controlled. It's exceptional.

That the engine and its torque-converter eight-speed Tiptronic gearbox are a form of motive power from the heavens shouldn't be in doubt, either. What a drivetrain this is. Lag-free, immediate in its responses and possessed of a fabulous soundtrack from tickover to redline, you will never lament the fact that Audi could have gone past the 605hp peak of the old RS 6 performance just so you can have pub bragging rights; trust us, 600hp and the goliath 800Nm have no qualms in shifting 2,075kg of prime German wagon about in as frenzied a fashion as anyone would dare try on the public roads. A fully lit RS 6 feels dementedly, borderline needlessly quick.

But the RS 6 Avant's greatest trick is that, for all its pugnacious aesthetic and rumbly vocals, it is the most civilised RS 6 yet when you're using it as a sedate daily driver. The passenger compartment is hushed to the point of silence at motorway speeds, the V8 dies away to a background murmur if you're not cajoling it into spinning right around the dial (and you might even see the lofty heights of 26.9mpg on a cruise, as we did) and the air suspension provides ride comfort that is on a par with any A6 Avant you care to choose at the other end of the current range - it's as if the RS 6 is on 16s with 60-profile rubber when it's rolling in Comfort mode. The interior is, of course, vast, as is the boot that's out the back, so it can do practicality and discretion as well as it can do unhinged lunacy on a quiet B-road. What a splendid, splendid car.

Verdict

The new Audi RS 6 Avant is as composed, as indecently fast and as accessible as any of its forebears, yet it takes the rapid wagon formula to new heights for both driver involvement (there's plenty of this) and everyday comfort (and this, too). Sure, in reality it's going to be a six-figure machine whatever way you spec it but there are precious few vehicles in the world that can match the all-round, deeply talented spread of attributes the RS 6 brings to the party. Unless you're vehemently against its overblown bodywork (and we're not), then you will find nothing to dislike here and plenty to absolutely adore.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 10 Aug 2020









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2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.

2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.2020 Audi RS 6 Avant Launch Edition. Image by Audi UK.








 

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