597hp, 750nm of torque, Quattro all-wheel drive and a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds – performance specs that would bode well in a game of 2018 supercar top trumps. It’s all-the-more hilarious therefore that they belong to a luxury estate car from Ingolstadt, not the latest exotic from Italy…
Audi’s third-generation ‘C7’ RS6 Performance is perhaps the company’s most ludicrous yet; sprinting to 62mph nearly a second quicker than its V10 equipped predecessor and pumping out 34% more torque than an R8 V10 Plus. On paper at least then, it’s a pretty impressive beast. Also after having driven the RS4 in Malaga I wanted to feel the RS6 in comparison.
So, despite the A6 on which the RS6 is based being superseded recently (see our ‘C8’ A6 launch article here), we thought it was well worth a look…
In case the introduction hadn’t laid it on thick enough; the RS6’s drivetrain is really quite special. Shoe-horned under the bonnet is Audi’s 4.0-litre twin-turbo TFSI V8, which has been tweaked and fettled to produce a staggering 597hp and 700nm of torque – with the potential to overboost up to 750nm when required.
Engine power is distributed via the Quattro system to all four wheels, with an 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox sandwiched in between. A sports rear differential comes as standard, aiding rear-end stability and agility.
Of course, what sets the RS6 apart from a traditional supercar is the fact that it’s a fully functioning Avant (estate), with creature comforts aplenty and all the mod-cons you’d expect from a high-end car. 565 litres of boot space allows for copious amounts of luggage, shopping or even family pets to be safely stowed – the included adjustable brace points are a bonus for luggage safety during spirited drives.
Legroom too is plentiful, with 5 adults able to travel in comfort (and speed) over long distances. The ‘RS’ seats play a role in this, with the fronts a particularly big upgrade over a standard A6. The car on test came fitted with the super sports seats covered in an Alcantara/leather mix, which looks great and does a fantastic job of holding you in the bends without feeling too claustrophobic or uncomfortable.
The rest of the interior is all typically top-notch Audi – the fit and finish is exemplary, button tactility is great, all of the surfaces feel premium and the overall look is sophisticated and sporty without looking tacky. The multimedia interface is the only area where the RS6 is now a little behind the curve – lacking Audi’s latest incarnation of touch-focused hardware which debuted on the new A8 (see here). Considering the RS6 is still based around the C7 A6, this comes as little surprise – it’s unlikely these features will trickle through until the RS6 receives the imminent jump to ‘C8’ spec.
On The Road
With all that power, 21” wheels and sports suspension you’d be forgiven for expecting the RS6 to be a bit of an animal on the road; In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Starting off in comfort mode, the RS6 is exceptionally quiet, with engine and road noise both controlled extremely well (almost too well for this type of car). Our test mule was fitted with dynamic ride adjustment (electronic dampers), which meant the ride could be softened right off, giving excellent road handling. It’s no A6, but the ride manages to avoid being crashy whilst staying firm enough that it doesn’t feel like you’ll fall over in the bends.
Fuel economy was slightly better than expected too, even if it was still towards the slightly painful end of the spectrum. On a long run mid 20s were attained, but a little exuberance on the throttle would drop this quickly – still very commendable for a heavy car with 600hp and AWD. Part of Audi’s secret is the ability to drop to 4-cylinders in light load situations, greatly improving motorway cruising efficiency – neat!
Switching into dynamic mode is where things get interesting. The exhaust note suddenly becomes more audible, the chassis stiffens and the gearbox and engine sharpen ready for action. The lightest of touches on the throttle unleashes hilarious levels of torque, pushing the RS6 to break-neck speeds in a heartbeat. Despite the size of the car, it handles remarkably well and can be chucked around without feeling intimidating. The steering is also good, providing effective communication from the car’s front end without being unnecessarily heavy – if only the steering on all Audis could be this good.
British roads aren’t exactly known for their quality, and with the suspension, in fully dynamic mode the ride does get uncomfortable. Most of my time with the car was spent with everything in dynamic bar the suspension, and for UK roads this worked superbly. It’s also worth noting that whilst driving ‘modes’ on cars have been commonplace for a good while now, the RS6 has by far the most dramatic transformation between comfort and dynamic (sport) modes I’ve ever witnessed, producing two distinct personalities.
Presence & Looks
It’s fair to say supercars receive their fair share of admiring glances, waves, gawps and pointing – never failing to make their presence known and their occupants the centre of attention. As nice as the admiration can be, there are times when you just want to blend in, avoid the negative press they also attract and go about your drive. This is where the RS6 really comes into its own – it’s a supercar without the supercar fuss.
For the majority of my time with the RS6, I just wafted past fellow road users and pedestrians without even an eyebrow raised. However, there was also a number of situations where the RS6 would receive a thumbs up, nod, wave or smile – subtle signs of appreciation from an admiring, knowing few who truly understand what this car is all about.
You can’t blame them for admiring either, as the RS6 is a real looker. With its wider arches, angular chin, Quattro grill and purposeful stance; it’s only a subtle tweak on the base A6 recipe, but it really works – particularly in the stunning Ascari blue as tested.
It’s difficult to know where to start the conclusion, so I’ll get straight to the crux of it – I absolutely loved my time in the RS6 Performance. With roads, in general, getting progressively worse in terms of congestion and potholes, the opportunities to really enjoy an all-out supercar are increasingly limited, meaning for long journeys you’re often stuck with many of their drawbacks for no real gain.
The RS6 strikes no such compromise, functioning superbly as both a family wagon and an absolute road weapon. For crunching through the miles & still managing to put a smile on your face, I’ve yet to experience something as capable as the super-Avant.
Our only niggles would be the slightly dated multimedia interface and sometimes sluggish Tiptronic gearbox – both of which could easily be fixed in the rumoured C8 RS6. Bring it on…