Tom Ford09 April 2013

First drive: the new Audi RS6 Avant

Tom Ford gets behind the wheel of Audi's new 189mph über estate

What is it?

The usual offering – a big-engined A6 Avant with AWD, this time sporting the 4.0 litre V8 from the S8 and various other fast Audis, as well as the Bentley Continental GT V8. It's fast too: option the right limiters and it hits 62mph in under four seconds (3.9) and runs on to 189mph. Apparently it'll hit a blink under 200mph completely derestricted. And you can carry stuff while doing it. We've only driven it on home turf in Germany so far, but the first impressions have left us grinning.

What's new?

Lots. The last version was a V10 with two turbos, and this V8 bi-turbo is smaller, more fuel-efficient and cleverer, featuring COD ‘cylinder-on-demand' deactivation tech (it shuts down 2,3,5 and 8 under part-load, under 3,500rpm, say) and start/stop to make 30 per cent more mpg. It still only does 28mpg though, and less if you hit it. Much less. On our test we saw the fuel gauge drop like the proverbial rock. Though we weren't being shy...

The body is muscular with blistered arches and various jutting spoilers, though it's not too cariacatured, and also 20 per cent is aluminium (front wings, doors, bonnet, boot), meaning that new RS6 is roughly 100kg lighter than the old model. The translation? Even though the new car makes 28bhp less, the extra torque (37lb ft), equates to punchier in-gear times. From 1,750rpm – about twice idle – the RS6 produces maximum torque of 516lb ft – which is roughly similar to a big turbodiesel. So far, so useful. The big news is that the RS6 continues to produce maximum torque all the way to 5,500rpm, the point where most diesels have run out of lung, at which point it starts to produce its maximum power of 552bhp at 5,600rpm, which it makes until redline at 6,600rpm. This is real-world stuff – and makes the RS6 a bit of a rocket.

See more pics of the new Audi RS6

The engine is also shorter, the car has been balanced much more carefully, and there is torque vectoring and the various Audi Drive Control systems to alter the damping. It needs it: the ride on the optional 21-inch wheels was fine in ‘Comfort' mode, but gave you bruises in ‘Dynamic'.

Any good?

In a word: brilliant. The old V10 was fast, but needed extreme conditions to show up well, or a very long autobahn. The new one is lots of fun to drive nearly all the time. The optional sports exhaust is worth the price of entry alone, and sounds like a strafing run from a Spitfire. The balance of the car is better, the electronics are less synthetic, and it shows the RS Dept has a sense of humour – it can be made to go completely bonkers. And that 8-spd auto ‘box (lifted straight from the A6, incidentally), means that everything is repeatable and easy ¬ standing starts, corner exits... just floor it and it works. It's a real weapon. Not a ‘driver's car' as such, but I defy you not to have a smile on your face.

The performance is also not what you'd call ambiguous. Put your foot down and this big old bus hauls its bottom off into the distance like a firework, bellowing all the way. Not so much launched as lit. Overtaking becomes a constant state...

Bad bits?

The steering. As with all fast Audis, it just feels a bit odd. Numb but direct, it works, but it¹s the least satisfying aspect of the car by some margin. You can play with it via the Drive Select system, but it never quite gets there...

See more pics of the new Audi RS6

In summary?

The Audi RS6 is back on form after a slightly lost couple of generations. This car has a huge sense of humour, looks ace, goes indecently fast and makes a good case for being your only car. It's a very attractive proposition. As long as you option that sports exhaust. Really.

Tom Ford

Engine
3993cc biturbo V8, 552bhp from 5,700 to 6,600rpm, 516lb ft of torque from 1,750 to 5,500rpm

Performance
0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, top speed 189mph (optional) 28.8mpg (combined), 229g/km C02 Transmission: Eight-speed ZF auto (Tiptronic), four-wheel drive

 

Price
€107,900

Verdict
Laugh-out-loud fun that's practical, too. As long as you option the sports exhaust and hate your labradoodle. 9/10

Competitor
Mercedes E63 Estate 4Matic - but we don't get the AWD version in the UK. Shame.

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