Bags of attitude, loads of tech and shed loads of speed
Sometimes not the most engaging drive. But up there with the quickest
What is it?
Audi’s practical family car laced with supercar performance. Ever since its collaboration with Porsche in the early Nineties to investigate surprisingly spacious speed courtesy of the RS2, the folks at Ingolstadt have made a name for themselves by producing knuckle-biting, performance-orientated five-door estates. This latest iteration has added sophistication and technology to go with its speed. Boy-oh-boy, a hell of a lot of speed.
Angry-looking thing, isn’t it?
Only the front doors, roof and tailgate are shared with a rep-spec A6. And it’s got heaps of attitude: blistered bodywork a whopping 80mm wider than standard, a contemptuous frown (a throwback from the ’84 Sport quattro), bazooka tailpipes and a squat muscular stance, sat low on 22-inch wheels. These features compound for unparalleled presence.
Over the years, the RS6 has had a multitude of engines, including, hilariously, a twin turbo V10. Now in its fourth-generation a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 is buried in the nose, dispatching 592bhp and 590lb ft through the eight-speed auto 'box to all four wheels.
The results are quite something to behold: 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds, 0-124mph in 12 seconds and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. Tick the ‘Vorsprung’ pack, and that top speed rises to 174 mph. Option on some ceramic brakes, and it rises yet again to 190mph.
It does speed then. How about space?
This supercar performance is paired with a boot that’s capable of swallowing 1,680 litres of stuff, making it a direct competitor for the Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate and Porsche’s Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo. But with prices starting at £92,550 it undercuts them all. No wonder the RS6 is not so much catnip, but black tar heroin for petrolheads who don’t want to be banished to eternal damnation and hum-drum kid-friendly crossovers.
The new RS6 certainly isn’t as blunt as the previous car – that was a V8 warhead with a boot attached – but nor is it any faster. Power may have gone up, but so has weight, with one cancelling the other out. However, this is more multi-faceted and intelligent. There’s cylinder deactivation, a keen coasting mode and 48V mild hybrid assistance (take that hybridisation with a pinch of salt, as the battery in the boot doesn’t provide any propulsion. Nor seemingly any economy gains whatsoever). There’s also four-wheel steering to aid agility, optional Dynamic Ride Control, plus it’s also a lot plusher inside, with better use of materials, stacks of digitisation and seemingly infinite customisation and configuration.
Does it have switchable 4WD like the BMW M5 and Merc E63?
No, it’s permanent 4WD – you can’t disable the front driveshafts. In real-world situations, this means you can use a ridiculous amount of that near 600bhp grunt all the time. That’s the difference quattro makes; it gives you traction and confidence.
Oh, and for the first time in its 25-year history, the Audi Sport team is selling the RS6 in America. Yee-haw!
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
There’s something a damn sight more palatable about a performance estate than an SUV and the Audi RS6 proves this. In the current political and social climate, does the world really need a 600bhp family wagon? Probably not. But boy are we glad we have one as it’s one of Audi Sport’s best executions to date. Previous thuggish edges have been sanded down to make way for a more intelligent and useable package that'll appeal to a wider audience.
It’s not as rambunctious or sideways as its competitors, but it’s far from anodyne. It’s fast, practical, comfortable, the right side of attention-seeking and properly desirable. What’s interesting is that there’s not one component of the RS6 that stands out and if we have a criticism it’s that the engineering and components are so well integrated that character has suffered a little. But your family will struggle to tolerate an E63. They’ll love this.