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) and bazooka tailpipes. These features compound for unparalleled presence.
Over the years, the RS6 has had a multitude of engines, including, hilariously, a V10. Now for the fourth-generation, a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 is buried in the nose and can dispatch 592bhp and 590lb ft through the eight-speed auto 'box and 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.
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 Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo. But, with prices starting at £92k, 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. 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.) It’s also a lot plusher inside, with better use of materials, stacks of digitisation and seemingly infinite customisation and configuration.
Power is still sent to all four wheels, and you can’t disable the front driveshafts like an E63. 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. Plus, thanks to new chassis tech such as optional four-wheel-steering and a Sports Differential (standard in the UK) it’s more agile and accurate than ever. Oh, and for the first time in its 25-year history, the Audi Sport team is bringing the RS6 to 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 more people.
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. This can be mistaken for it not having character. But in reality, it’s just that Audi has engineered some excellent hardware to work together. It’s truly greater than the sum of its parts.