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Audi RS6 Avant — long-term review
We welcome a 592bhp Audi RS6 Avant to the TopGear Garage
Yes, an Audi RS6 is joining the TopGear Garage for a few months and we couldn’t be happier about it. It’s a Launch Edition, one of only 110 coming to the UK which, in my eagerness to acquire, I entirely failed to look any further into. But we know all about these Launch Editions, don’t we? Load ‘em up with kit, charge a premium, create a bit of hype, hopefully hold up values, satisfy initial demand and so on. Well…
That’s one side of it. The other is that building a whole load of identical cars makes it easy for the factory. The RS6 is built on the A6 production line at Neckarsulm, and if they’re all painted Navarra Blue with grey-stitched black Valcona leather, have a panoramic glass roof, B&O premium tunes, 22s, sports exhaust and a gloss black styling pack, it makes things easier as build ramps up. Charge £101,700 (on the road), as opposed to £92,790 and you’ve got a tidy bit of business.
So I went to Neckarsulm with helium in my shoes and drove away in my RS6. But first I had a tour of the production line and visitor centre, during which I was shown a Carbon Black RS6. Carbon trim, black badges, you know the score: carbon and black. Also an alcantara wheel which was lovely and made me very happy. So when I got in my Launch Edition and discovered a perforated leather steering wheel, well, I realised I should have read the small print a bit more closely. Because there’s more: no radar cruise and no keyless door opening. Those are the two key ones – systems I didn’t realise how much I’d come to rely on. But my fault for not checking, so you’ll hear no more from me on them.
Germany lay ahead and I had a 4.0-litre twin turbo V8 to dispatch it with. Mincemeat. 592bhp and 590lb ft (from 2050-4500rpm) give even an un-run in RS6 a massive turn of pace. Apparently no running in is necessary, but I don’t believe you should treat mechanics like electronics, so gave myself a personal 4,500rpm rev limiter. Which was easily enough to prove that the 155mph limiter has indeed been raised, even if I didn’t verify 174mph.
But my god is it happy at high speed. Air whooshes over, the engine churns, it just squats into the road and runs laser-straight. It’s majestic, yet utterly unremarkable. And there’s something remarkable about that, about a car that only really shows the depth of its engineering above 200kmh. That’s the point at which the Passats pull over and the RS6 hunkers down and gets going. And it made me sad that in the UK I’m just not going to be able to use it like that. Because you do get places fast.
You also get through a lot of fuel. Yes, I know, it’s a mild hybrid. It has a 48 volt electrical system powerful enough to enable coasting below 99mph and engine shut-off below 13mph. At low demand it can also switch off four cylinders. The claim is that all this saves a litre of fuel every 75 miles or so in real world driving. But then the actual real world cuts in: on the WLTP cycle the RS6 manages 22.6mpg, and in my hands through Germany, 18.7mpg. Which means you start to look for fuel after 250 miles.
What else struck me? I was sitting quite high, but I got used to it. The touchscreens worked crisply and well, Carplay hook-up with my phone was done via Bluetooth and there’s an induction charger, so everything happens wirelessly, and the B&O system isn’t much to write home about. Now partially this is because my last car was the Naim-equipped Bentley Conti GT (LINK), but also that UK RS6’s can’t be specced with the top-line B&O Advanced system (complete with pop-up tweeters) that is available in other markets. For €6070.
As far as technical stuff goes, the Launch Edition has air suspension (rather than the conventional springs/hydraulically cross-linked dampers of the more sporting Dynamic Ride Control), an eight-speed automatic gearbox (not a twin-clutcher), and four wheel steering. There should be a picture hereabouts that shows how much the rear wheel turns. You feel the effects: the RS6 is nimble, quick to turn and seems to have lost the nose-heaviness of earlier versions.
One last thing. You might be aware this isn’t the first time this RS6 has appeared on TG.com. After it came back from this trip, it pretty much turned straight round and drove back out to the Alps in convoy with our Panamera Sport Turismo for a story about missing the Geneva Motorshow, but spending our time much more productively instead. Apologies for getting things a bit back to front.
OK, I lied, another. The journey back to Calais was peachy. I checked in at Eurotunnel, lined up dutifully, only to be told the single-deck carriages were full. I’d have to go in the double-deck bit. If you’ve used the Eurotunnel you’ll know what this means – vicious metal rails that threaten to slice and bite at your alloys. The RS6 is very wide and 22-inch rims are very vulnerable. I used the ‘pavements’ either side, taking it slowly, swerving the toilet blocks and was called into position. And as the RS6 gingerly dropped off the side, it snagged a bloody rim.