REVIEW: the new Audi RS6 Avant

By Georgia Peck | 19 May 2021 | Design, Speed

This stunning model packs a punch – it's practical, aggressive, yet refined, and excitingly fast. No wonder it sits in every 'dream garage'

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The latest RS6 Avant is a bona fide performance vehicle. Kitted out with a 4.0L TFSI twin-turbo V8 engine, it delivers 591hp and 590lb-ft worth of supercar-standard torque to all four wheels; capable of propelling driver, passengers and its 1,680 litres of ample boot cargo forward from 0 to 60 in a mere 3.5 seconds; which makes it highly competitive in pace to most sports cars, let alone other prestigious estate cars on the market such as the Porsche Panamera Turbo Turismo and Mercedes AMG E63S. Throttle response is notably exceptional: at anything over 3000rpm, the car responds with a cacophony of guttural eight-cylinder rumbles and catapults into frankly bonkers speed.

The results are something to revel in: surpassing 60mph to 124mph in only a further 8.5 seconds, before meeting an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. Select the ‘Vorsprung’ pack, and that top speed rises to 174 mph. Option on some £8k ceramic brakes, and it rises yet again to 190mph. Necessary for a famed 'family wagon'? Absolutely not, but we can see why you would. We took one to Scotland to test out its true capabilities.

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Alongside its impressive performance, one of the car's most noticeable attributes is its design - promising envious glances (on the right side of attention-seeking) at every petrol station nationwide. And unlike its more subtle predecessors from the first and second generation, which were famed for hiding its stealthy prowess under the bonnet, the fourth-generation RS6 is almost obnoxious by comparison.

Put together using specific RS parts by the Audi Sport's design team, it results, overall, in a much more athletic and dynamic, some may even say 'angry', facelift from the previous generations - with a wide-body, huge box arches, gloss-black grille and Quattro-esque vents (also huge), 22" RS wheels, roof spoiler (perfect for fitting a roof rack and SUP boards too, as we discovered), Audi laser LED headlights and standard paint options including the signature Audi Nardo Grey - this RS6 demonstrates years of Audi innovation and craftsmanship whilst bolding wearing the modernised MO of Audi Sport’s team.

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And the interior is no less eye-catching, where sumptuous RS-embossed Sports seats come as standard, and options are available such as plush Alcantara wheel and gear selector, paired with woven carbon fibre dash - it's certainly one of the most luxurious members of the Audi family. And the most comfortable, as we were delighted to find out after almost 1,600m in the car over 5 days, with not a sore muscle, back, or derriere to report between us. It feels more A8 than RS3. 

The second-generation Audi Virtual Cockpit comes as standard on this model, including a 12.3” HD instrument cluster. This display helps the driver by bringing essential information from the central 10.1” haptic touchscreen display such as 3D city maps right into line of sight, taking advantage of the high-resolution of 1920 x 720 pixels. Below the central infotainment screen, you’ll find an additional 8.6” screen showing your climate controls as well as other driver convenience functions. It feels intelligent, and you could not want for more.

What’s changed now though, is that the RS6 Avant now gives something back to the driver. Accelerate quickly down a twisting road, the car’s agility, responsiveness and adjustability are all qualities that we’ve only really seen from Audi Sport with cars such as the R8 (another car we hold many fond memories of). The RS6 is technologically advanced, but not simply for the sake of it – it now benefits the person behind the wheel. 

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It’s the rear-steer that has the most apparent effect on the driving experience, however - in the tighter stuff, there’s a noticeable pivot at the middle of the car. This makes up for the all-wheel drive system’s refusal to make a whole lot happen at the rear axle. In laymans terms, 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 the aforementioned optional four-wheel-steering and a Sports Differential (standard in the UK) it’s more agile and accurate than ever. The RS6 gets the traditional Torsen centre differential treatment giving a general 40/60 torque split, although it can (in theory) lob up to 85 per cent to the rear.

In terms of transmission, you’ll get Audi’s top-end 8 speed Automatic system, which effortlessly transfers the engine’s power to Audi’s signature Quattro AWD system for maximum stability and control. The intelligent system can further enhance the driving experience using selective torque control, splitting torque between each individual wheel. Audi continues its tradition of providing the most cutting-edge engineering in these high-performance models.

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There are numerous driving modes to consider - which we put into practice across the trip - ranging from an eco-minded ‘Efficiency’ mode featuring predictive start-stop from 13mph, coasting up to 99mph and cylinder shutdown, all the way to maximum attack ‘Dynamic’ mode. The efficiency tech isn’t rammed down your throat or sanctimonious like other systems, and works away in the background, making for a tranquil experience when paired with comfort suspension and the double-glazing. There’s cylinder deactivation, a keen coasting mode and 48V mild hybrid assistance (although the battery hidden in the boot does not provide any propulsion).

There are certain characteristics you expect from an RS6, and those all remain unchanged: a feeling of impenetrability, huge performance, long-distance refinement, and a well-built and practical cabin. There have been changes in each quality, of course, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. You can throw it around the winding single tracks of the Highlands and coastal roads, safe in the knowledge that all four wheels will change direction as quickly as the driver's hands, whilst absolutely refusing to let go of the road. The fighter pilot-esque G Meter on the Virtual display taunts you into pushing the RS6 to its limits, nauseatingly so for your passengers! The car's height adjustment feature (akin to a Range Rover, well, almost) allowed us access to tracks and paths otherwise unconquerable for most 600hp estate cars. 

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It cannot be ignored that yes the new C8 RS6 Avant has lost some of the gnarlier characteristics of the previous generation’s Performance variant. Despite sharing practically the same engine, the C8 does lack some of the snarling exhaust notes at all RPMs, the snappy and aggressive acceleration is now more comparable to the smooth delivery of a high output Porsche Taycan. This was inevitable, however, and in an ever changing world where we are seeing the likes of Mercedes-Benz ditching the V8 in favour of a 4-cylinder in their forthcoming AMG models, we must herald and cherish cars such as the this RS6, sadly, really may be the last “full-fat” hurrah.

The new RS6 is a triumph, mixing stupidly fast speed and sharp dynamics with comfortable practicality. There aren’t many other cars in the world that have such an intrinsic ability to make silly speeds feel safe. 

With space for mum, dad, three children, and the family hounds, this is, essentially, a 5-door very roomy V8 sports car with a mammoth boot attached. One that promises to never let you arrive late, or under the radar, ever again.

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