The Audi RS6 is the latest in a long line of fast Audi estates. The most powerful car the German firm makes it’s 552bhp 4.0-litre V8 engine produces a huge 700Nm of torque, allowing it to hit 60mph in under four seconds and rival cars like the Mercedes E63 AMG Estate and Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake as the world’s ultimate performance estate car.
The RS6’s styling certainly leaves passers-by in no doubt of its performance potential. With its bulging wheelarch extensions, large twin-exit exhausts and rear aerodynamic diffuser, the RS6 looks every inch a high-performance hero.
Trademark fast Audi details like chrome mirrors, a tight latticework grille and subtle RS badges finish the sporty look, and as you’d expect from a high-end Audi there’s huge scope to customise the styling, including the Carbon styling pack that adds a revised front grille emblazoned with a garish quattro logo. Other head-turning additions include 21-inch alloys, which replace the standard 20-inch rims.
The racy theme continues inside, with heavily bolstered, high-backed front seats, a thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel and a smattering of RS6 logos. Elsewhere, the cabin is standard A6, which means slick design, first-rate fit and finish and quality switchgear. There are plenty of soft-touch materials, the dashboard is attractively styled and intuitively laid-out, and the low-slung driving position feels sportier than the standard car.
There’s a huge range of optional leathers, trims and inlays available, but as you’d expect for a near £80,000 car you get plenty of standard kit, including sat-nav, a powerful audio system and four-zone climate control. Audi’s MMI control system is good to use, while the luxury and comfort of the cabin is as much part of the RS6’s appeal as the performance on offer.
Now in its third generation, the A6-based model actually has a smaller engine than its predecessor, with the old 572bhp 5.0-litre V10 replaced by a 552bhp 4.0 V8. Yet despite the decrease in capacity and power, the new RS6 is faster than ever.
With the traction of quattro all-wheel drive the RS6 will blast to 60mph in an amazing 3.7 seconds, with this four-wheel drive handing giving it a unique selling point over rear–drive rivals like the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake and Mercedes E63 Estate.
The Audi’s real world in-gear performance is equally impressive, and above 4,000rpm the RS6 accelerates even more ferociously than its key rivals. Adding to the drama is the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, which provides rapid-fire shifts via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, plus it delivers a crisp throttle blip on downchanges.
The RS6’s V8 may serve up blistering performance, but it sounds a little muted alongside the vocal Mercedes E63. There’s no menacing burble at idle, while at high revs the 4.0-litre unit is muffled. The optional sports exhaust delivers a more imposing soundtrack, and should be your choice if you want a more raucous RS6. However, outside of its power, the RS6 isn’t as much fun as you might expect.
There’s so much performance on tap that it’s hard to use it on the road, while the Audi feels a little subdued in corners. There’s no shortage of grip and the upgraded air-suspension system provides rock-solid body control, but there’s not much feedback through the major controls.
Choosing the Drive Select system’s sportiest mode sharpens the throttle and helps reduce understeer by engaging a more aggressive setting on the electronically controlled Sports rear diff, but it also adds too much weighting to the steering. Make no mistake, the four-wheel-drive Audi is devastatingly quick on twisting roads, particularly in the wet, but it’s not as agile as the Mercedes E63 Estate or as engaging as the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake.
Still, what the Audi lacks in driver involvement it makes up for with top-notch refinement. There’s virtually no wind noise on the motorway and in its comfort setting the air springs soak up bumps well – only deep potholes really ruffle the RS6.
Audi has a strong reputation for reliability and its performance models are put through rigorous durability testing – so don’t expect too many issues with the RS6. Outside of the bespoke RS components, the A6 is a well-proven and established model and, as you’d expect, the RS6 comes stacked with standard safety kit, while the full range of Audi’s optional active safety technology, including active cruise control, lane departure, head-up display and blind spot warning, is available.
Ever since Audi revealed the Porsche-tuned RS2 in 1994, it has been leading the way with its lightning-quick estate cars that match practicality with supercar performance and the latest RS6 is no exception. Based on the practical A6 Avant there’s no shortage of space.
Rear passengers have plenty of room to lounge around – although the large transmission tunnel gets in the way for passengers sitting in the middle seat. A deep glovebox, large door bins and an array of useful cubbies boost the Audi’s family-friendly cabin.
However, while the RS6’s 565-litre boot is roomy and well shaped, it trails the Mercedes E63 Estate’s spacious luggage area by a significant 130 litres. Folding the Audi’s rear bench flat gives you a healthy 1,680-litre load space – although this is still 265 litres shy of the E63’s. However, there is the option of a useful load-securing system, plus a standard-fit powered tailgate and a handy netted storage bin.
There’s no escaping the fact that a V8 estate car with more than 500bhp is going to cost you a lot to run. A near £80,000 price tag and CO2 emissions of 229g/km mean big tax bills for company car drivers, while trips to the fuel station will be regular and costly.
At least, Audi’s fixed-priced servicing deals allow you to budget for maintenance, although its worth noting that if you drive the RS6 hard or head to a track day –consumables like tyres and brakes are very expensive to replace.
On the plus side, strong residuals are a plus for private buyers and compared to some more exotic two-seater sports cars with similar performance, the RS6 could be seen as a bargain and all the car you could ever need.
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