Audi RS 6 Avant review
by Mike Grundon (25 April 2008)
Something wicked this way comes. It's camouflaged and violent, brutal and efficient, it's called the RS 6 Avant and it's made by Audi.
With a few notable exceptions, the estate car is normally chosen by drivers wanting practicality over performance - people wanting to take the family on a week's holiday to the West Country, or take the dogs down the park for a run. I may be wrong, but I've never yet heard of one that's grouped with the top eight most powerful production cars in the world. Until now.
This elegant and understated performance car is poised to start arriving in the UK at the end of May. All things to all people, it has a cavernous cargo hold, a luxuriously-appointed passenger cabin and a prestige badge on the big front grille. But what sets the RS 6 apart from the herd is what's behind that grille. The numbers need no trumpeting, there's no need here for additional superlatives, just read them slowly and they'll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
It has a five-litre V10 petrol engine, pumped up by two turbochargers. It turns out 573bhp and 480lb/ft of torque - the same as a Lamborghini Murciélago, making this the most powerful production car Audi has ever built. The two-tonne car will sprint from a standstill to 62mph in just 4.6 seconds. Ten seconds later it will be doing 124mph and the power just keeps coming till you reach the limiter at 155mph. All that eyewatering power is fed to the tortured tarmac through a six-speed semi-automatic Tiptronic gearbox and the latest version of the quattro four-wheel drive system.
What that means is that the pedal on the right is less of an accelerator and more of a detonator. Step on it and the power simply explodes into the black-top and you're hurtling down the road without any time for remorse. All of this can be yours for £77,730 which, although far from cheap, is pretty good value for money when you think the Lamborghini would set you back around £200,000.
Stroll around the RS 6 Avant and the signals of what lies under the skin are subtle. There are no wings, gaping air intakes or jazz graphics, but you may notice the huge 20" alloy wheels shod by R20 rated tyres that are so wide they stretch further in under the car than the length of your forearm. Almost the entire inner circumference of the wheels are taken up by the perforated brake discs, and they're gripped by black-enamelled calipers built on the scale of an industrial crusher.
At each end you'll notice a small coloured badge saying RS 6, the letters are monogrammed onto the leather seats inside, and round the back there are two oval exhaust ports that are the Audi signature of performance cars. Apart from that . . . well there's not much.
So, if your idea of fun is to pull up at the lights and pick a racing fight with the God-fearing lieges, think very carefully. As you sit there in your striped hot-hatch, rattling the street with your drainpipe exhaust and concussing the passers-by with the bass beat on your dance tracks, beware of the quiet executive in the burbling estate-car next to you. He might be in an RS 6 Avant.
My first experience of this awesome automotive stealth weapon was in the south of France on a long, straight and empty piece of road. As I unleashed the beast on the world, the sheep's clothing was instantly stripped from the wolf. I was pinned back into the silk nappa leather seats by the unrelenting barrage of power, but the directional stability was phenomenal. Those big 275/35 Pirelli P-Zeros must have been working their arses off trying to cope with all that power but the progress down the road was as stable as a table. The verges may have been blurring with the gathering speed but I felt I could have taken my hands off the wheel till it was well over 100mph.
Out on the test run, the rolling acceleration was quite literally awe-inspiring. Overtaking manoeuvres were over in a flash and pull-outs at road junctions or motorway merges were utterly stress-free. The most difficult thing was keeping an eye on the dials. It all works so well that the impression of speed is almost non-existent.
Equipped with Audi's adaptive suspension set-up, you can swoop out along the autoroute on the Comfort setting, instruct it to adapt automatically depending on the road and driving conditions, or dial in the sport setting that firms everything up for the long and winding road race. It's all helped through the corners by a new version of Audi's Dynamic Ride Control system that uses shock absorbers linked diagonally across the car by a hydraulic system to prevent body roll.
The gearbox, too, has three options for driving - stick the stick into Drive and it'll do all the changes for you in a relatively sedate way, click it further back into Sport and it makes the best of the available power by shifting gears at much higher speeds. The final option is to slot the lever across into the semi-automatic sequential shift mode and make the changes yourself - use the stick or the steering-mounted paddles to change up and down.
Fuel economy isn't something that's going to worry most owners of this car, but if you're interested it's theoretically capable of an average 20mpg. You'd need a distinct lack of ambition to achieve this though - I wasn't getting any more than 16mpg according to the onboard computer.
I'm not going to wade into the massive selection of safety, security, sound and style features available on the car, other than to say the Bose audio system is extremely good and the Audi satellite navigation system is, as always, an instinctive doddle to use.
Only 1400 RS 6 Avants will be built for the UK over the next three years and there's already a year-long waiting list so the resale value is likely to stay high for a while. Audi says the car will most likely be bought by people with an established stable of premium cars - presumably to be used when the 599 just isn't capacious enough for the big shop at Fortnum and Mason's or you don't want to get dog-hairs on the seats of your SLR.