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Bodystyle, dimensions and technical details

There are quite plainly some notions of wider Volkswagen Group performance car hierarchy to which the new RS6 is wonderfully immune.

The car’s 3996cc V8 replaces the 3993cc unit that was co-developed with Bentley and first used in 2011. It’s the same mill you’ll find in a current Bentley Continental GT, Bentayga V8, Porsche Panamera GTS and Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Audi Sport has junked the frame of Audi’s familiar hexagonal ‘single-frame’ grille to make for a more impactful look, very effectively achieved. Gloss black plastic hides the driver assistance sensors quite well, too.

In the RS6, however, the twin-turbocharged lump (now with a perfectly ‘square’ cylinder bore/ stroke ratio; the last version’s V8 was slightly long-stroke) is allowed to develop more power and torque than in any of those other applications: fully 591bhp, and 590lb ft over a near-2500rpm spread of mid-range revs. The related RS7 Sportback is no more potent and neither is the new RS Q8 super-SUV. Within wider VW Group circles, only the madcap Lamborghini Urus uses the same motor to more spectacular effect, along with Porsche’s Turbo S E-Hybrid models (in which outputs are, of course, electrically assisted).

Ironically enough, the motor does have some hybridisation here as well. A 48V electrical architecture and starter/generator allow the engine to ‘harvest’ power at up to 12kW under regenerative braking and also mean the RS6 can coast at cruising speed in an ‘ignition-off’ state for periods of up to 40 seconds. It retains cylinder deactivation technology as well and all of that means the car tops 30mpg on the extra-urban test cycle of the outgoing ‘NEDC equivalent’ fuel economy lab test.

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Like the last RS6, the new one has full-time mechanical four-wheel drive with a passively locking Torsen centre differential that splits 60% of drive to the rear axle by default, varying it by as much as 85% as traction deteriorates up front.

Rearward torque is then split actively and asymmetrically by Audi Sport’s locking rear differential, which can overdrive the outside wheel using a system of electrically controlled clutches. The car also uses brake-based electronic torque vectoring.

For suspension, the A6’s multilink front and rear axles have been specially redeveloped by Audi Sport, with tracks that are 40mm wider than a regular A6’s and a ride height that cradles the RS6’s body 20mm closer to the road – and ‘actively’ lower still at high speed if you stick with the car’s now-standard air suspension set-up. Steel coil springs with diagonally interlinked dampers – Audi Sport’s time-honoured RS6 suspension set-up labelled Dynamic Ride Control – come as standard if you opt for top-of-the-line Vorsprung trim, or as an option elsewhere.

This is the first RS6 to adopt four-wheel steering in addition to torque-vectored four-wheel drive – and it’s standard on all UK cars. Carbon-ceramic brakes are available but remain among the options for most RS6 trim levels.