What is it?
Get used to this: the launch of a new Audi Sport model. The performance arm of Audi is on a quest to double its sales over the next few years, with more models, many of them SUV shaped, and more markets in which to sell them.
Audi Sport is hardly small now. A couple of decades ago as Quattro GmbH, it was the maker of a very small number of interesting, all-weather, fast, four-wheel-drive performance cars for those in the know. Now, the range even before this expansion already runs into double figures, with the gravity moving away from fast estates and into super-SUVs.
Yet if there is a centre of the Audi Sport brand, it is with this, the RS6. Bespoke R8 aside, it has always felt like the flagship as to what Audi Sport can do to Audis. The RS6’s bonkers past most famously includes a V10 engine and has amusingly mixed supercar-baiting performance with practicality over four generations now. It’s Audi Sport at its curious best.
You’ll recognise plenty about this new RS6 from its RS7 sibling, which we recently tested in Germany. Audi Sport’s move into new markets brings us to the US to test the new RS6, a big deal for Audi because, surprisingly, it’s the first time the RS6 has been sold here.
Even by Californian stakes, the styling is no shrinking violet and quite a change over the classy A6 Avant. Only the roof, front doors and tailgate are carried over to the RS6, with every part sculpted to look more aggressive, most notably the flared wheel arches housing the wider tracks and bigger alloys, new bonnet, rear spoiler, and front and rear bumpers. It looks more like a GT3 car than an estate with some of the addenda – and, to these eyes, brilliant.
The looks leave you in no doubt about what kind of engine powers the RS6: a big, powerful V8. Whereas the RS4 has switched from a V8 to a V6, a V8 is retained in the RS6 – and significantly upgraded with a larger turbocharger and increased boost pressure. The twin-turbo 4.0-litre unit produces a colossal 591bhp and 590lb ft and is hooked up to an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox and a proper Torsen differential-based permanent four-wheel drive. There’s also a torque-vectoring diff at the rear.
The engine itself is now a mild-hybrid unit, mated to a 48V system to boost energy recuperation (see separate story, right). It works for efficiency reasons only rather than performance, not that the RS6 is wanting in the performance stakes: 0-62mph takes a claimed 3.6sec, traction off the line aided by a new launch control system, should you feel the need.
Chassis-wise, height-adjustable adaptive air suspension is standard, the car sitting 20mm lower than the A6 Avant and a further 10mm lower above 74mph. Steel coils with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), which is an interconnected hydraulic damping system, is included on the range-topping Vorsprung version. (There are three RS6 trims in the UK: the standard £92,750 car with 21in alloys, the £100,650 Carbon Black with 22s and the £109,250 Vorsprung also with 22s.) The active all-wheel steering system from the RS7 features here, as does the option of ceramic brakes over the standard steel set-up that also raises the top speed to 190mph if the brakes are specced on the Vorsprung trim.