Those used to fast front-engined Audis of old might be in for a surprise the first time they steer an RS6 towards a corner. At least, they might if the RS6 is fitted with the coil springs of our test car, which, even with optional winter tyres and standard four-wheel steering, was responsive. (We tested the car on both ‘summer’ and winter tyres but performance tested it solely on ‘summer’ ones.)
In the past, the way to make an Audi estate feel really agile would have been to buy an RS4 instead, but at last here’s a big Audi wagon with a keenness that takes it from its traditional positioning of being ‘fast if a bit inert and uninvolving’ to something you really can compare to an M5 or E63 S – although few people would claim that it handles quite as incisively as those rivals. Unlike either of those competitors, the RS6 can’t be placed into rear wheel-drive mode, nor is its four-wheel drive system as rear biased as those of its major rivals.
It doesn’t do precisely what big fast Audis always used to do, which is to understeer a bit on the way in to a corner and then a lot on the way out. Instead, it grips very well on the way in and now can be cornered very neutrally on the way out, thanks to its RS-tuned active rear differential. We’re not talking about daft speeds to feel this, either. This is the kind of demeanour you can sense in everyday brisk driving, not track lunacy.
Here, the active rear steer is really nicely judged, too. It’s rare that a manufacturer tunes these systems to feel as natural and predictable as Audi has done. You don’t end up cornering as if navigating the rim of a 50 pence coin. Rather, you just turn the moderately weighted, slightly soft yet accurate steering and feel the RS6 want to point towards a corner.