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The brutally fast Audi RS6 excels in many areas, but is let down by steering that lacks feedback

Our Verdict

Audi RS6 Avant

Performance behemoth sheds two cylinders. Is that progress for the mighty Audi RS6?

Nic Cackett
10 April 2013

What is it?

The new Audi RS6: lighter, quicker, bigger, cleaner and more economical than it was before. But not more powerful. Where once there was a 572bhp 5.0-litre V10, there is now a twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 developing 553bhp. 

Given the flagship model’s normally brazen display of power, the slight backward step is a notable development — even if it does prove largely inconsequential given the hike in performance. 

That, in real-world terms, is more typical of Audi’s progression. Thanks to the pair of twin-scroll turbochargers mounted within the engine’s ‘V’, torque has grown from 479lb ft to 516lb ft. Alongside a 90kg reduction in kerb weight (credited to increased use of lightweight materials) the RS6 now manages 62mph in a supercar-fast 3.9 seconds. That makes it, unsurprisingly, the quickest-accelerating estate car in the world. 

Depending on how much you really want it, there’s also the potential to make it the fastest overall: two levels of the optional Dynamic pack push the electronically limited top speed first to 174mph, and then to 189mph. In the real-world, however, it should prove to be a more economical car. Cylinder deactivation, which turns the RS6 into a four-cylinder car when circumstance allow, help a claimed combined score of 28.8mpg.

Along with that technical first for the model comes another: adaptive air suspension is now the standard set-up, with stiffer steel springs relegated to the options list. Audi’s latest all-wheel-drive system uses a self-locking centre differential to split the available torque 40 per cent front, 60 per cent rear (and all the way up to 85 per cent to the rear if required), as well as left to right courtesy of a standard sport diff on the back axle. 

The car arrives in the UK with an on-the-road price of £76,985, which is a marginal reduction on the sticker worn by its predecessor. Audi has also delivered an impressive 31 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions, although at 229g/km the RS6 just misses out on the VED boundary between expensive K and exorbitant L.

What's it like?

Mean looking. Few manufacturers possess a blistered-arch history as distinguished as Audi’s, but even for quattro GmBH the RS6 is a squat, savage thing up close. Dramatic air intakes and a gaping honeycomb grille help tug the A6’s soft expression into a wicked grin. Elsewhere, in proportions almost too big for a single gaze, there’s the sprawling wider stance that could only be the result of a serious four-ringed fettling. 

On optional 21in wheels, the car’s presence registers on a scale usually reserved for Manga animation. While the outside might be amply endowed with adolescent fantasy, the inside is all business. The piano black and brushed aluminum cabin is a sculpted siren song to the car’s middle-age, high-income buyer. Aside from the badges and associated brouhaha it feels much like it is: a seriously well kitted-out A6.

Without the blustery sports exhaust fitted, it fires into life much like one, too. There’s the merest whiff of a snarl, and then the V8 disappears into a noiseless, lavishly refined background. 

So consistent and unrelenting is the new turbocharged V8 that, flat out, it better resembles a prodigious and violent winch than a sophisticated petrol motor. In a straight line (and, tellingly, on the autobahn) the pick-up, eagerness and capacity for giving its digital readout a workout is phenomenal, if not as organically satisfying as the high-revving, naturally aspirated V8 aboard the RS4

It’s predictably less visceral than a supercar, but the RS6’s poise beyond 150mph is something to behold: no nervousness, no elevated sense of dynamic anxiety, just an unflappable grasp of the fast-departing Tarmac. 

In this guise – a sadly unfamiliar one to British motorists – the car is terrific. Away from the motorway, its extraordinary capabilities are desensitised by an electromechanical Dynamic steering system that wants to be light and direct at slower speeds, and hefty and reassuring at pace.

By not being either dependably, the car is too often and too easily the victim of piloting second guesses, and the driver is left to be overly reliant on a basic faith in the all-wheel-drive chassis to judge turn-in speed. The affect of this detachment will differ from person to person, but even with an almost total lack of feedback, the RS6 can still be driven cross country outrageously quickly. If only because the limits of its traction and acceleration are so wildly permissive that one could quite easily encounter a prison cell before finding them on the road. 

Inside the performance envelope there is evidence of handling spirit displayed by the RS4. Although more nose heavy and cumbersome, the asymmetrical torque distribution keeps sufficient drive at the rear axle to make the RS6 feel like it is being pliably pushed under throttle rather than benignly pulled.

Disappointingly, Audi couldn’t provide a test car with adaptive air suspension fitted, so we’ve only tried the steel sports springs with the three-way adjustable (and diagonally interconnected) shock absorbers. Even in the softest setting, this set-up keeps the Avant’s body washboard flat, and on German roads at least, it keeps ride compliancy respectable without being overly busy. One would suspect, though, that the (allegedly) softer standard arrangement will be better suited to the UK.

Should I buy one?

Traditionally, Autocar verdicts on big RS models come punctuated with ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ and, inevitably, this one continues the theme. As usual there is much to admire, if not savour, and many strengths that do not quite add up to genuine affection. 

On the plus side, this is a great looking car, inside and out. Credibly, it fills out its price tag, too. Whatever you feel about it, this is not a machine that is going to leave you feeling shortchanged. Its performance, detached or not, and in the bluntest terms, is phenomenal. 

If your (deep-pocketed) life were a daily sprint up and down a derestricted autobahn, this would be the ride of choice, no question. 

Equally, if your commute involves a 30-mile stretch of highland A-road, and you like the idea of completing it, in all weathers, at Mach 2, then it also probably deserves a place somewhere near the top of the list. 

But if your relationship with cars (and roads) is a little less one-dimensional, a little less concerned with outright speed and a little more involved with the nuance, flavour and entertainment of actually driving, then, once again, your money is better parked elsewhere. 

The duff Dynamic steering must shoulder some of the blame for this, but even beyond its ham-fistedness the RS6 does seem like a car intent on showing what it can do to you rather than what you can do with it. 

Audi RS6 Avant

Price £76,985; 0-62mph 3.9sec; Top speed 174mph; Economy 28.8mpg; CO2 229g/km; Kerb weight 1935kg; Engine V8, 3993cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 553bhp at 5700-6600rpm; Torque 516lb ft at 1750-5500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

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Comments
25

21 April 2013

...in a long line of admirable RS6's. I'd still have an E63 AMG Estate over one of these, though. More understated, RWD, and THAT engine. Also, IMO the RS6 would have looked better with box 'arches not flared ones - like the RS4 Avant.

10 April 2013

I thought the Ferrari FF was the worlds fastest estate car?

jer

10 April 2013

hit with the rich practical set. You can take this to the w/e house in the cotswolds take it skiing in winter. Know it will blow anything off in any conditions, is safe promises much better mpg than the rest and if your are lucky suffers lower decpreciation when if it becomes iconic. These are all more important than ultimate windy road finesse for its target audience. Did I mention it has a nice interior?

10 April 2013

I agree with Mike, the E63AMG is a much better all-rounder. It even has seven seats. And whilst it's available as RWD, an S version with 4MATIC will be available, and that's much faster than this Audi. The 4WD E63AMG will do 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds!

10 April 2013

But as always with Audi RS models, the steering feel lets it down. 

I still like it though; subtly aggressive exterior with a gorgeous, business-like interior.

Bring on the RS7!

"Why is http://www.nanoflowcell.com not getting more media attention? It could be the future... Now!"

11 April 2013

Marv wrote:

But as always with Audi RS models, the steering feel lets it down. 

I still like it though; subtly aggressive exterior with a gorgeous, business-like interior.

Bring on the RS7!

 

IF you read the para "It’s predictably less visceral than a supercar, but the RS6’s poise beyond 150mph is something to behold: no nervousness, no elevated sense of dynamic anxiety, just an unflappable grasp of the fast-departing Tarmac" I can only assume that afterwards - to keep the journo flag flying - they had to say something sad about the steering which has been repeat adhoc for the last 20 yeasr!!! Bull S..//T.

 

I havent driven one - but I have had a dab in the AMG and my opion is that it is a fast hurse.. It feels huge and weaving in heavy traffic became a chore. The steering, for me at least at low speed was imballanced when at one moment you are doing 5kph, and then clogg it to 120kph in tghe blink of an eye, the steering doesnt keep up - and I found it a tad disconcerting! From previous S models from Audi - including the V10, THAT never happened

 

what's life without imagination

10 April 2013

Big engines big power,but, we are now getting outputs like this from smaller, cleaner,more fuel efficient engines,don't sound the same?, then what are tuned exhausts with sound symposers for then?

Peter Cavellini.

10 April 2013

I agree,would be great to see a head to head test,I will sit in the rear seat of the AMG and watch the Audi get beat!It is a lovely piece of kit,and like the E63AMG'S'4Matic really the best all around vehicle you could want,forget the Chelsea Tractors,leave them to their fields.

Madmac

10 April 2013

i think the E63 would have a greater sense of occassion

twitter @anikadamali, @notPCnairobi

10 April 2013

This must a first, an Audi which is less powerful than its predecessor. Are they finally realising that there is more to a car than just brute force?! I have to say though that the RS6, along with most Audi RSs really do look tasteful, more so than even the Ms and AMGs of this world. Just a shame that the diriving experience still doesn't come uo to scratch.

I wonder whether Jag will do a R version of its XF estate.

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