Eight hundred Newton metres of torque. It has to be typed out longhand to really get the number across properly. The latest RS6 may stick with a venerable 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8, but there is an uplift of 50Nm over the already impressive 750Nm (553lb ft) in the C7 RS6 Performance. Power is capped at 600PS (441kW), slightly below the old Performance model’s 605PS, but significantly above the standard C7’s 560PS (411kW), and that 800Nm torque figure cannot be ignored. It is, of course, routed through a quattro system with torque vectoring to mean the RS6 can hit 62mph in just 3.6 seconds. It’ll do 155mph before the usual limiters begin to kick in, but as you expect there are ways to pay to have those electronic overlords removed.
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way. The new RS6 has a mild-hybrid system, there to help with efficiency rather than any kind of performance advantage such as torque fill. But the RS6 is heavier than the old one, so the gains in economy are marginal at best. You can also feel that weight when you drive, but the steering is light as anything around, with a welcome added weight coming in if you bump the settings into “Dynamic”. It feels very artificial, but is a lot better than the little finger lightness of the standard mode. Feel has never been something you can really associate with an RS6’s steering, and the C8 changes that not a bit.
That’s the end of the possible driving gripes though. If you plant your foot the RS6 will absolutely warp you perceptions of what should be possible. The moment the turbochargers are fully working, all 2,000kg of the RS6 is launched at the horizon as if real horses have been spooked by a gunshot. The torque vectoring will then hunt out grip as if dogs after a fox. In the wet especially you can sometimes feel the quattro system testing every piece of tarmac for grip. Turn the car in and it might momentarily understeer, but resist the urge for a confidence lift, keep your foot balanced and you will feel the diff work and power being shifted to where the most grip is. The car feels like it tightens everything up, hauling itself into line without troubling itself to complain. The rear-wheel-steer also isn’t as obtrusive as some systems, which can make the back end feel as if on trolley wheels, instead just helping the RS6 feel more agile.
Through really tight stuff it does feel heavy, because it is, but without being scary – there’s not a lot of weight transfer here, especially if you put the suspension in its harshest setting. Instead there is just grip. Grip, grip and more grip.
Audi has followed BMW’s suit in making configurable options for the cars setup available via a button on the steering wheel. These RS Mode settings can be adjusted to suite your particular preference – we went for the weightier steering, but with the air suspension still in comfort mode, as dynamic suspension is a bit too firm to be necessary on British roads. The only issue with the system is that you have two settings and one button, meaning you have to cycle through to get to RS2 (or back to standard).
The brakes, ceramics of course, are excellent, with a decent amount of feel that was at times lacking from the C7’s middle pedal, although they remain a bit sudden at slow speeds. The gearbox is an eight-speed DSG, with shifts so lightning quick you really won’t notice them. The only annoyance might be that the system is a little too in control. If it doesn’t want to downshift, it won’t. So if you try to use a bit more engine braking by shifting down early when the car isn’t ready, be prepared to be disappointed.
What we weren’t able to try was the Performance suspension option. As standard the RS6 comes sprung by air, rather than steel, but opt for the performance pack and some traditional springs are inserted instead, apparently adding to a more sporty performance. It’s most likely more for those who wish to spend time at track days, but for us the air system was more than adequate. In fact we probably would have to think twice about sacrificing the air suspension’s breadth of ability – in comfort mode the RS6 settles into being a proper cruiser.