First Drive: 2021 Audi RS6 Review

The big daddy, the 600PS Audi RS6...
29th July 2020
Will Bibb



For twenty-five years Audi Sport division – formerly quattro GmbH – has united high-performance, practicality and comfort. This automotive holy trinity, embodied in modern Audi range through the RS prefix, was achieved through the transformation of the humble saloon or family estate to a refined, yet monstrous, four-wheel-drive, all-weather, daily driver. A perfectly balanced Jekyll and Hyde character: comfort and serenity, twinned with big power. What more could you want?

Eighteen years after the release of its original bonkers Autobahn über-wagon, Audi’s fourth generation RS6 is here. And it’s as mad as ever. Okay, not 5.0-litre Lamborghini Gallardo-derived V10 mad as it was back in 2010, but as mad as it can be in an Extinction Rebellion era. Under the bonnet lies a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo V8 with 600PS and 800Nm of torque – that sounds like plenty, don’t you think?

We like

  • It’s a twin-turbo V8 estate car…
  • More frugal than you’d expect thanks to the mild-hybrid system
  • Feels unstoppable

We don't like

  • Less entertaining than an AMG
  • A kerb weight of 2,075kg is on the porky side
  • Steering is its weak spot



The friendly, bulbous curves of old have been almost entirely stripped away, revealing a more aggressive beast. Indeed, only the front doors, roof and boot-lid have been taken over from the standard A6. Sharp lines dominate whilst the wide-boy arches and rippling muscle of the new body much more accurately reflect the RS-line’s snorting personality.

Performance and Handling


Both the Launch Edition and Vorsprung edition Avant lived up to the all-weather reputation on test around the sweeping roads of the Black Forest in Germany. Patches of snow and standing water make little to no difference on levels of traction. The trademark quattro all-wheel-drive not only puts down the drive effortlessly, but acts as well-needed safety feature that gives you bags of grip when cornering. The confidence it gives you is enhanced when paired with some fat winter P-Zeros. It is, after all, so easy to forget that this supercar estate weighs two tonnes.

The big ceramic brakes on the Vorsprung-spec car are astounding. Initially the pedal feels very firm but allows for more attuned modulation than on the standard steel brake setup. The ceramics also allow the removal of the electronic speed limiter, unlocking the full 174mph top-end potential of the RS6.

When using the paddles to blast up and down through the eight-speed automatic ‘box, the throttle response is immediate and brutal. In automatic, however, the transmission often lags a little more than is desirable when you’re trying to put your foot down.

The Launch Edition – with the more lenient, height-adjustable air-suspension – expertly soaks up bumps at slow speeds. Despite the enormousness of the supercar-worthy wheels, the ride is like a magic carpet, though it proved a little soft on a more spirited, twisty drive through the hills around Stuttgart. Harder turns and switchbacks leave you wanting slightly as the car seems to lean away from the corner apex. The lack of feel through the wheel doesn’t help. Whilst most of the time this weightlessness makes driving a car of this mass and dimension easier, at speed it sometimes leaves you second-guessing your steering input, although this isn’t entirely obvious until compared with the higher specification Vorsprung car equipped with steel springs and the Dynamic Ride Control damping system. It's surprisingly supple at slower speeds and is even smoother when you really get going. Relatively speaking the latter setup is much sharper, giving a more captivating, point-and-shoot steering dynamic that has sometimes been lacking from fast Audis.

The dynamic all-wheel-steer – which turns the rear-wheels up to two degrees in the direction of input at speed – also counter-steers the rear wheels where appropriate at lower speeds to improve the turning circle, making it more agile around town or when braving multi-story car parks.

The driving modes can be selected at a thumb-press via the RS button on the steering wheel. The change of exhaust tone is satisfying, building up from a low rumble to a more noticeable V8 bark, but it’s still not quite giggle inducing. The modes – RS1 and RS2 – are highly customisable, allowing you to pick and choose which mechanical and electronic components run according to Audi’s Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Efficiency profiles.



The interior, as you’d expect, provides limousine-esque comfort but remains sporty with soft leather seats and steering wheel with lovely stitching all round. The dash is busy with customisable screens which lay out a vast array of information clearly, and the big boot and fold-down rear seats give enough space for a mountain bike if you wish. But the RS6 is also spacious enough to be perfect for a family that holidays in the Alps twice a year.

Technology and Features


With a nod to Greta, Audi Sport have even crammed in some innovative efficiency elements. The 48-volt mild-hybrid system allows recuperation of energy to a lithium-ion battery. You can lift your right foot when going between 34-99mph and the RS6 can coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine shut off completely. The cylinder on-demand system switches off cylinders two, three, five and eight, and so the V8 engine operates as a V4 in situations that demand less output. Not that you’d even notice these features if you didn’t read the literature. The transition between shut-off and full engine reboot is hardly perceptible, but maybe that’s part of the genius. Forty ECUs and a bucket-load of gizmos, sensors and cameras allow for smartphone-style prompts to drive more economically. Supposedly these systems can save up to 0.8 litres of fuel per 100km.



Overall, the higher-spec car with Dynamic Ride Control and ceramic brakes is for the driving enthusiast. But realistically, being so physically large and powerful there is little chance to use its full potential on British roads. That doesn’t stop it being the one to buy if you can afford it. The Launch Edition with the air suspension is still a fantastic car and perhaps the better proposition for a more comfort and family-oriented driver.

The new RS6 Avant is very impressive and more than holds its own against the likes of its competitors: M5, Panamera, E63 S AMG. It also keeps true to the spirit of Audi Sport’s RS brand and carries over the best bits of its predecessors whilst doing everything just that little bit better and more efficiently, too. There’s a chance big V8s aren’t long for this world. It’s best we appreciate them while they’re still here.



4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8, 48-volt mild hybrid


600PS (441kW) @ 6,000-6,250rpm


800Nm (590lb ft) @ 2,050–4,500rpm


Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive

Kerb weight



3.6 seconds

Top speed

155mph (limited, 173mph de-restricted)

Fuel economy


C02 emissions 263-268g/km


Our score

4 / 5

This score is an average based on aggregated reviews from trusted and verified sources.

  • Evo
    4.5 out of 5
  • TopGear
    4.5 out of 5
  • Autocar
    4 out of 5