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.