The new Audi RS6 reaffirms the greatness of the fast estate
With the new RS6 Avant, Audi bounces back into the fast-estate big-time, an arena it created with the mould-breaking RS2 of 25 years ago.
For Audi, the mix of mega engine, quattro all-wheel-drive and spacious estate body encapsulates all that’s good about Vorsprung durch Technik. This new, fourth-generation version moves with changing times, so while it is not (quite) the estate power champion, it does promise to be a hero in the efficiency stakes.
This is the fast estate that can take you, four passengers and the dog from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds – and then down a suitable stretch of autobahn at almost 190mph if you have it derestricted – without casting all environmental responsibility to the winds. Audi says it’s about epic performance as responsibly as possible.
As well as the expected twin-turbo, 4.0-litre V8 with 600PS (591bhp) and 800Nm (594lb ft) of torque, the new RS6 Avant gets 48 volt electrics and a mild hybrid side. The car doesn’t have any purely electric motor power, but thanks to a starter-generator system it can coast along with the engine off, as well as recover up to 12kW (16bhp) of otherwise lost power.
This power is stored in a lithium-ion battery and used for an engine stop-start function which operates at speeds up to 13mph. Audi is not so far saying how many miles per gallon the new RS6 Avant makes, just that 0.8 of a litre can be saved over the course of 62 miles. That, of course, depends entirely on the type of driving.
Also helping stretch each gallon is a new take on the old idea of a cylinder shutoff system. This deactivates half the engine on light loads in high gears, when it doesn’t need to be thumping out its 800Nm of torque. Put your foot down and power is restored instantly – as well as, most importantly, a full-blooded V8 roar. For the sake of the neighbours, the volume of roar remains customisable as one of the menu items in the Audi’s new RS1 and RS2 drive modes, accessed by new buttons on the steering wheel.
With its square-jawed new front end and powerdome bonnet, the RS6 Avant comes with extra road presence, although eschewing extreme performance styling mods it still qualifies as a Q car, albeit one with a subtle hint of menace. This more laid-back than lairy approach is good news since Audi says the RS6 previews the design language for a coming new raft of RS models.
The proportions and dimensions are essentially those of the latest A6 Avant but with a wide body thanks to the signature RS wheelarch blisters. They accommodate wheels up to 22 inches, shod with supercar-sized 285/30 tyres.
With the exception of the front doors, roof and tailgate, the exterior is in fact exclusive to the RS. Important dimensions inside – such as a 1,680-litre load space, 1.99m long with the back seats folded down – are exactly as those of the latest A6 wagon. The boot is longer and wider than the previous model.
It’s a top of the line Audi so you expect some very hi-tech treats and you get them. Matrix LED laser headlights, eight-speed Tiptronic with launch control, weight-saving ceramic brake system, adaptive air suspension with a lift button to avoid grounding at low speeds (the body sits 20mm lower than an A6’s), and an optional camera-based trailer assist function for when you order the swivelling towing hitch, all feature.
However, nowhere does an Audi display its technology and quality better than in the cabin and that’s something the new RS6 majors on. Here is the firm’s latest virtual cockpit, an all-digital melange of black-panel architecture and MMI touch response displays finished with brushed aluminium inlays and plenty of perforated leather, including the seats which are ventilated for the first time.
The all-roads, all-weather, whole family, everyday supercar? That’s always been the appeal of the RS Avants, and the new one shows that even in a world full of super-powerful SUVs the formula holds true. Price? Probably getting on for £100k with options, with first UK deliveries in January 2020.