The idea of the fast, practical Audi dates all the way back to the original Quattro of 1980, which just like this new RS6 ‘Performance’ utilised both turbocharging and four-wheel drive to first generate and then safely deploy its power. However, while the Quattro’s 2.1-litre, five-cylinder engine produced what was an immensely impressive 200bhp 36 years ago, the RS6 now generates over three times the power on less than twice the capacity. Such is the rate of progress these days. But we’d have to wait another 14 years to see Audi’s first ultra-high performance estate and the very first Audi to wear the ‘RS’ badging of its high performance Quattro GMbH win. That car was the A4-based RS2 estate and, despite using essentially the same engine as the old Quattro, it now produced a rousing 315bhp. It was a great looking an exceptionally quick car, at least in a straight line.
A6 estates first started going faster in 1994 with the 227bhp S6, but it would be 2002 before the first properly rapid RS6 version was developed. Like today’s car it had a twin turbo V8 under the bonnet but with a slightly bigger 4.2-litre capacity, and a 450bhp output. Even today an original RS6 is a startlingly rapid car.
Today’s RS6 fully deserves its ‘Performance’ soubriquet. True it features the same twin turbo, 4-litre V8 engine used in the standard RS6 of the current generation but with its mapping rewritten to provide even more boost from its turbochargers, its power has risen from 560PS to 605PS or 597bhp in old money. Not only does this make it the most powerful Audi family car in history, it’s got more power even than any of the Bentleys that also use this engine, including the GT3-R.
In additional to the extra urge, the RS6 comes complete with its own bodykit, massive 21in rims and a sports exhaust, a better than reasonable tally of refinements for the £7000 additional cost over a standard RS6. Otherwise it is as you would expect: a robustly constructed, spacious and well appointed five seat estate car that just happens to have more power than currently found in the entry level offerings from Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren.