Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
AUG 22nd 2017
The Goodwood Test: Audi RS6 Performance
The first time the world heard the name RS6 was back in 2002 when Audi took its second-generation A6 and squeezed a 4.2-litre, biturbo V8 under the bonnet to produce a 444bhp stealth weapon in estate form. But for the true genesis of what has become the king of the über-estate we need to go back to the launch of the legendary RS2. Born of a co-development project between Audi and future VAG bedmates Porsche, the RS2 was the first time the RennSport (literally racing sport) name had been attached to an Audi and the 311bhp wagon set a precedent for everything to come. While the RS2 was based on the Audi 80 – the predecessor to the A4 – rather than the 100, that first fast wagon can truly be seen as the godfather of the current RS range and especially for those for which its iconic letters are attached to a silly fast estate.
The RS6 would join the increasing arms race of fast luxury barges, battling the M5 and Mercedes’ E55 and 63 as power levels began flying up and up. In the process, the RS6 would find itself powered at one point by a twin-turbo version of the 5.0-litre V10 from Lamborghini’s Gallardo, before returning to the familiar V8 with the age of downsizing. While the RS6 name made its way onto a pair of saloons in its first two eras, after the current generation arrived in 2013, the RS6 became estate-only.
The RS6 has always prided itself on subtlety rather than shouty exterior appendages. So here you’ll find the good looks of the standard A6 (for us one of the best-looking family estates for generations) but with beefier arches, a slightly bigger chin, the oval exhausts that have become a signature and not much else to distinguish it other than some bright callipers. The only detail that could be seen as acquiescing to the demands of those who want to show off are the two silver blades that protrude from the RS6’s chin, almost like small tusks added to hint at the danger below.
Inside it’s that classic Audi interior capability – has anyone ever so continuously managed to get interiors right? The wheel is one of the best things you’ll ever hold, chunky enough to feel purposeful without being too big, and clad in a dimpled leather that is smooth to the touch. The overall design has been around for a fair old time now, but you’d be hard-pushed to tell.
The RS6 performance, which was first announced in October 2015, now boasts a mind-boggling 597bhp (605PS) and an almost unbelievable 553lb ft (750Nm) of torque. Between its eight cylinders, eight-speed auto ‘box and the iconic Quattro four-wheel-drive system that means the RS6 can be propelled to 62mph in just 3.7 seconds – a time that some supercars will still look at with jealousy.
Stick your foot to the floor and the near 2-tonne family estate will warp the fabric of time around you, making a complete mockery of its sizeable girth and utterly humiliating basically anything on the road around you. Steering is (through one of the best wheels in the world) characteristically slightly numb but that doesn’t detract from an astonishing ride, that Quattro system has grown through its years and in the RS6 can be summoned to produce enough traction that a small part of your brain worries about nearby tectonic faultlines every time you exit a corner. The car manfully resists that four-wheel-drive urge to understeer through the entry to a corner, holding itself until you push that peddle back to the floor once more and unleash a force that only the collision of galaxies could conceivably out-do. No matter where you sit in the rev range, the big Audi seems able to conjure up all its torque and 600 horses at will.
Driving cars in the 21st century means you rarely come across anything you could truly label ‘bad’, but the Audi RS6 pushes the boundaries on what a car can and should be able to do with such force that it almost defies superlatives. The RS6 will eat up the miles no matter the road, no matter how many people you cram inside or how much luggage you weigh it down with, with a gentle, but utterly spellbinding, burble from the two oval exhausts out back. And then, just when you thought that nothing in the world could surprise you anymore you drive through a town and that growling savage beast is becalmed to a quiet cruiser, something that makes an A3 seem noisy. This isn’t a car for AMG-style tyre-obliteration and it also won’t wake the gods and and leave children running for their parents when you gun the throttle, but what it will do is absolutely everything else you could possibly want. Driving to the south of France with the family, the dog and all your possessions? It’ll do it. Going for a fast blast through the countryside? It’ll do it. Driving to work with a headache from too much partying the night before and desperate for a comfy seat and a quiet trip? It’ll tuck you into its wonderful interior and quietly carry you in no issue. Want to embarrass your neighbour who’s invited you to a track day in his Ariel Atom? Bring it on. The RS6 has seen it all and taken it in its stride.
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