In the us it’s known as a station wagon but Audi labels them “Avant”. Whatever the name, American buyers aren’t keen: SUV popularity undermines the wagon market. So with that in mind, we weren’t surprised to learn that Audi has no plans to offer its all-new RS6 Avant in the North America, putting all its eggs into the beautiful RS7 basket instead.
For wagon fans in the US with the means to own such a machine, the RS6 has joined the ranks of European cars that got away. So it’s no consolation to know that in silhouette the RS6 Avant looks stunning. It’s both masculine and aggressive, as an Audi RS should be. It also features squared-off, flared wheel arches that are a distinctive nod to the first quattro. They’re filled with 20" wheels but it appears Audi expects most buyers to opt for the 21" rims, since there are several designs and colors available, making the 20s look puny.
The cabin is sumptuous and well-equipped, featuring electrically adjusted sports seats, a flat-bottomed RS steering wheel, MMI navigation plus with MMI touch, a 14-speaker, 12-channel, 600W Bose stereo system and the obligatory illuminated door sills. There’s inevitably a long list of optional extras to make it feel even more individual, most of which can be fitted to the S6 (available as a sedan, and in the US) – and that’s not what makes the RS version so special anyway.
The engine is a good place to start. The 4.0-liter V8 twin-turbo is much the same as under the bonnet of the Bentley Continental GT, except the Audi has even more power. A maximum of 552hp is available over a 1000rpm band of the rev counter from 5700rpm, but it’s the torque that makes this 4266 lb behemoth astoundingly fast.
Up to 516 lb-ft is produced, which is impressive enough, but that it’s available from 1750rpm all the way up to 5500rpm is staggering. And that endows the car with any-speed, any-gear performance that’ll put many sports cars to shame. Yet it can shut down the valves on four cylinders at low-speed until the driver needs full power again.
Speaking of gears, the RS6 gets ZF’s excellent eight-speed automatic, and the various modes allow it to both slip softly along the highway and ferociously engage gears with the throttle wide open, depending on the driver’s mood.
You can take control of the transmission with the (annoyingly plastic) paddles behind the steering wheel and, if the car is in Dynamic mode, it gives wonderfully satisfying throttle blips on downshifts. Pops, bangs and crackles from the active exhaust further enhance the experience on the over-run as well.
Audi’s ‘drive select’ programs allow you to choose different pre-sets that vary throttle response, steering weight and damper control, all to good effect. In Comfort mode, the RS6 isn’t taxing to drive in the least, while the most extreme settings seem to goad the driver into pushing ever faster.
And this car is fast… Cue disbelief as you spot 0-62mph in just 3.9sec. By default, top speed is limited to 155mph, although this can be raised to 190mph if you tick the right options box on the order form, and believe me: it can reach that speed on an alarmingly short piece of road!
Thankfully, the brakes are up to the job of restoring normality. The standard steel rotors are huge and perfectly capable, although Audi will gladly take a few extra dollars from you for the carbon-ceramic option. We tried both and preferred the pedal feel of the regular steel, but if you were considering track days, the composites might be better.
There are plenty more tricks up the RS6’s sleeve. The quattro system normally sends 60% of output to the rear wheels (up to 85% in extremis), and in conjunction with the rear sports diff, means the car tends to understeer far less than performance Audis of old.
It’s slightly strange to experience such an agile station wagon in a series of corners, where the grip levels are staggeringly high. Although there’s no real feel through the steering wheel, the eagerness to turn-in can be relied upon, and the rear generally follows suit, even when trail-braking. Indeed, stability under braking was one of the RS6’s strongest suits.
This could be attributed, no doubt, to the standard adaptive air suspension system, which gives the RS such breadth of ability. Buyers can even go one further by opting for DRC (Dynamic Ride Control) and Dynamic Steering to have the car adapt to any situation.
We’d recommend customers also tick the box marked ‘sports exhaust’ because this is very much an engine that should be heard. And with all that going on, you’ll soon forget you’re behind the wheel of a station wagon!
2014 Audi RS6 Avant
Layout front-mounted, AWD
Engine 3993cc V8 DOHC twin-turbo direct injection
Transmission eight-speed tiptronic automatic
Suspension five-link double wishbones f, self-tracking trapezoidal link axle with wishbones r
Brakes 15.35" floating wave, drilled rotors f
Wheels & Tires 20x9.5", 275/35 ZR20 front & rear
Power 552hp at 5700-6700rpm
Torque 516 lb-ft at 1750-5500rpm
Top Speed 155mph
Weight 4266 lb
Economy 24mpg (average)