Audi RS6 review, test drive
3rd Jul 2015 8:00 am
Audi’s high-performance RS6 Avant is here. But is it strong enough to change the buyers’ stance on estates?
What is it?
Many things. The Audi RS6 Avant is, at present, the only estate you can buy in India. It is also the first estate from a luxury carmaker in India. More excitingly it also happens to be one of the fastest of its type. With a claimed 0-100kph time of 3.9 seconds and a possible top speed of 305kph, it’s a car that, for reference, can keep up with the BMW M5s and Mercedes-AMG E63s of the world. In a nutshell, the RS6 is powerful, fast and loud – not words you’d normally associate with the average estate.
It doesn’t look like your average estate either. In essence, a high-performance version of the well- proportioned A6 Avant available abroad, the RS6 looks menacing and hot. Whether it was the fiery scarlet red paint of our test car or elements such as the large air intakes up front, exaggerated wheel arches and massive (albeit optional) 21-inch wheels, the RS6 was an attention magnet wherever we went. And to think estates were considered borderline boring! Even the tail end looks all business, thanks to the carbon fibre diffuser and the pair of oversized exhausts.
The cabin is no less special. Chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel apart, there’s plenty of alcantara, brushed aluminium and carbon-fibre trimming on the inside to distinguish it from the more everyday versions of the A6. The familiar dash remains as user-friendly as ever with all controls positioned within easy reach. The RS6 Avant gets front sport seats as standard that look sexy and offer great support. But, the option to adjust side bolstering would have been nice. The rear seats are more standard in form, but offer enough comfort for two occupants; the middle passenger will have to contend with the high centre tunnel.
Those interested in the RS6 Avant more for its virtues as an estate than as a performance car will be happy to know it’s got a very practical side too. The powered tail-gate lifts to reveal a well-shaped, 565-litre luggage bay. It’s large enough to be useful house-moving missions. It’s also enough space for your dog to move around in. Should you need more space, the rear seats fold down flat to free up 1680-litre of luggage room.
What is it like to drive?
A word on the mechanicals first. The RS6 Avant features the same engine that powers the Audi RS7. It’s a 4.0-litre twin-turbo, direct injection V8 petrol engine that makes a crazy 553bhp at 5,700-6,600rpm and 71.3kgm at 1,750-5,500rpm. The engine comes mated to an eight-speed torque converter gearbox and power is channelled via Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. In typical driving, the front-to-rear power split is 40:60, but depending on the conditions as much as 70 percent of power can go to the front, or 85 percent can go to the rear. There’s torque vectoring too, for added precision.
In a straight line, the RS6 is just manic. There’s no launch control here, but the all-wheel drive system allows for ballistic controlled getaways. Truth is, you can’t tire of the sheer ferocity with which the RS6 builds speed, be it from a standstill or from 120kph. Seriously, thanks to the turbos, almost the entire rev range is the powerband. As a result, explosive performance is never too far. The super quick gearbox also deserves credit here. It shifts gears without any delay, be it in full automatic mode or when operated manually via the paddle shifters or gear lever. The exhaust also adds its share of drama to the proceedings. There’s an ever-present bassy rumble at low revs that builds up to a deep-throated growl at higher revs. At its loudest setting, the exhaust will also bark and pop on gearshifts. Nice!
Around the corners, the RS6 feels superbly poised. There’s little by way of body roll and you can tell that the car has immense reserves of grip. The Quattro system means the last bit should hold true irrespective of the weather. However, for all its tenacity, the RS6 doesn’t feel as exciting as an M5 or an E63 would on the same roads. A part of this is down to the steering. Sure, it’s got ample weight when set to Dynamic but, like other Audi units, it still tends to keep you at arm’s length from the happenings at the front wheels. And that’s a bit of a downer.
The RS6 comes equipped with adjustable air suspension as standard, and though our test car had the optional steel springs, it balanced out the opposing requirements for agility and comfort quite well. Yes, the ride is firm across all settings but the Comfort mode does do justice to its name — despite our test car running on wafer-thin 21-inch tyres. However, were we to spec the car, we’d stick with the standard 20-inch rims. Not only do they come with more absorbent higher profile tyres, they are also less prone to damage on our roads.
Should I buy one?
Given the unfavourable response to estates in India, the RS6 Avant comes across as a curious addition to Audi’s line-up. However, think of the RS6 as a performance car that just happens to be an estate and you’ll see it in the right light. This is a blistering fast car for those who must have something different. The estate shape will not only help the RS6 standout at the odd supercar gathering, but also gives it a practicality you wouldn’t associate with a high-speed machine.
Question is, how many performance-car buyers will be willing to break the norm? It’s a pertinent question, because even the Ferrari FF’s shooting-brake form hasn’t found too many takers in India. Still, if the Rs 1.35 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi) RS6 Avant proves to be a success in the segment, it could just result in more estates coming to India at lower price points.