Audi RS6 review
How good is Audi's 552bhp super estate? We test the RS6 Avant
The Audi RS6 is the latest in a long line of fast Audi estates. The most powerful car the German firm makes it’s 552bhp 4.0-litre V8 engine produces a huge 700Nm of torque, allowing it to hit 60mph in under four seconds and rival cars like the Mercedes E63 AMG Estate and Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake as the world’s ultimate performance estate car.
It's also out to steal the limelight from the likes of fast SUVs from the likes of Porsche and Range Rover, too - offering similar practicality with the reassurance of Audi's quattro four-wheel drive system.
Although a purchase price of £78,040 may seem steep, it could be seen to represent good value when you consider the sheer power and performance on offer from the V8 engine, in combination with the Avant bodystyle's practicality.
Engines, performance and drive
Now in its third generation, the A6-based model actually has a smaller engine than its predecessor, with the old 572bhp 5.0-litre V10 replaced by a 552bhp 4.0 V8. Yet despite the decrease in capacity and power, the new RS6 is faster than ever.
With the traction of quattro all-wheel drive the RS6 will blast to 60mph in an amazing 3.7 seconds, with this four-wheel drive handing giving it a unique selling point over rear–drive rivals like the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake and Mercedes E63 Estate.
The Audi’s real world in-gear performance is equally impressive, and above 4,000rpm the RS6 accelerates even more ferociously than its key rivals. Adding to the drama is the seven-speed twin-clutch transmission, which provides rapid-fire shifts via the steering wheel-mounted paddles, plus it delivers a crisp throttle blip on downchanges.
The RS6’s V8 may serve up blistering performance, but it sounds a little muted alongside the vocal Mercedes E63. There’s no menacing burble at idle, while at high revs the 4.0-litre unit is muffled. The optional sports exhaust delivers a more imposing soundtrack, and should be your choice if you want a more raucous RS6. However, outside of its power, the RS6 isn’t as much fun as you might expect.
There’s so much performance on tap that it’s hard to use it on the road, while the Audi feels a little subdued in corners. There’s no shortage of grip and the upgraded air-suspension system provides rock-solid body control, but there’s not much feedback through the major controls.
Choosing the Drive Select system’s sportiest mode sharpens the throttle and helps reduce understeer by engaging a more aggressive setting on the electronically controlled Sports rear diff, but it also adds too much weighting to the steering. Make no mistake, the four-wheel-drive Audi is devastatingly quick on twisting roads, particularly in the wet, but it’s not as agile as the Mercedes E63 Estate or as engaging as the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake.
Still, what the Audi lacks in driver involvement it makes up for with top-notch refinement. There’s virtually no wind noise on the motorway and in its comfort setting the air springs soak up bumps well – only deep potholes really ruffle the RS6.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
There’s no escaping the fact that a V8 estate car with more than 500bhp is going to cost you a lot to run. A near £80,000 price tag and CO2 emissions of 229g/km mean big tax bills for company car drivers, while trips to the fuel station will be regular and costly.
At least, Audi’s fixed-priced servicing deals allow you to budget for maintenance, although its worth noting that if you drive the RS6 hard or head to a track day –consumables like tyres and brakes are very expensive to replace.
On the plus side, strong residuals are a plus for private buyers and compared to some more exotic two-seater sports cars with similar performance, the RS6 could be seen as a bargain and all the car you could ever need.
Interior, design and technology
The RS6’s lines are incredibly aggressive and give the low-slung estate serious presence on the road. Audi’s designers have enhanced the standard A6 Avant’s lines with a deep, tarmac-skimming front bumper, huge, flared wheelarches and 20-inch alloy wheels. Even with more understated paintwork, it demands serious attention.
A crease running back from the headlamps follows the shallow window line to the rear, giving the body a more menacing look. Meanwhile, at the rear there’s a pair of fat tailpipes and a gloss-black bumper insert.
Audi has made the RS6’s light signature very distinctive – the car gets LED headlamps with a sharp running light design that’s reflected in the tail-lamps. There are also LED indicators that sweep in the direction you’re turning. Together, this makes the Audi easily recognisable in the dark.
Like the exterior styling, the interior design is very precise and crisp, with lots of high-quality materials covering the dashboard and doors. You sit low down in the Audi’s deep bucket seats, while the dash wraps around with a sweeping profile that incorporates the neat pop-out multimedia screen and, lower down on the centre console, the climate controls.
As you’d expect from an Audi, refinement and quality are brilliant. All the controls feel solid and expensive, while touches like the RS dials, aluminium pedals, extra carbon-fibre trim detailing and diamond seat stitching give the interior a proper sporty feel.
At £78,040, you'd expect the RS6 to be packed with kit, and Audi delivers as there are plenty of gadgets on offer. LED headlamps, cruise control, nav and heated seats are all standard, but a reversing camera and keyless go are optional.
The navigation system works well and is easy to control using the rotary metal wheel behind the gearlever, but this interface definitely feels a generation older than the new TFT display in the latest Audis – like the Mk3 TT – that replaces the dials with a digital screen. This upgrade would improve the RS6’s interior even further.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Ever since Audi revealed the Porsche-tuned RS2 in 1994, it has been leading the way with its lightning-quick estate cars that match practicality with supercar performance and the latest RS6 is no exception. Based on the practical A6 Avant there’s no shortage of space.
Rear passengers have plenty of room to lounge around – although the large transmission tunnel gets in the way for passengers sitting in the middle seat. A deep glovebox, large door bins and an array of useful cubbies boost the Audi’s family-friendly cabin.
However, while the RS6’s 565-litre boot is roomy and well shaped, it trails the Mercedes E63 Estate’s spacious luggage area by a significant 130 litres. Folding the Audi’s rear bench flat gives you a healthy 1,680-litre load space – although this is still 265 litres shy of the E63’s. However, there is the option of a useful load-securing system, plus a standard-fit powered tailgate and a handy netted storage bin.
Reliability and Safety
Audi came in with a 12th-place finish in our Driver Power 2014 satisfaction survey. However, its dealers didn’t fare so well, coming a lowly 26th out of 33. The RS6 is based on Audi’s regular A6 model, which we’ve heard no horror stories about. So, using proven tech from across the range, the RS6 should be reliable.
Euro NCAP hasn’t crash tested the estate yet, but the standard A6 was awarded a five-star rating. With six airbags and stability control as standard and Audi’s £2,100 Assistance Pack on offer – featuring adaptive cruise control, pre-sense plus with braking assistance and active lane assist – we’d expect the RS6 to be safe.