WITH performance figures to make your Porsche-owning neighbour very nervous and haunches as wide as the Clyde, the Audi RS6 Avant is about as far removed from the staid image of estate cars as it’s possible to get. Yes, you probably could fit a grandfather clock in the back for an Antiques Show rendezvous with Fiona Bruce, but the Audi is built to warp time, not transport it.
There are some seriously silly numbers at work here – chiefly: 553bhp, 700Nm of torque, 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, an ungoverned top speed of nearly 190mph and, if you get a bit careless with options list, a price tag comfortably in excess of £100,000. See that matt grey paint on the car below? That’s a £5,675 option, which is nearly as expensive as the stereo.
You might think this is all a bit nuts, and I’d be inclined to agree. But shift your perspective a little, think of the RS6 Avant as a supercar with a practical side, and it starts to make more sense. People pay silly money for two-seaters and a boot no bigger than a matchbox, so why not get three extra chairs and space for the labradors into the bargain?
Also, if you’re going to buy a brutish car, at least buy a brute with a conscience. This is the third-generation RS6 and it’s the one with the smallest engine, in capacity terms at least. It features a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in place of the previous car’s 5.0-litre twin-turbo V10 engine which, allied to a lighter bodyshell and clever engine management, means improved fuel economy. In fact, says Audi, this RS6 will go 42 per cent further on a gallon of fuel than the V10 could ever manage – 28.8 miles instead of 20.2.
Helping the Audi go further between fill-ups is a thing called cylinder-on-demand technology. Potter along in your RS6 and cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8 will shut down, leaving the engine to operate as a more efficient two-litre V4. When it’s time to press on again, all eight cylinders fire back into life. The switch is imperceptible, and only a little light on the instrument display gives the game away.
Right, that’s the environment… err… sorted. Let’s concentrate on power and speed. Although the V8 develops about 20bhp less than the V10, there’s more torque – 8 per cent more – and, in a car weighing a whisker under two tonnes, that’s what really counts. The RS6 is ludicrously quick off the line, helped by a quattro four-wheel-drive system that makes sure none of its grunt goes up in tyre smoke.
The speedo shows 60 in under four seconds, but the fun has just begun. While lesser engines tail off as the rev-counter needle nears the red zone, the V8 keeps pulling. Switch the eight-speed gearbox to manual mode and, if your gearshift reaction times can’t keep pace with the Audi, the rev limiter will cut in with the sound like heavy artillery fire.
Top speed in a “standard” RS6 is limited to 155mph, but you can ask Audi to raise the v-max to 189mph. I think it involves fitting solid rocket boosters, or something. It’s fast in the corners too. The steering lacks the razor-sharp precision of, say, your neighbour’s Porsche, but the RS6 is talented enough to carry heaps of speed through the bends, aided by a quick-thinking quattro system which can send power to the wheels with most grip.
Air suspension is standard on the RS6, but our test car was fitted with Audi’s optional £2,075 Dynamic Package, which comprises conventional steel springs and adjustable dampers which can be tweaked from the driver’s seat at the touch of a button. With optional 21-inch wheels and low-profile rubber (there goes another £1,900), the ride is best described as firm but fair.
Six-piston callipers and massive steel discs had no trouble scrubbing excess speed off the two-tonne Audi but, if you plan to spend your weekends tearing around Knockhill in your RS6, scaring your family and dogs witless, you might want to ask Audi to fit the optional carbon-ceramic brakes.
And… relax. Audi interiors always feel special and the cabin of the RS6 is no exception. Hip-hugging sports seats and the chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel bear the RS logo, just in case the face-bending acceleration isn’t enough of a clue as to what you’re driving. Standard equipment includes four-zone automatic air conditioning, a powered tailgate, cruise control and a funky satnav screen that slides out and up from the centre of the dash.
I mentioned our test car’s stereo at the beginning, and I feel I ought to mention it again. It’s a 15-speaker Bang & Olufsen unit and, at £6,300, it costs more than a new Dacia Sandero. I was so addicted to the wuffle and bark of the Audi’s exhausts, I only bothered to switch it on twice. It played Coldplay twice, which just goes to prove something, I’m sure.
CAR Audi RS6 Avant
PRICE £75,500 (£104,240 as tested)
PERFORMANCE Max speed 155-189mph; 0-60mph 3.9s
MPG (combined) 28.8mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 229g/km