I don’t usually get that excited at the prospect of driving an eight year-old Audi wagon, but then again the RS6 Avant isn’t just any other wagon. It’s a psychotic, unstoppable monster and I’m almost genuinely scared by the prospect of getting behind the wheel.
Let’s be clear, the RS6 is a sportscar masquerading as a wagon. When Audi first unveiled the C6-generation RS6 in 2007 it was the most powerful wagon in the world, and the single most powerful car Audi had ever made. Just to reiterate, Audi’s new poster-child for raw power was a glorified family wagon that could comfortably fit five adults and a dog. Or a fridge, with the seats down.
In addition to being balls-to-the-wall powerful, the RS6 was also one of the heaviest cars Audi had ever made. To compensate for the more than two-tonne dry-weight Audi took the 5-litre V10 from the Lamborghini Gallardo and, in true RS fashion, made it more powerful. After bolting two turbochargers to the block and retrofitting over 400 unique parts, this behemoth of a wagon was capable of a de-limited top speed of 274km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds. A wagon with 426kW was breathtaking in 2007, and in some ways it still is today.
In ‘S’ mode (the only mode it should ever be in) the RS6 is simply demonic. Bury the throttle to the carpet and you get almost no delay, full transmission lock-up in first gear, total grip from the rear tyres and an utterly savage explosion of power. The V10 sounds nothing short of glorious, and is almost alone worth the near $100,000 price of admission.
Much like the RS4 of the same generation the engine block in the RS6 sits ahead of the front axel, which can often feel like you’re driving with large dead animal bolted to the front grille. Not to worry though, because the sheer deluge of available torque coupled with total grip from all four wheels means that in any corner you basically just beat understeer to death with more power.
As a driving machine it’s essentially unstoppable. The RS6 inspires such confidence that you can drive much closer to your limit than you ever would be able in an M5 or an E63AMG, cars that don’t possess the same dynamic capability.
In ‘S’ mode the shock absorbers unfortunately absorb no shock at all, but on the upside the RS6 sticks the road better than almost anything else. Whilst the RS6 doesn’t have a Volkswagen DSG gearbox, the transmission in the RS6 powers through upshifts with vigour, whilst also providing a very satisfying throttle blip on downshifts. It also works wonderfully well at city-driving speeds, which has been a significant failing of the early DSG ‘boxes. The RS6 Is a genuine daily driver, and in comfort mode you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were in the standard A6.
The RS6 Avant has aged remarkably well, although some may be turned off by the subtlety of this car. The RS6 doesn’t shout from rooftops or shove its ability in your face. In fact, only when sitting next to a standard A6 can you fully appreciate the lower, wider stance and flared Quattro-inspired arches of the RS6. But that doesn’t mean the RS6 does not command respect as a driver’s car, and indeed it’ll only take one set of traffic lights to prove to any mid-range Porsche that looks aren’t everything.
So the question, then, is this: should you buy one? My immediate instinct is to say yes. By almost any metric the RS6 is a phenomenal car and an absolute thrill in any setting. It’s powerful, dynamic and fundamentally thrilling. Certainly, if the choice is between an M5 Estate or an E63AMG from the same generation, the RS6 is the clear winner. You might do bigger skids in the BMW and the Mercedes-Benz, but the RS6 will allow you to push harder, faster and closer to your driving limit.
The RS6 also wins when compared to the Audi S6, a car that is dull, underpowered and uninspiring by comparison.
But should you buy it over an RS4? That’s genuinely tough. The RS4 is of course the gold standard for performance wagons, and the B8 RS4 generation has gone down in history as one of the best cars in a generation. The RS4 has only a V8 compared to the ballistic V10 in the RS6, but the lower overall weight and better driving dynamics, plus the fact that it’s far cheaper make the RS4 the better choice on paper.
But don’t let that detract from the magnificence of the RS6. Any wagon that will beat all but the finest performance cars off the line is something worth owning. The RS4 may be the better all-rounder of the two, but the RS6 is the emotional choice. If you buy an RS6 Avant, you’ll never stop smiling.
Or rather, you will stop smiling when you lose your license, but up until that point it’s completely worth it.