Germany, 2008 was the first time I got up close and personal with Audi’s formidable RS6 Avant, a bona-fide monster of a car capable of honest-to-God intimidation long before you even sat behind the wheel.
Autobahn speeds were off the charts, and that was in wet conditions. I don’t recall anyone passing us during our four-hour run, this was an entirely new driving experience. And in a family-friendly wagon, a sleeper if you will.
The Audi RS6 had been around in first-generation form since 2002, but the original featured a 4.2-litre V8 with a few special bits – two turbochargers and five valves per cylinder, to be precise.
It developed 331kW of power and 580Nm of torque. Even though it tipped the scales at a hefty 1865kg it could strafe from standstill to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds, which wasn’t bad for a family wagon back in the day.
Audi upped the ante in 2008 with the Lamborghini-powered, 5.0-litre V10 twin-turbocharged colossus pictured below, packing a big-league 426kW and 650Nm. The engine made this RS6 a truly special vehicle, and more powerful than BMW’s naturally-aspirated 5.0L V10 at the time.
Unfortunately, emissions saw the end of magnificent motor for the third generation. But things got more serious in 2013 when the new RS6 Avant arrived with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 under the bonnet making 412kW and 700Nm, upped to 445kW and 750Nm in the Performance.
The 0-100km/h time fell to just 3.7 seconds and top speed was a claimed 305km/h for those cars with Audi’s Dynamic Plus Package. It’s hard to fathom how Audi’s engineers could improve, but the 2020 RS6 Avant is an entirely new kind of beast.
Only the roof, front doors, and tailgate are shared with the latest Audi A6 wagon – every other panel is exclusive to the new RS6 Avant. As a result, it’s a whopping 80mm wider than the A6 on which it’s based, and 10mm wider than its predecessor.
Make no mistake, this is Audi Sport at its demonic best. It’s properly menacing from any angle, especially riding on 22-inch alloy wheels exposing the largest brakes I’ve ever seen: carbon ceramics measuring 440mm up front and 370mm down back.
Those dramatic rear arches look even wider thanks to the RS6’s sinister rear diffuser housing industrial-sized exhaust tips, and the aggression has been cranked up to 11 at the front.
This is a serious wagon, no doubt about it. And the performance more than matches the angry exterior.
Officially known as the Audi RS6 Avant 4.0 TFSI Quattro, this beast starts from a cool $216,000 before on-road costs.
There’s a raft of options packages available. I counted five, starting with the Sensory Package ($11,000) which adds Alcantara headlining, heated rear seats, and an 1820-watt, 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system.
There’s also the Dynamic Package Plus ($19,500) for those monster ceramic brakes mentioned earlier, and a more generous speed limiter allowing you to hit 305km/h.
The Carbon and Black Exterior Styling Package will set you back $8700, while you can choose between the RS Design Package in red or grey for $2900.
The same goes for the BMW M5 Touring. M GmbH doesn’t currently make one, which means Audi has the mega wagon market all to itself Down Under.
Porsche weighs in with its Panamera 4 Sport Turismo, but it’s priced from $236,700 before on-roads and packs a less powerful 3.0-litre V6 turbo making 243kW and 450Nm.
If you want an equivalent machine with a Porsche badge you’ll need to come up with a stratospheric $397,900 before on-roads for the Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo, armed with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 making 404kW and 770Nm.
Options packages might be plentiful, but Audi RS6 Avant buyers are getting a cupboard full of goodies standard besides that epic V8 powertrain.
There’s lashings of supple Nappa leather throughout the entire cabin including on the door rails and armrests, while those heavily-bolstered seats are wrapped in Valcona hide complete with the RS emblem on the headrests.
Touch points that aren’t leather are either Alcantara or beautiful polished aluminium. Our tester had carbon twill inlays, but that’s another $1700 and only covers the doors and dash.
There’s also stacks of technology and features to satisfy the most discerning of buyers.There’s not a lot else you could cram into this car.
It’s packed with a panoramic sunroof, power assisted doors, folding and heated exterior mirrors with auto-dimming, and HD Matrix LED headlights with Audi Laser Lights.
Additionally, the Black Exterior Package is standard and adds highlights around the grille, window trims, mirrors, and bumpers. Oddly enough, if you want the Audi rings and badges in black (including RS in Rhombus Red) it’ll set you back $700 on top.
The front seats are heated and cooled, but heating for the outer second-row seats will cost you $900.
There’s four-zone climate control, meaning separate temperature and air flow controls for the left and right sides in each row. Moreover, there’s a rear seat touchscreen display and additional vents in the B-pillars.
Ambient lighting is standard, with 30 colours and six colour profiles including the exterior door handles, entrance lighting, front and rear footwells, inside door handles, door trims, and instrument panel.
Naturally, there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with four USB outlets (two front, two back), DAB radio, and the standard Bang & Olufsen sound system with 16 speakers and 705W.
You could say there’s a lot going on, but taking centre stage are three high-definition screens including the massive 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit behind the steering wheel, the 10.1-inch infotainment display, and the 8.6-inch climate control touchscreen with handwriting recognition.
While the RS6 hasn’t been crash tested specifically, all A6 variants have been awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Overall scores included 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 85 per cent for child occupant protection, 81 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 78 per cent for safety assist.
The RS6 gets a huge array of driver assistance systems including adaptive cruise assist with stop/go, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree cameras including kerb view, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, attention assist, and autonomous emergency braking up to 85km/h for pedestrians and cyclists and up to 250km/h for vehicles.
It also gets collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic alert, intersection crossing assist, exit warning system, turn assist, and predictive efficiency assist.
Stretching nearly five metres long (4995mm), there’s a tonne of passenger and boot space inside the RS6 Avant.
After all, that’s a hallmark of this model. Absurd power and performance in a large practical wagon with the same corner-carving prowess as the most accomplished hot hatch. What’s not to like?
There’s a plethora of high-quality materials and fabrics blended well together, but in a business lounge way. It’s not the sort of sumptuous cabin you’ll find in a Bentley Continental or Mercedes S-Class, but there’s no doubting the comfort.
There’s plenty of headroom for taller frames, with 1055mm from front seat to headliner and 999mm for second row passengers – two only back there given the transmission hump is wide and high.
Boot space is massive and the aperture suitably wide. There’s a wholesome 565 litres with the second-row seats upright, which expands to a box-swallowing 1680 litres when the rear bench is lowered in its 40:20:40 split.
Under that bonnet lurks a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine generating a maximum 441kW of power between 6000 and 6250rpm and 800Nm of torque from 2050 to 4500rpm.
The aluminium crankcase weighs just 39.1kg, while the engine features tech such as plasma-coated cylinder linings, variable intake and exhaust camshafts, twin high-pressure fuel pumps, and a fully-variable oil pump for those who appreciate knowing the nerdy details.
It’s the same engine used in the new RS7 Sportback, and puts its power down through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels
I’ll be honest, climbing into an Audi RS6 Avant for the first time in years was a bit intimidating. Blame its reputation as a monstrously powerful wagon capable of obscene speeds, or the boat-like proportions that require some familiarisation before starting to feel containable.
Initially it feels enormous, especially on the corner-rich drive program we had to contend with. The Dynamic Steering is meaty and a tad heavy, depending on what else you’ve been driving. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t hanging about, but neither was I prepared to push as we did in the RSQ3.
The pace in front was serious, and from significantly smaller vehicles. It was enough motivation to start feeding in more throttle, and asking a whole lot more of the brakes when required.
I got out of RS6 Avant after around an hour, thinking it’s a lot of car to manage and you’re always aware of its 2150kg heft. You can’t really hide that, at least not in the less aggressive drive modes. I still hadn’t come to grips with the heavy steering either.
More wheel time was needed, because I wanted to like this monster – given I’ve always wanted to own one.
Soon my wish was granted, and I was dialling up Dynamic, shifting with the paddles, grabbing this big brute by the scruff of the neck, and pushing hard. Only then did it start to shrink around me. The all-wheel steering is genius once you get used to it, reducing what should be large steering inputs to small, precise movements.
I was expecting understeer in these tight turns, but there really isn’t any thanks to the active rear differential.
The grip, especially on turn-in, is extraordinary. The RS6 Avant feels completely neutral as you power out of bends. You’d need a track to go anywhere near the limit.
You’ll want to get your eyes up in this car, though, given it ability to cover ground (even the twisty stuff) is like no other of its size. You’ll forget you’re piloting a bus-sized lump from the moment you begin to rein in traffic on the horizon. That’s what the RS6 does best.
The sheer ferocity of this thing after only a few seconds of full throttle is intoxicating and scary at the same time. It’s made for high-speed commuting on the German autobahn, regardless of the weather.
It has the RS Sports exhaust as part of its standard inventory and, while the electronic indicators told me it was at its most vocal, I wanted more. Let’s face it, the RS6 Avant lost its understated status years ago, so the ability to crank up the decibels should be mandatory.
Broad outside, spacious inside
Those sensuous hips hide a properly practical load space
Mind, there’s plenty of bass in the exhaust note, just not enough of the higher notes – but that’s just my take.
The eight-speed auto can mostly keep up, but occasionally it won’t give you a lower gear when you want it – even when all the major settings are locked in Dynamic. I’d still like to try a dual-clutch shift in the RS6 Avant, given we know they can handle the torque output and the weight.
Ride comfort is generally excellent, especially is the cruising modes. We covered a whole range of road surfaces and even the really bad stuff is largely anaesthetised by the air suspension.
Audi claims the RS6 Avant will consume 11.7L/100km on a combined cycle, and as much as 16.3L/100km in the city. I can guarantee you’ll be using much more (above 22L/100km) if you find the kind of B-roads we were lucky enough to drive.
Travelling at high speed on the autobahn will likely consume even more, while I suspect standard driving in metropolitan Sydney could yield closer to Audi’s lab-test numbers – especially when you factor in its cylinder deactivation technology.
Audi offers a factory three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty on all new cars, and RS6 Avant owners can purchase a three-year service plan for $2380, or five-year plan for $3910.
There’s a certain mystique surrounding the Audi RS6 Avant. Always has been. Nothing has changed in that regard, though it looks more demonic than ever, now.
The evolutionary process around engineering and design has produced one of the world’s most unique performance cars, only now it’s in another league, but still with a ton of space for kids and dogs.
There are no direct rivals, and nothing this size comes close in terms of bang for buck.