THE Audi RS 6 Avant‘s template of all-wheel drive chassis, wagon practicality and reassuringly over-endowed powerplant is one that ought to have spawned a crop of imitators, but few feel willing to stage a head-on challenge. The latest car’s been treated to a raft of detail changes, with the styling sharpened, interior tech rebooted and some retina-melting all-LED headlights.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
We rarely need too much of an excuse to get behind the wheel of an Audi RS 6 Avant, so a soaking wet Phillip Island circuit provided the perfect opportunity to assess the new infotainment system, acoustic glazing and uprated USB ports.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The RS 6 Avant’s big draw might be all the blood and thunder big numbers, but Audi long ago realised that the novelty of these superlatives soon wears off. Delivering the haymaker punch, while still retaining everyday liveability, has kept three generations of RS 6 customers coming back. This update focuses on the latter, which is why the RS 6 remains a subtler proposition than many give it credit for.
PLUS: Grip, pace, transmission, finish, improved technology
MINUS: Options pricing, overzealous brake booster, potential for licence cremation
THE WHEELS REVIEW
QUICK. Name one Audi that’s a clear and unambiguous class leader. Given the amount of metal Audi shifts every year, it’s a surprisingly tough task. You’d have a solid case for the RS 6 Avant, and not just because neither Mercedes nor BMW fronts up in Australia with a direct and credible rival. Even if an M5 Touring existed or the E63S 4MATIC hauler were imported, both would have their work cut out to depose Ingolstadt’s winged wagon.
The 412kW 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 has been left largely unchanged, but then this was an engine good enough to muscle in on the mighty W12 in the Bentley Conti GT, so it’s something very special. More industry best practice comes in the shape of the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission, which feels like a hot-tub of Astro Glide between engine and differential. This one gets a super-tall eighth gear to improve highway consumption to synch with the clever cylinder-on-demand technology which turns your RS 6 into the world’s laziest 2.0-litre V4 when you dial back the aggression.
At this juncture, its normal procedure to bemoan a lack of steering feel or chassis feedback, opining that AMG or BMW M would do these things a lot better, and while launching the RS 6 on a race circuit might serve to throw these shortcomings into sharper focus, the truth is, they don’t really matter. The RS 6 is a road car, and Audi realises that the joy of this vehicle is its sheer utility, never lapsing across that frontier where involving merely becomes wearing. As before, 0-100 in 3.9 seconds is there for the taking, wet or dry, accompanied by a battery of crackles and pops on the overrun.
The facelift sees a beakier-looking grille, sharper bumpers and what Audi calls “Matrix LED” headlights. The infotainment system’s been treated to a new engine, in this case an Nvidia Tegra 30, and there’s even a USB port that detects when a phone has been plugged in and then automatically jacks up the power from the usual 500mA to 1.6A to facilitate swifter charging. There’s also an acoustic glazing film applied to the front windows and screen that drops wind noise by 8dB.
Audi will certainly attempt to upsell you to the Dynamic Package Plus, which includes carbon ceramic brakes, dynamic steering, RS sports suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control, and the speed limiter wound up to 305km/h, relieving you of an additional $25,840 in the process, but in truth the RS 6 doesn’t need any of this kit unless you plan to stretch its legs on track. Which, having done so, is enjoyable but still feels faintly cruel with more than two tonnes to brake, steer and accelerate. Even with the ceramics fitted, a couple of laps saw the slightly neurotic brake booster punch the pedal right up to the top of its travel as it detected fade. Measuring your braking inputs is tricky when robbed of that customary inch or so of dead travel.
Dynamic subtlety, adjustability and tactility still aren’t a big RS 6 Avant drawcard. Instead, it majors on being a car that’s always there for you in any condition, delivering so much and asking for so little in return. Apart from that $229,500. That could be a sticking point.
Model: Audi RS 6 Avant
Engine: 3993cc twin-turbo V8, dohc, 32v, cylinder-on-demand Max power: 412kW @ 5700rpm Max torque: 700Nm @ 1750rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Economy: 9.6L/100km (combined)
On sale: Now