Audi RS6 Avant estate
"The Audi RS6 Avant is a rapid estate that shows off performance Audis at their finest"
- Breadth of talent
- Spacious interior
- Expensive to run
- Costly options
The Audi RS6 Avant is arguably the most fitting flagship model for the brand, even considering the V10-engined R8 supercar. The German marque forged its reputation building classy, well-engineered executive cars, and the RS6 Avant's immense performance seems all the more impressive given its estate bodywork.
Lurking behind its honeycombe grille is a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine producing 592bhp, which helps the car shrug off its two-tonne weight to get from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds. Audi's famous quattro four-wheel drive and an eight-speed gearbox help here, leaving the driver to hold onto the RS6’s perforated steering wheel for dear life as it leaves sports cars trailing in its wake.
The handling is better than ever, with accurate steering and agility that's helped by an all-wheel-steering system. This can turn the rear wheels by a few degrees, quelling understeer and helping the RS6 feel almost as lithe as a rear-wheel drive car in some situations. When you want to calm things down, the Audi's V8 can also assume a more reserved, hushed personality, while the suspension does a reasonable job of soaking up bumps.
The interior is as you'd expect, based as it is on the well-built and tech-heavy Audi A6, but with more arresting bucket seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and silver gearshift pedals. There are also RS modes for the digital instruments and central display, showing everything from tyre pressures to temperatures and even g-force, rather like a more upmarket Nissan GT-R. There's lots of space too, including acres of legroom and a 586-litre boot that's only beaten by the Mercedes-AMG E63 estate.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Let's get the figures out of the way first: the Audi RS6 returns between up to 22.6mpg and emits 281-291g/km of CO2, placing it roughly between a supercar and sports car for running costs. It clearly won't be a good choice for anyone after an affordable or green car, a few years ago a car with this much performance would return considerably worse economy figures. Audi has thrown a good deal of its fuel-saving tech at the big, powerful RS6, including a 48-volt mild hybrid system and software that can shut down half the engine's cylinders under light loads. Coast at speeds between 34-99mph and the engine can switch off temporarily.
If you're after a more eco-conscious estate capable of harassing Ferraris, the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo comes with a plug-in hybrid option that offers 31 miles of electric range and fuel economy of 113mpg.
Engines, drive & performance
New, larger turbochargers mean the 4.0-litre V8 petrol engine now produces 592bhp, giving this family estate car almost as much power as a McLaren F1 supercar. The RS6 also weighs over two tonnes, but that doesn't stop it getting from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds. At full attack, the RS6 appears to pull the horizon towards it, with the numbers on the digital speedometer struggling to refresh fast enough. As standard it'll quickly get to its 155mph top speed, or you can pay around £1,500 extra to increase the speed limiter to 174mph with the standard steel brakes or 189mph if the optional carbon-ceramic stoppers are fitted.
There's now so much torque from low revs and such minimal turbo lag that the engine feels slightly less eager at high revs, with maximum power arriving at just 6,000rpm. Some engine noise trickery makes the soundtrack a bit more synthetic too but the optional £1,500 sports exhaust still sounds deep and menacing with bangs and crackles on the overrun.
Buyers will also need to decide how they want their RS6 to ride, because the standard suspension features air springs that are said to give the best ride comfort. For £1,300 (standard with Vorsprung trim) they can be swapped for Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), which uses coil springs and adaptive dampers for a more sporting drive. Here, the steering is ultra-precise and agility is incredible for such a large car, helped by all-wheel steering and a sport differential that can juggle torque between the rear wheels. After trying both systems, we found DRC was better able to cope with UK roads, providing taut body control but also doing a more accomplished job of absorbing bumps and compressions, improving ride quality.
Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system ensures there's traction to catapult the estate out of corners, but at times the RS6 almost feels like a rear-wheel-drive car. Carbon ceramic brakes cost a hefty £9,200, but they save 34kg in weight and showed no signs of losing their bite during our test drive.
Interior & comfort
It might be a sports car killer, but the Audi RS6 Avant is also a big executive car, and even fitted with its sharp-edged body kit and 21 or 22-inch alloy wheels, it's still surprisingly refined on the move. In its most laid-back driving mode, the V8 is fairly hushed and the ride is more comfortable than in most hot hatchbacks.
The main change over the regular Audi A6 Avant is a set of figure-hugging bucket seats, upholstered in a mixture of leather and Alcantara, along with a set of aluminium gearshift paddles behind a flat-bottomed perforated leather steering wheel.
Brushed dark aluminium trim helps sets the tone around the interior, while the 10.1-inch MMI infotainment display get an 'RS Monitor' to access data like cornering g-forces, tyre pressures and powertrain temperatures. There's also an RS display for the Virtual Cockpit digital instruments and new buttons to access individually preset RS1 and RS2 driving modes.
Practicality & boot space
If you need to carry lots of people or equipment, there are few faster ways to do it than the RS6 Avant - performance SUVs included. The sheer length of Audi's executive estate means tall passengers are particularly well catered for, with a highly adjustable driving position and plenty of legroom in every seat. It's comfortable too, with a wide armrest that folds down when the middle rear seat isn't in use.
The boot measures 586 litres, which should be easily big enough for most owners, but isn't quite on par with the huge 640 litres offered in the Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate. It is, however, comfortably larger than the 520-litre boot in the Panamera Sport Turismo and folding down its 40:20:40 split and fold rear seats (from just inside the luggage compartment) extends its capacity to 1,680 litres. A powered tailgate also comes as standard and the RS6 is even available with a hidden trailer hitch and a camera-based system to make reversing with a trailer more straightforward.
Reliability & safety
The Audi RS6 Avant is a large and complicated car, which could affect maintenance costs and reliability, but it's also loaded with Audi's latest safety technology.
Audi came a middling 21st out of 30 manufacturers in our 2020 Driver Power survey, falling five spots from 2019. This put the brand ahead of fellow German manufacturers BMW and Mercedes, but behind Volvo, Jaguar and Lexus in customer satisfaction rankings with 20% of owners reporting a fault in the first year of Audi ownership.
Safety experts Euro NCAP crash-tested the Audi A6 saloon on which the RS6 is based, awarding it the full five stars in 2018. Its strongest scores were in the Adult Occupant and Vulnerable Road Users categories, where it managed 93% and 81% respectively.