Audi’s already brilliant RS 6 gets a welcome extra dose of drama and performance
4.0 out of 5
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The Audi RS 6 is an expensive, indulgent and in no way subtle way of getting around, but it’s a simply brilliant fast everyday car that will bring a smile to your face even after the most depressing of days on a trading floor. With this type of pure-combustion wagon now calling time before morphing into a hybrid in the next generation, the RS 6 might well be the ultimate fast estate car to come with four rings attached to the tailgate – a surefire future icon.
Audi has revealed a new RS 6 Performance variant that will replace the existing model, packing in more power from its twin-turbocharged V8 plus a few choice upgrades to give the whole package a bit more pizazz.
The RS 6 Performance’s powertrain features the existing twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine, but it now comes with larger turbos and higher boost pressures to help unlock an extra 27bhp, giving a total of 621bhp. Torque has been bumped up 50Nm to 850Nm, with that grunt going through a revised eight-speed automatic transmission with some snappier software for the benefit of its gearchanges.
There have also been some changes to the all-wheel drive system, with a new locking centre differential and some updated software to the Audi Sport Differential on the rear axle. Overall, the system is now even more neutral in its power delivery, with up to 80 per cent reaching the rear wheels when the right mode is engaged.
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In an attempt to reduce the RS 6’s kerbweight, 8kg of sound deadening has been taken out from the firewall but, depending on your chosen spec, new forged 22-inch wheels are the game changers, wiping off a further 20kg. Convince your Audi dealership to let you specify the optional 440mm carbon-ceramic brakes and even more weight can be taken off the total, with noticeable dividends as a result.
Whereas the previous RS 6 would sometimes struggle to maintain its ride quality when the road surface deteriorated, the Performance’s new wheels control the body float much more convincingly when the roads get rough, giving the whole car a new level of control and composure. The standard-fit air suspension does well to handle larger undulations, but with this comes a level of disconnect that can make the handling feel a little remote. Models fitted with the Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) option, which is standard on the top-spec Vorsprung edition and optional elsewhere, feature a wholesale replacement of the air springs and the fitment of steel coil springs paired to a set of hydraulically interlinked dampers.
Despite the upgrades to the ride and handling, though, it’s the engine that remains a standout. This power unit is a total force of nature which, thanks to the new turbochargers, brings an extra layer to character new to the Performance. Acceleration is almost violent after an initial pause of turbo-lag, with a corresponding baritone bark coming from both inside and outside the cabin. The transmission has a real slickness to it, and when the sports manual mode is selected, it shifts with all the urgency of a dual-clutch ‘box. For what is a 2,065kg super-estate, it’s even relatively efficient at a constant cruise, being able to hit 30mpg on long motorway journeys and with a disciplined right foot.
The only point of real consternation regards the steering which, as in all RS 6 models, is derived from both front and rear axles. Feel is non-existent and with such a fast ratio – plus a fairly aggressive calibration to the rear-axle steering – things can sometimes feel a little hectic.
The Performance model brings a few subtle flourishes inside the cabin, with new blue or red design packs that include contrasting stitching and seatbelts of the relevant colour. There’s also liberal use of Alcantara on the steering wheel, gear selector and centre console.
Yet the most attention could be drawn from the exterior styling, because this is a high-performance wagon that – in the best possible way – looks to have been designed by a child. Unlike all its estate rivals, the RS 6’s bodywork is largely bespoke, with ultra-wide arches that only just contain the simply stunning new 22-inch wheel design. It has all the subtlety of a supercar, and while it won’t appeal to the sort of buyer who likes to debadge their performance wagon for the ultimate q-car appeal, anyone even vaguely interested in the genre will see huge appeal.
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