RS6 wagon is a Jekyll 'n Hyde ride
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Johannesburg - I don’t know whether it was the black paint job, the 21-inch wheels, or the overall Darth Vaderness of the Audi RS6 Avant that attracted so much cellphone-snapping, open-mouthed attention from onlookers.
Whatever it was, anonymity was never an option when driving Audi’s new fire-breathing station wagon, and one day I was even stopped by a traffic cop who just wanted to check out the car and hear me rev it. So I obliged, and he was so mesmerised he forgot to ask for a cooldrink.
It’s that kind of car. Every line, from the gaping trapezoidal grille imprinted with large ‘quattro’ lettering, to the two bazooka-sized exhausts, imparts a feeling that it was born to thrill and raise hell.
And it does, but in a cool, not brazen or trashy way. Think Tom Cruise donning Ray-Bans and saying: “I feel the need, the need for speed” in Top Gun. Or Keanu Reeves in a black trenchcoat stopping bullets in The Matrix.
Verily, those 412 kiloWatts unleash in an angry fury when the mood is right and the road is clear. But the car can be suave and sensible too and the appeal of the RS6 is how unruffled and relaxed it can feel in day-to-day driving. Where the rival BMW M5 feels like a caged beast around town, always twitching for the open road with its violent throttle and clunky gearbox, the RS6 is just as comfortable breaking speed records as it is metaphorically putting its feet up and reading a good book.
Riding on RS-tuned air suspension, the RS6 can be eased along gently in the traffic grind, its progressive throttle, smooth gearshifts and an impressively compliant ride ensuring swift but comfortable progress through the real world of busy and bumpy roads.
UNLEASHING THE DARK SIDE
While this civilised nature might suggest a watered-down drive when your adrenaline dial is in the red, the fear is unwarranted: this Audi’s talents extend to both sides of the Bruce Banner/Hulk spectrum. When the traffic clears and a speedtrap-deficient strip of tar presents itself, the turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 reacts like a startled guard dog. Switching from Comfort to Dynamic mode via the standard MMI interface awakens the dark side and primes the steering, suspension and throttle response for battle. Also, the muted murmur of the turbocharged V8 adopts a more rottweiler-esque growl as you thrust the throttle, and a raspy crackle as you lift off it.
Full-attack racing starts are child’s play, with no finicky launch control to contend with. Build some revs with left foot on the brake, let go of the brake, and the two-ton station wagon bursts forth in a surge of lag-free power. And no wheelspin; quattro claws ensure forward progress without any crude shedding of rubber.
Just 4.2 seconds later you’re hitting the 100km/h mark if you’re at Gauteng altitude (3.9 seconds is possible at sea level, says Audi), and the quarter-mile in 12.4. But it’s the breadth of the power band that impresses, with 700Nm of torque on call all the way from 1 750 to 5 500rpm. At any point between standstill and the self-governed 250km/h top speed, a throttle thrust evokes an eager response carried out with easy-like-Sunday-morning swiftness. The engine never feels as if it’s strained, even as it embarrasses hot hatches at the traffic lights or whips effortlessly past long trucks.
Driving at mostly normal speeds with occasional bursts of social irresponsibility, our test car quaffed 15.2 litres per 100km. Not bad, even though Audi’s factory-claimed 9.8 litres seemed about as realistic as the tooth fairy.
GRIP AND FINESSE
Roadholding prowess is well matched to the power delivery. The big car hustles through curves with fine grip and finesse, and it’s only tighter hairpins that expose its heavy mass.
The rear-biased quattro drive and sports diff help resist early understeer, and the standard 40:60 front:rear split can be varied up to 70% to the front or up to 85% to the rear to offset any occurring wheel slip.
In Dynamic mode the steering loads up nicely for a heavier and more direct feel.
Bundled with all this high-adrenaline ability is a car that makes no compromises in space or practicality.
The full-sized cockpit swallows four full-sized adults and the boot’s enormous, expanding from 565 to 1 680 litres.
Styling of the cabin is elegantly athletic. The typically well-groomed Audi interior is spiced-up with aluminium pedals and carbonfibre trimmings, achieving a look that’s sporty without being garish.
At R1 465 000 the RS6 Avant represents a relative saving in the RS family as it costs R130 000 less than the similarly-engined Audi RS7 Sportback.
The pricetag is appropriately matched with a bountiful spec sheet that includes electrically adjustable seats, navigation, and electrically operated tailgate.
Dip further into the kids’ varsity budget and you can order toys like a panoramic glass sunroof (R23 130), exterior carbonfibre mirrors (R20 880) or a head-up display (R16 170) among others.
The cool Matrix LED headlamps you see in the photo go for an extra R16 170.
You get it all: Batmobile styling, sportscar performance, and space for the family and the rottweilers.
Audi RS6 Avant
Engine: 4-litre, V8 turbopetrol
Gearbox: 8-speed Tiptronic auto
Power: 412kW @ 5700-6600rpm
Torque: 700Nm @ 1750-5500rpm
0-100km/h (Tested, Gauteng): 4.2 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 250km/h
Price: R1 465 000
Warranty: 1-year/unlimited km
Maintenance plan: 5-year/100 000km
Audi vs its rivals:
Audi RS6 Avant - 412kW/700Nm - R1 465 000
BMW M5 - 412kW/680Nm – R1 459 491
Mercedes E63 AMG - 410kW/720Nm - R1 502 986
Mercedes E63 AMG S - 430kW/800Nm - R1 644 591
Jaguar XFR-S - 405kW/680Nm - R1 487 590Star Motoring