Intoxicating hot wagon, the Audi RS6 Avant
Finally met up with the Audi of my dreams the Audi RS6 Avant, it came, I saw it, it conquered me.
It’s been a long time in coming but I finally got behind the wheel of the all new Audi RS6 Avant, and boy was it worth the wait. I was teased with my first look at the 2021 RS6 Avant at the Downtown Audi Vancouver showroom in early January this year, sadly the menacing machine which looked worthy enough of being a stead of one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ringwraiths was not available for a test drive. To compensate I photographed every aspect and angle of the Mythos black RS6 floor model while salivating over the wide body fenders and huge exhaust outlets. Visually at least the RS6 Avant had lived up to its promise now I needed to find out if the Avant was just a fancy façade or if it truly was the magnificent machine that had been promised.
For those not familiar with Audi’s RS line a little history. Audi’s S and RS models debuted in the 1990’s and their primary focus was on performance. The first “S” cars appeared in 1990 with the S2 Coupe followed by the first RS model the Audi RS 2A in 1994. The “RS” initials are taken from the German: RennSport which literally translated means “racing sport” and has come to epitomize the ultimate in Audi performance and technology. Growing up I always favored Audi over Mercedes and BMW as my brother was a professional chauffeur in London in the 1980’s and 1990’s and he drove a number of Audi models and was an ardent admirer of the brand.
This connection facilitated my appreciation for sport wagons that are extremely popular in Europe . The Audi Avant captured my eye when it first came out in 1994 and has held a special place in my heart ever since. I guess this explains my fondness for quirky shooting brakes like the Ferrari FF/Lusso and the Zagato Aston Martin shooting brake. Sadly the Avant never made it over to North America until the arrival of the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant. For the past ten years I have been focused on driving supercars which ironically have been more easily available than an Audi RS Avant and so my Audi RS Avant love affair was sadly put out of sight and mind. That is until I discovered last year that a new RS6 Avant was at long last coming to North America. A chap I know even ordered one which really got me excited, however due to Covid-19 complications his order was delayed and he ultimately cancelled his order, much too my disappointment.
Tuesday February 16 2021 arrived and with it my date with RS6 Avant destiny. My test car was clothed in Nardo Grey. Audi has a fondness for outfitting its models in a variety of shades of grey. While handsomely clothing this particular RS6 I would order mine in Mythos black or a bold Tango red or even Navarra blue. The Nardo Grey was tastefully accented with the carbon optics package made up of carbon exterior mirror housings, and glossy carbon RS exterior parts. New car models these days come with an overwhelming list of options, happily the RS6 Avant has the majority of its luxury conveniences preloaded. The really big choice is between the standard model which is equipped with an air suspension package or to go with the dynamic package which supplants the air suspension with steel springs and electronically controlled adaptive dampers. The base air suspension package is limited to a mere 155 mph, whereas the dynamic option will propel you to 189 mph and that is surely the better choice for any speed connoisseur. Fortunately for me my test car came with the dynamic package (not that I was able to test the 189 mph top speed mind you). My RS6 Avant (if only briefly) was outfitted with the 5 spoke trapezoid black wheels. Now I am not usually a fan of black wheels, even less so matte black wheels, however these trapezoid wheels mixed glossy black and silver together which was highly appealing, as well as nicely complimenting the red painted steel brake calipers. An RS6 buyer can choose either between 21 or 22 inch tires. For me the 22 inch wheels fill the wheel arches proportionately.
After drinking in all the details of this hot rod performance wagon it was time to get behind the wheel and head out onto the open road. I am always curious how a new car will feel, some cars take time to get used to, others declare immediately that they are not exciting or interesting, and then you have the relative few that you instantly feel comfortable with the moment you start driving. So it was with the RS6, the steering felt predictable, the controls were easy to use and the seats oh man the seats were so comfortable. My wife is very keen on having comfortable and multi adjustable seats and so the RS6 would happily pass the Kelly comfort test. Within 30 seconds I found my optimum seating position. Did I mention the seats are heated and ventilated and provide a massage option. I refrained from the massage but that would be a welcome option on a long drive.
In spite of being a heavy car weighing in at 2075kg the RS6 feels agile and nimble. Negotiating early afternoon downtown Vancouver traffic was an absolute doddle in the RS6. Visibility is good with no huge big blind spots and the electric mirrors provide excellent coverage. With the basics covered I started to tackle the performance parameters of the Avant. For those you need a highway and the upper levels highway was close at hand. The RS6 has a couple of dynamic modes available to the spirited driver, and these can be selected in basic form from a button on the steering wheel appropriately named RS Mode or you can go deeper into the settings and configure several parameters such as engine/transmission management, steering, suspension, engine and sound by touching the vehicle settings icon on the 10.1 touchscreen . Fittingly you have a choice of RS1 or RS2 driving modes. RS2 disengages the traction control so I decided it was best for my first drive in the RS6 Avant to stick with RS1. Instantly the digital dash changes and then one hears the raspy throaty burble coming from the two oversize exhaust outlets. The intoxicating melody inspired a deep soulful satisfaction which grew in me when I stamped down even further on the loud pedal.
The RS6 takes off like a scalded cat on a hot tin roof and will continue to run and run until either you are fittingly pulled over by the long arm of the law or you run out of gas. The ability to hurtle the RS6 down the road comes from a 4.0L twin turbocharged V8 that produces 591hp and 590 foot pound of torque, which is fed through an 8 speed automatic gearbox. I’m not sure I understand the necessity for 8 gears, however that’s what the Avant has so you work with what you are given. Unsurprisingly given todays diversification towards hybrid technology the RS6 has a 48 volt mild hybrid system. A belt driven motor generator and small lithium ion battery help to optimize the stop/start system, as well mitigating the boost lag from the twin turbos. 4 wheel steering and a torque vectoring rear differential are added to the technical smorgasbord to make the RS6 Avant a truly hot rod wagon.
After the highway blast I went looking for a scenic location to take a breather and capture some imagery of this performance wagon. So I roared up Cypress Mountain and found a lookout area that was conveniently filled with snow. I took the RS6 out of RS1 mode and returned it normal mode in order to negotiate the parking lot. The RS6 did not seem to notice the snow or slush and soon I was was strategically parked enabling me to capture striking images of the RS6 at rest. A lady who was walking her dog came past and gave the RS6 some admiring glances. This car is not a shrinking violet. I love the styling of the RS6 Avant, it has a menacing and purposeful presence.
To descend Cypress Mountain one is forced to use a single lane which is often filled with traffic and so it was this day. As it turns out it gave me the opportunity to discover another feature of the RS6 that I had somehow overlooked. Turns out this model of the RS6 has the optional head up display that projects onto the front windscreen. I hear you staying Jason how did you not notice the glowing images on the windscreen earlier in your drive, well I can I only say I was distracted by the incredible performance from the RS1. That is my defense and I am sticking to it. Once I discovered the heads up info I did find it useful and not as distracting as I thought it might be, however it’s not a feature I would spec on my RS6.
Once I got back onto the highway I reengaged RS1 mode and enjoyed the drive back at warp speed until I got off the highway and headed back into downtown Vancouver. I still kept the car in RS1 mode as I was thoroughly intoxicated by the raspy exhaust throttle which continually bathed my soul. As I drove over the picturesque Lions Gate Bridge the interior was bathed in late afternoon sunlight streaming through the panoramic glass roof. I wish I could say I was contemplating my driving experience, but what I really was thinking was I don't want to give the car back to the dealership just yet. The RS6 would be a perfect car to drive across Canada or take down the Oregon coast highway to San Francisco. At $164,000 the Audi RS6 Avant is not a cheap car, but what it delivers is worth the money. For those that enjoy a good light show the RS6’s Matrix LED laser light system which comes as standard is a performance not to be missed. I had high expectations for this car and I was thrilled to discover the RS6 met my expectations, it came, I saw it, and it conquered me.