RS6 Avant: Known Quantities Equalling Greatness
An equation where the end result is greater than the sum of all of its many awesome parts.
Boy oh boy. What an anticipating and legendary vehicle to drive and analyze. We as Americans have been yearning and lusting after the RS6 Avant like the band nerd crushing on the football cheerleader that inevitably goes after the quarterback year after year… Except guess what… This time around it’s a little different. She finally comes around, meets the nerd at his beat up locker down the hallway, and gives him just a peck on the cheek.
Yes, The new 2021 Audi RS6 Avant is really that good. But here’s the thing… It’s a fabulous car that is jam packed with known qualities we as Americans have been exposed to for quite some time now. There isn't anything really groundbreaking or revolutionary about living with a car with cargo space. Numerically speaking, most Americans buy crossovers, trucks, and SUVs. No new discovery there. Also, it just so happens that Audis are fabulous cars to live on a daily basis, especially in a climate such as Salt Lake City, Utah where we have legitimate winters. Wow. Shocker.
Audi really knows how to shoe-horn a V8 into an engine bay.
Audi has been making the 4.0L V8 with the "hot turbo" setup in the 'Valley of The V' for some time now. We've had it in both generations of S7/RS7, S6 and also S8 dating back to 2012. I gotta break it to you reading this… Not much in terms of OEM power output has happened since 2013 when the RS7 dropped. But as a formality, let me tell you about this 4.0L in case you forgot.
The RS6 Avant makes 591bhp and an astounding 590 torques hurling the 5000-pound wagon to 60mph in 3.1 seconds (resulting in a bewildering 1.19 g acceleration), and will cross the quarter mile in 11.5 seconds at 120mph. The RS6 is also equipped with a 48-volt mild hybrid system. I only learned of this after giving the car back to the owner, and felt zero difference in how the car drove compared to other 4.0L Audis I've driven before... So there's that.
The concrete wall of 590 pound-feet of torque pins you back in your quilted seat from 2100-4500rpm. All of this thrust is transmitted through the 8-speed automatic supplied from ZF. Ya see? Nothing really new here. The real key with driving these ZF 8HP equipped cars is in the details of the tuning. Shift points, shift times, and response to pulls of the paddle. When the throttle is pinned all the way to the floor, and you are commanding every morsel of power from the 4.0 liters of displacement, leaving the gearbox in ‘Sport Mode’ is reliably the quickest and also the smoothest method of transportation. You can easily knock the shifter to the right and enter the ‘Pleasure Room’ that is the ‘Manual Mode’. But the space of time spent in between gears is longer and rougher… Some people are into that, and I absolutely cannot knock them for their preference. It is also worth mentioning that when the driver is commanding a decent amount of power, but NOT at wide-open-throttle, the gearbox is remarkably jerky compared to how smooth it CAN be.
The ZF 8-speed is quick. I've yet to find a torque converter automatic that truly matches a dual clutch by the likes of Porsche, but this certainly comes close.
Another known quantity found in the RS6 is the rear-wheel steering system found in cars like the Porsche GT3s and Turbos. The idea of turning the rear wheels just a little bit is not anything that new or groundbreaking. Back in the 1990s, the Japanese manufacturers were already on it with the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4, and the Honda Prelude Si 4WS. However, not all 4-wheel steering systems are created equally. The original systems in cars like the Prelude Si were purely mechanical and were prone to failure, as most automotive science experiments in early development are. However, the system in the RS6 is an active setup where the rear wheels can either move congruently, or conversely to what the front wheels are doing. South of 37 mph (60kph); which is the sweet spot for parking, U-turns, and tighter hairpins; the rear wheels steer in the opposite direction as the front wheels. This SHORTENS the effective wheelbase of the entire car, and thus the turning radius of the car by one whole meter. As someone who lives in close quarters with a very particular method of parking, the car was tight, but not impossible in what felt like a ‘worst case’ scenario. North of 37 mph is where the rear wheels change their mission statement entirely and turn the same direction as the fronts do; the intention here is to EXTEND the effective wheelbase of the car for higher speed stability, great for freeway lane changes and placing the tires exactly where you want them during high speed antics.
Bags are not just for groceries anymore! Show Car enthusiasts have been all into air-ride and adjustable air suspension for years at this point, and the OEMs have been implementing these systems into off-road oriented vehicles since the early/mid-2000s (Lexus RX350, Audi Allroad, Porsche Cayenne, etc.) Early-adopter reliability issues from those cars aside, previous OEM air-suspension setups have been fine for modes of transportation. Not fabulous, but fine. The height adjustable air suspension in the RS6 Avant on the other hand is truly what makes this car so great. With a singular swipe of an app on your phone, you can either drop the car ON ITS BAWLS and hard park the car wherever you please. You can also on a moment’s notice drive 80 miles through stop-and-go traffic, followed by empty freeway corridors, all while being surrounded in absolute comfort.
With the RS6 in its ‘Comfort Mode’ and the radar ‘Adaptive Cruise Control’ on the freeway straight up, the ride quality and the overall sensory experience supersedes any sort of sensation related to driving a normal car. The loss of microscopic NVH in most cars comes through the steering wheel, seat cushions, and even aerodynamic turbulence in front of the windshield and side mirrors. On the RS6 Avant? Nope. Nein. Nada. While on my last minute trip up north, I was accommodated by my good friend and Exhibition of Speed video assistant Jaden. While talking about an assortment of other topics, I submitted to Jaden that there wasn't really any other car I’d rather be in to take to accomplish the task at hand. The task at hand? Rescuing my other good friend Derek who hit a deer on I-15 southbound after quite literally crossing the Idaho/Utah border. We got word of the incident while having a relaxing dinner approximately 80 miles south of where Derek and his Lexus took his meeting with Bambi.
When the RS6 Avant was announced for the C8 generation (yes that’s really the chassis code for the car), and the photos dropped with the spec sheets, it felt like the entire internet burst into flames and seemingly everyone on this side of the pond was losing their minds. I felt alone. I felt as if we as Americans were given only a drop in the bucket of what the world was already bathing in. The REAL RS6 Avant in my eyes has always been the C6-generation rocking a Lamborghini-derived 5.0L V10 from the Gallardo accompanied by a pair of twin-turbos. That to me was the ultimate vehicle to check the boxes. A screamer motor with the torque shove from twin turbos? Yes please.
Over the course of a handful of days, I put roughly 500 miles on the RS6 resulting in more than a couple $70 tanks of 91 Octane, and I can honestly tell you that it was worth every penny of it. The car had zero hiccups.
Need to navigate the hustle and bustle of the downtown rush-hour during a 100 degree afternoon? No sweat.
Want to make a freeway pass around a semi-truck following a Prius and teleport in the next county? Let's go.
Want to take a blast through the canyon for a scenic drive at the end of a busy work week? Pitter patter! The hills are calling!
Speaking of money, this is where I start to get sad... Because I simply can't swing the base MSRP of $109,000. As spec'd out on Audi's website, the comes to an 'As Tested' price of $126,000. Now, that MAY not sound like an insignificant amount of money. And they would be right in that assumption. But tell me this... How many cars can you name that can accelerate as quickly, while being as comfortable, and handle as well or better... All in one cohesive package? $126,000 is also the amount of a low-optioned Porsche 992 Carrera S. And THAT car could also easily be someone's one-car solution as well.
Everyone I gave a ride to in the RS6 Avant absolutely adored the car and to be honest, I do kinda miss it. I genuinely gravitate towards smaller, lightweight, purpose-built sports cars. But if you need to carry more things and people than just yourself, and want to completely disassociate from the world on occasion, but also smoke most sports cars at the traffic light, The Audi RS6 Avant is absolutely a one-car-solve for all of those things. Now I need to find an AMG E63S Wagon. Because ya know... Science.