The Audi RS6 Avant Is The Canyon Slaying Wagon You Crave.
Finally in America, Audi's fast shooting brake is here to haul more than groceries.
Teasing the U.S. market for several years, Audi produced a few iterations of the extremely quick RS6 Avant, giving drivers in other markets a wagon that could tote plenty of people and stuff, and would destroy any twisty road it met. In 2020, Audi decided to bring this fast longroof to American shores, with some sharp angles, flexed fenders, and a potent turbocharged V8 stuffed under the hood.
Having recently tested fast German saloon variants, in the form of the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S and BMW M5 Competition, I wanted to see what Audi had in the way of the speedy shooting brake department. Interestingly, the RS 6 is only offered as the Avant, and the lesser--and still fast--S6 model is the sedan option. In the case of the BMW, the M5 isn't offered in a wagon body, but the AMG E-Class is. During a recent trip to Los Angeles, the good folks at Audi set me up with a new RS6 Avant, to let me thoroughly test it in the real world and along some fun roads.
The Big Figures
As is the case with several performance models under the VAG umbrella, the Audi RS6 Avant is stuffed with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that punches out 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. The horsepower figure is only slightly down versus the M5 Competition and E 63 S, and has nearly 40 more lb-ft over the BMW, while having 30 fewer than the Mercedes.
Through an 8-speed automatic, quattro all-wheel-drive, and a sport rear differential, the RS6 can rip from 0-60 MPH in just 3.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 174 MPH. Opt for ceramic brake rotors over the already massive standard 16.5-inch front and 14.6-inch rear steel ones, and Audi will bump that top speed to 190 MPH, in case you need to put any fellow unrestricted Autobahn drivers far in your rear view.
There's seating for five (if you're stuffing kids in the back seat) and a massive cargo area, thanks to the shooting brake hatch. At 197 inches long, 59 tall, 84 wide, and boasting a 115-inch wheelbase with a 65-inch track front and rear, the RS6 Avant has a big stance, supplemented by some sexy flared fenders. That package also carries some mass, as the luxury wagon tips the scales at a hefty 4,960 pounds.
Pricing for the Audi RS6 Avant starts at $109,000, which is in the same ballpark as the BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S. After going easy on the options sheet, the RS6 Avant I tested had Sebring Black crystal effect paint, cognac leather with gray stitching, the upgraded executive interior (adding more leather throughout the cabin, heated rear seats, a HUD, and power soft-closing doors), driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control and a handful of other aids), and the 22-inch wheel package with summer tires, to hit a total MSRP of $117,370.
Errand Running In Style
A quick look lets you know this big premium wagon means business, but the Audi design language is nicely executed. Audi nails the luxury car game with its upper-end models, and the RS6 Avant is a nice blend of performance and comfort. When you arrive at the office, you'll probably have the best looking car among your coworkers, and other parents at the school pick-up line will give you approving second glances as the kids pop in the back seat.
Unleashing the turbocharged V8 is easily addictive, but if you're light on the throttle, and aren't trying to attack every corner, the RS6 Avant is a composed city cruiser. That's not to say it won't pounce on an opportunity to pass a slower car in traffic nor get up to obscene speeds in a blink on a freeway on-ramp, but the delivery of the RS6 Avant's power is composed. EPA fuel estimates are 15/22/17, and I achieved 17 MPGs during my week with the RS6 Avant.
Offering a great family car for the parent who also wants to rip up the canyons on the weekend while the kids are away, the RS6 Avant is still civil in the city, thanks to its adaptive air suspension and electric-assisted steering system. I covered a bit of cross-city commuting miles during my test, and the RS6 Avant offered the right amount of feedback and response on bumpy concrete LA freeways. Sticking with the comfort drive mode was ideal in the city, letting the big Audi wagon glide over bumps, and letting me ignore the noise in one seriously insulated cockpit.
Despite a high beltline and a sharp-edged roof, the Audi RS6 Avant's cabin feels spacious, and bigger front passengers will enjoy a ton of hip and shoulder room. In the back, two adults have plenty of space to stretch out, while the massive cargo area will consume all the luggage or shopping bags you care to stuff inside. Carrying out the sporty look, the RS6's seats provide great support for longer days behind the wheel, with significant lateral bolstering to keep you planted in the bends.
While futuristic in its initial appearance, Audi's controls for the infotainment and climate control systems are intuitive yet cool. Steering wheel buttons are still used in this fast wagon, making it simple to adjust your cruise control or audio settings. I appreciate the RS6 Avant being equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and a wireless charging dock tucked into the armrest storage compartment. The standard B&O audio system is damn good, but if you feel like dropping more money as an audiophile, Audi does have an upgrade with more speakers and more wattage. I do wish the RS6 Avant got the cupholders with chilling or heating functions I enjoyed in the SQ5 I reviewed earlier this summer.
Ripping The Twisty Stuff
As you expect from an RS-badged Audi, the RS6 Avant is fast where it matters. Along canyon roads of Southern California, this quick shooting brake exhibited plenty of confidence through fast sweepers, and the twin-turbo V8 made gaps between those bends disappear. Having nearly 600 horsepower at your disposal, the Audi RS6 Avant will scorch any twisty road. When you smash the go pedal, the power is progressively delivered, allowing the RS6 to smoothly accelerate with little drama. Be mindful of your duration of throttle application, as this Audi will scream toward big numbers registered on the speedometer.
With a pair of custom RS drive modes engaged via a steering wheel button--similar to what BMW offers in the M5--the RS6 Avant can be dialed in for any fun driving you wish to do, whether you want to go fully hardcore or have a hint of compliance. As the dynamic or custom RS modes are engaged, the RS6 Avant's electric steering noticeably increases its weight and feedback, which I definitely prefer in any driving condition, and the steering wheel has a perfect amount of thickness in my hands. Buzzing around sharp bends is remarkably easy in the RS6 Avant, with plenty of agility, but it's not as precise nor engaging as the AMG E 63 S or BMW M5 Competition. By no means is the RS6 Avant disappointing in the performance department.
Grip levels are high, thanks to Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system, and the electric sport differential out back makes sure to load up the outside rear wheel with more torque as you send the RS6 Avant into a fast sweeper. Unlike the M5 and E 63, Audi does not have a drivetrain mode that allows you to disengage the front wheels, when you want to drive like a drifting hooligan. Not that I suggest reducing the quattro system's legendary handling, but sometimes you want to kick the ass-end out around a fast sweeper.
Pirelli P-Zero rubber measures 285/30/22 all around, and offers plenty of adhesion when it counts. These tires are a bit louder than the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S setup I prefer, but they're not lacking grip when it counts. Massive steel brakes are up to the task if you're doing average twisty road duty, but if you're going to toss the RS6 Avant around more demanding routes over longer durations, opt for the $8,500 carbon ceramic brakes that will better cope with the intense heat produced when slowing this 5,000-pound wagon.
As the RS6 is switched into its dynamic or RS modes, the digital gauge cluster switches into a display that looks like something out of a fighter jet, changing to more relevant performance data readings, and giving you cool shift lights as the revs climb. I'm not sure how useful the display for how much of the RS6's horsepower and torque being used is, but it's somewhat cool to know you're probably leaving a little on the table when you think you're giving the Audi a proper thrashing. I found myself better using the shift paddles on the steering wheel, rather than letting the slick-shifting automatic do the work for me, as I wanted to keep revs up more often while allowing the RS6 to be more engaging.
Several Good Highlights
More impactful than the BMW and Mercedes models with which it competes, the Audi RS6 Avant has angular styling that catches plenty of positive second looks. Continuing to crush the cool headlight game, the RS6 Avant gets some cool LED housings with sharp daytime running lights. The headlights also run through a cool sequence when you unlock the car in the dark. Edgy lines evoke a speedy package, but the Audi designers still made the RS6 look like a luxury wagon. I also love the shooting brake look over a more conventional wagon profile.
The extra $1,075 is well spent on Sebring Black paint, which has loads of blue and silver metallic flakes under that deep black top coat, giving the RS6's body a great color flop in the sunlight. Audi does a great job of making the RS6's interior usably stylish. I also love the cognac leather seats, which are a perfectly creamy brown contrast against the rest of the black trim inside. Honeycomb stitching over the supple leather seats is a nice touch too. Audi wisely has the privacy cover in the cargo area lift up with the tailgate, which is useful when stashing away your bags after hitting up the shops.
Audi's most updated MMI infotainment is neatly incorporated into the dash, with a high-resolution display that is clear to read, even in bright daytime conditions. Where the M5's cockpit is a bit dated and looks the same as several other BMW models over the years, and the E-Class one may be a bit too space age for some, the RS6 Avant's cabin is a great combination of cool and refined.
A Couple Tiny Gripes
Edgy styling and massive standard 21-inch wheels are cool on this Audi wagon, but you're going to feel a few more bumps because of the lower profile. The 22-inch options look badass, better filling in the fender gaps, but replacing those P-Zero rubber bands is going to hurt your wallet in a couple years. The RS6's BMW and Mercedes rivals sport more reasonable 20-inch wheels and tires, for comparison.
Mashing the accelerator releases a good burble out back from the RS6 Avant's massive oval-shaped exhaust tips, but you'll notice a supplemental hint of fake noises pumped through the speakers. I do wish performance car makers stopped doing this. Give us real sounds in a manner that doesn't destroy the environment. Surely someone has come up with a way.
Similar to my complaint in the S4 sedan I drove last summer, Audi's drive select modes need better distinction. The comfort mode is great for your daily driving needs, but the dynamic settings don't go hardcore enough for me. If you're slapping an RS badge on an Audi, it needs to be a screamer in the most sporty modes, with snappier throttle response and firmer damping that's immediately noticeable.
This Wagon Still Carves Canyons And Totes Everything You Have
I love fast wagons, and am pleased Audi finally gave Americans the RS6 Avant. It's wildly fast, carries plenty, and will likely be the best looking car in any parking lot it graces. For many drivers, it's going to be exceptional, and will easily make you cooler than your friends who are probably driving something less attractive and nowhere hear as fun.
Versus the competition from BMW and Mercedes-AMG, the RS6 Avant lands right in the middle for me. It's definitely more enjoyable to drive and look at--both inside and out--against the BMW M5 Competition. As an overall driving experience, I prefer the AMG E 63 S that's more engaging when you want to have fun along back roads without compromising highway comfort. Should you care more about the styling, the Audi RS6 Avant is the super wagon to stick in your garage, and it'll still be a blast in the canyons while being obscenely comfortable during your daily commute.