While the concept of high-performance wagons has reached near extinction thanks to the rampant excitement for SUVs, Audi continues to deliver to an intoxicating formula that has set the standard for decades – enter the 2020 Audi RS6 Avant.
If you’re looking to state the case for practicality and performance, then look no further, the RS6 Avant ticks both those boxes with panache. In many ways, the RS6 has always been the smart choice within the Audi Sport portfolio. That even includes the full-tilt R8.
How can anyone argue with the practicality of a wagon? The RS6 even had a twin-turbo V10 engine in its past, and it’s invariably had supercar-matching power and performance with each generation since.
Heady numbers go hand in hand with the RS6 Avant story – in this case a stonking 441kW and 800Nm from the 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 engine mated to an eight-speed transmission and quattro AWD.
Peak power comes in between 6000–6250rpm, while peak torque is delivered between 2050–4500rpm ensuring blistering real-world pace when you want it. 0–100km/h is dispatched in just 3.6 seconds, and the claimed ADR fuel-use figure is 11.7L/100km.
Further, with heady on-paper numbers comes heady pricing – starting from $216,000 before on-road costs in the case of the RS6 Avant. One of our launch testers was optioned up to $230,000, while the other cost $263,350 – both before on-road costs.
As always with European product, it’s easy to ratchet the starting price up significantly with options pricing. Study the list carefully and work out what you actually need rather than what you want. Then again, if you have $200K to spend, you might not be so concerned by forking out a bit more…
MORE: RS6 price and specs
Technical smarts lie within the quattro AWD system, and while there’s a 48-volt mild hybrid system – which assists energy recuperation and therefore efficiency – it’s the raw mechanical goodies that make the RS6 such a beast.
Beyond the engine and the eight-speed auto, there’s a Torsen diff and permanent AWD, with torque-vectoring at the rear. What it delivers is a sharp and surprisingly nimble large wagon. More on that in a minute.
Standard equipment is extensive, as you’d expect, and beyond the monster 22-inch rollers, you also get all-wheel steering with variable ratio dynamic steering, RS adaptive air suspension, HD Matrix LED headlights with dynamic front and rear indicators, heated and ventilated RS sport seats, and a head-up display.
The RS6 sits lower than the standard A6, and optional ceramic brakes signify the intent even further, should you tick that box – it’s not cheap at $19,500, though. It’s probably worth that with top speed increasing to 305km/h. Bragging rights alone, right?
Despite being one of the first to market and with newer versions now available, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit still works beautifully and enhances the driving experience. It’s a bonus being able to customise the display in front of you, and while it’s undoubtedly sporty, it also adds a premium sense of quality to the cabin, too.
That sense of premium extends beyond the displays, though, to things like the design and trimming of the seats, the Alcantara roof lining, the stitching and the small detail touches – some you might not even notice at first glance.
The more time you spend inside the cabin of the RS6, the more you come to appreciate it, though. Raw speed is rarely so luxurious.
Drivers can choose driving modes, of course, with two customisable modes – RS1 and RS2 – allowing you to tailor the experience to what you’re looking for. What the two custom modes do is allow you to blend your favourite elements from Comfort, Dynamic and Efficiency, which are all preset.
The boot is (of course) incredibly practical. It is a wagon after all. As such, you get 565L with the second row in place, and a whopping 1680L if you fold the 40/20/40 second-row arrangement flat.
There’s plenty of room in that second row, too, so it’s a genuine family hauler when needed.
Impressively, select Comfort mode and you’ll be blown away by how relaxed and effortless the RS6 is. In traffic, it could be any other large wagon. Well, not if you’re looking at it, of course, but it’s quiet, insulated, refined and comfortable. Even the exhaust in Dynamic mode is hardly offensive – we’d even like it a bit louder, truth be told.
That point noting comfort is most interesting for us on our launch drive – plenty of which was on bumpy, country coarse-chip. Comfort is not something you expect from 22-inch rims and 285/30 rubber bands, and yet the RS6 rides compliantly on all but the worst surfaces. While the focus is undoubtedly outright performance, the RS6 has been beautifully tailored to what the daily drive will require.
The engine is a thunderous performance weapon, as you’d expect from eight cylinders and forced induction, docile at low speed and straining at the leash to be released when you nail the throttle.
The cabin is so refined you barely notice the speed increasing, such that you pile it on in ignorant bliss if you’re not paying close attention. The thump in your chest of the torque delivery pins you into the seat, though, and the RS6 just keeps accelerating relentlessly.
Gearshifts, even at full noise, are less of a rifle shot and more muted, which also masks some of the speed, but it says a lot about the way the RS6 is engineered. Muted understatement despite the power on offer, and a composed response to any input.
You’d be well within your rights to assume that the RS6 is a big heavy thing to hustle through a twisty section, and that’s what we thought initially. Our launch drive, which included the RS Q3, TT RS, RS7 Sportback and R8 (both RWD and AWD), took in some of CarAdvice’s favourite country roads in the Hunter Valley in NSW and unbalanced vehicles are quickly found out.
Barrel into a corner at speed, feed the brakes in and point the nose to the apex, and the RS6 rockets through the corner. Nail the throttle on the exit and it lifts its nose ever so slightly and rockets to the next corner.
The chassis is so composed, so balanced, and so well executed, that you find yourself pushing harder, more so than you expected going in. Four-wheel steering is obviously playing its part, as is the quattro system, but the RS6 still does its work in an insulated way.
Back to back in the TT RS, for example, you’ll never feel as connected in the RS6, but man you’ll be fast. Very fast. It’s fair to say super-tight mountain roads aren’t the RS6’s favoured tarmac, but wide-open sweepers are. The speed with which you can carve through them is staggering.
What you will have to accept, like much of the RS portfolio, is the fact that to even get closer to exploring what the RS6 is truly capable of, you’d need to be on a racetrack. Australian roads and speed limits are not suited to a vehicle of this ability, certainly not the outer reaches of what it can do anyway.
Even the knowledge you can attend a track day, and go genuinely fast, in a wagon is worth the price of admission, though.
When you study the 2020 RS6’s impressive resume, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers. It’s easy therefore to think more about 0–100km/h, top speed, power and torque, and to judge it as an out-and-out performance car.
That would be to its detriment, though, because the real RS6 trump card is its effortless all-round ability. It’s a technical achievement, yes, and its numbers are impressive, but it’s equally impressive that you can trundle down to the supermarket and fill it with groceries without a single compromise.
It’s a truly brilliant performance car, with a breadth of capability few can match. It’s also why the RS6 Avant is almost certainly the smartest choice of all Audis with an RS badge.