In the realm of automotive pornography, lusting after station wagons is like having a fetish. So when the hottest of them comes along, there’s that X-rated anticipation before the carnal sin is indulged in. In comes the new Audi RS6 Avant, arguably the boldest car to be sold in India. Nobody gives two hoots about station wagons in India, but here’s one that makes 600 horsepower on over boost from its twin-turbocharged V8 engine, along with the practicality that this kind of body style befits. This then, is a bit of a mad hatter.
The visuals are just the first punch to the senses, with an angry, gaping front bumper that’s sewn together with carbon fiber, flared arches full of massive 21-inch wheels, a rear bumper with huge, dual exhaust tips, a rear diffuser-like element and a not-so-subtle rear spoiler.
The front grille is a net of gloss black finished honeycomb inserts, and firmly upholds the RS6 badge. The rest, including the Matrix LED headlamps, the hood, the glasshouse, the tail lamps and the tail gate are shared with the regular A6 Avant and A6 Allroad models.
Construction is mostly steel, with 20 % aluminum and traces of carbon fiber thrown into the mix. Still, it doesn’t look as theatrical for a car that’s supposed to eat Porsches for breakfast. In fact, the look-at-me Misano Red paintjob on our test car was the only clue that gave away the sleeper status.
Not a fan of the Carbon styling package? The optional Matt aluminium styling package renders the grille surround, front splitter, bumper blades and rear diffuser in a matte aluminium finish.
114 mm of ground clearance means that though you can’t be Dr.Livingstone, you can tepidly negotiate the worst that Indian roads has to offer.
A 550+ horsepower station wagon with functional roof rails is sexy. Period.
Massive 21-inch rollers can be fashioned with a choice of hues; like the black-gloss on this specimen.
Carbon fiber ORVM caps; because RS.
These LED tail lamps are slightly darkened than the ones on your run-of-the-mill A6.
Inside, it’s all-black hued, but has the air of an expensive Italian tuxedo, one that is also in a hurry. The familiar A6-sourced dashboard is festooned with glossy, optional carbon fiber inlays, which are pasted on the door trims and lower console as well. The flat-bottomed, perforated leather wrapped RS steering wheel is sporty enough to give you freckles on your face the second you touch it, while the RS-specific dials are as clear and legible like the full moon’s biggest craters on a cloudless night.
The front seats are a work of art, with black leather bolsters and integrated headrests complementing the alcantara middle sections which are quilted as well. Space and seating comfort, both at the front and back are exemplary, with enough room and toys like window blinds and extremely tactile, wonderfully knurled knobs to fiddle with. Everything is so nicely glued and bolted together that the whole car feels like one combined fusion of carbon fiber, aluminum, leather, alcantara, steel and plastic on the move.
It’s a luxury car after all, so friendly features like 12-way electrically adjustable front seats which are also heated, split-folding rear seats, an electrically adjustable steering column, 4-zone automatic air conditioning with rear vents, cruise control, automatic headlamps, keyless go, head-up display, rain sensing wipers, a panoramic sunroof, an ambient lighting package, and so on. As for interior storage, there are two cupholders in rear armrest, and a luggage net for the massive 1,680 liter boot (with the rear seats folded flat).
Infotainment duties here are a bit ageing compared to Audi’s current standards, so instead of the fancy (and ingenious) new Virtual Cockpit, there’s a 7-inch screen that pops out of the center console when the beast awakens. Running on MMI, the system features navigation with 3D maps, a touchpad with haptic feedback, Bluetooth connectivity, radio and a Bose surround sound system that’s punchy as hell. You also get an AUX-in socket, two 12V sockets in rear, along with two USB sockets.
That’s the boot space of something that can accelerate from 0-100 kph in just 3.7 seconds. Remarkable, isn’t it?
Dotted – for extra pleasure.
Right then, a 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8 engine making 553 bhp (600+ on overboost) replaces its predecessor’s 571 bhp strong, naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V10 screamer of a motor. The longitudinally-mounted engine, whose two, twin-scroll turbochargers sit between the cylinder banks, is also good for a gut wrenching, 700 Nm of torque! The chassis inculcates a front axle constructed with five aluminum links per wheel, while a trapezoidal link principle, crafted out of aluminum, is used for the rear axle. Two hydraulically damped bearings join the steel sub frame to the body. As with the front axle, the wheel carriers and pivot bearings are made of aluminum and the stabilizer bars are tubes.
Thumb it, and the RS6 starts up with a burble that’s neither too loud, nor too subtle – a growl that won’t make your ears bleed, but set that pulse ticking faster than usual. Give it a boot full of throttle at idle, and the whole car gently rocks from side to side, instantly giving you a shaved head, a vest, and Diesel as your last name. Slot the black perforated leather trimmed gear selector lever to D, or better still, S, and let the power games begin.
Watch in astonishment as the 2-tonne station wagon’s carbon fiber bow lifts under brutal, almost unreal acceleration, and the rear squats, while you, your terrified mates and an excited Golden Retriever gain warp speed in no time. It’s that kind of acceleration that pins your sweaty back to the alcantara upholstered seats as if a giant sequoia log is pressing across your chest. It’s that kind of acceleration that demands every iota of your dopamine accentuated attention, especially on Indian roads.
It’s a proper sport car slayer this, with a claimed 0-100 kph time of 3.7 seconds. To put things in perspective, a Porsche 911 Carrera S will do the same in 3.9 seconds. Turbo lag sir? Get out of here; there isn’t any. Zilch. Nada. Just the mildest dab on the go-faster pedal sets you growling past anything on the road. It’s so authoritative to pilot this thing on Indian highways that you feel like Mr. Putin himself entering Kremlin, accompanied by his troop of crew-cut, bearded, ripped baddies, the click-clack of shiny boots echoing across the hallways.
It’s brutal, yes, but the victim’s collarbone is cracked with sanitized hands donning silk gloves. Allow me to explain. It’s easy to drive the RS6 fast. The transmission, an 8-speed ZF torque-converted unit rather than a twin-clutch setup, behaves like it just taps at the RS6’s skull, signaling the hyper-worked brain to shift gears, to which it instantly follows suit. Shifts take barely more than an instant, and in case your right foot is terminally unhinged, the V8 bounces vocally off the rev-limiter in the lower gears. In Dynamic mode, the shifts are a bit hard edged, with the aluminum-look gear shift paddles tingling your fingers with anticipation. Downshifts are quick as hell too, accompanied by a satisfying throttle blip.
Permanent Quattro all-wheel drive means that the power is dealt with, and put down on the road sublimely. In the standard configuration, 40 percent of power flows to the front axle and 60 percent to the rear axle, but up to 85 percent can be channeled to the rear axle if need be. Which means that come rain, hail, snow or shine, the RS6 Avant will keep its line and maintain its pace, time after time. This is no 500+ horsepower crackpot tearing up the rear tires, loose and giving like an adolescent’s libido. The RS6’s monumental straight line performance is as consistent as U2’s live gigs, rather than a drug-fazed Sex Pistols performing in front of an unruly bunch of ‘punks’.
The RS6 Avant, even when driven hard, won’t intimidate you, but will constantly deliver that rush to get some life flowing in your putrid veins. Even when you’re sedate with your driving, the manner in which the RS6 Avant builds speed is simply effortless. It’s even got cylinder deactivation technology which shuts down half the cylinders when cruising for better fuel efficiency. Better in this case would be a number that’s slightly north of 7 km/l. ARAI says the best it would do is 10.42 km/l, and the 75 litre fuel tank means range is decent for a few inter-city runs. The engine is a distant growl away, creamed with refinement techniques that Audi has mastered over the many years it has been in existence.
The RS6 has trumped the qualities needed for a car to go really, really fast in a straight line, body style notwithstanding, without pasting itself onto a tree or a bus. A deserted air-strip or the famed, de-restricted German autobahns are the mostly likely playgrounds for this kind of an automotive eccentricity. Show it a corner though, and all that mastery falls apart like a pack of cards exposed to the slightest of breezes.
The electric power steering setup feels slightly bewildered, as nearly 2-tonnes of station wagon, moving with feral velocity suddenly wants to change direction. Sure, there’s a bit of under-steer, but the RS6 Avant is always fighting its weight around a corner, and you can feel it in the body language. At sane speeds, it’s a very neutral handler, albeit with a slightly numb steering feel, and at higher cornering speeds, Quattro and Dynamic Ride Control* come to the rescue as the war with weight aims to unsettle the car. While the former, with its optional sport differential distributes torque variably to each of the rear wheels under hard cornering, somewhat imitating rear-wheel steering through torque vectoring, the latter claims to counteract pitch and body roll. If you want some twisty, back road fun, look elsewhere, because the RS6 is a bit blunt in this part of the game.
The big, hunkering station wagon, at full tilt, is like a stray meteor slicing through the night skies. However, it needs to stop when the need arises. Massive, internally ventilated brake discs, each measuring 390 mm in diameter and gripped by six-piston calipers manage to haul down the devilish wagon with eye-popping severity. The brake discs also have a weight-saving wave design, which claim to shave off nearly three kilograms compared with a brake system with conventional discs. Audi also offers optional, 420 mm carbon fiber-ceramic brake discs, which all together reduce weight by an additional ten kilograms. However, under braking or acceleration over longitudinal undulations on the road, the RS6 twitches and tramlines, as the wide, 285-section, low-profile rubber struggles to maintain the vehicle’s composure.
Like in the rest of the Audi RS clan, the RS6 Avant offers a choice of driving modes through the Drive Select feature – Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. Each of these settings happens to control the levels of throttle response, steering input, transmission response, exhaust note and suspension stiffness.
Moving forward in this car in Comfort mode is graceful. There is no way in the world to even remotely suspect that this practical, luxury cabin can move forward with stupefying acceleration. Yes, the ride is a bit stiff, but that’s because our test car came with the *optional sports suspension setup with Dynamic Ride Control. Otherwise, an air suspension setup is on offer as standard, which in Dynamic mode, lowers the body by 20 millimeters. In traffic, it’s as docile as the white, diesel fuelled A6 that your businessman friend just got himself, or the ones bearing luxury hotel emblems that drop off guests at the airport.
While Auto is halfway house, Dynamic mode stiffens up the whole package like a body of flesh and bone subjected to an epileptic fit. The throttle responds with more alacrity, the steering fakes being direct slightly better, the suspension stiffens up like wood and the exhaust becomes louder, popping and crackling on the overrun like it’s some hairy chested muscle car, which, in essence, it isn’t.
But the best part is that in Individual mode, you can also customize the different settings individually, like putting the drive-train in taut Dynamic mode, while the suspension can be kept in relatively cushy Comfort mode. Personally, this particular setting works best for me, considering the high-speed road car that the RS6 Avant is. You can keep your bones and teeth intact, while enjoying the searing acceleration and the angry exhaust note at the same time.
If you still manage to overcook your super station wagon, it’ll have you covered with its huge safety net that includes a bevy of features like Electronic Stability Control (ESC), front airbags with front passenger deactivation, front side airbags, curtain airbags, seat belt monitoring, ABS, Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) and an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL). Then there’s hill-hold assist, various parking assists including a rear camera, a tyre pressure loss indicator, ISOFIX mounts for the seats and an anti-theft alarm.
The RS6 Avant exhibits the qualities of a true baller. It’s not intimidating to drive in spite of the zillion horsepower and watches your back in case your brain suddenly becomes a teenage wasteland. Agreed, it’s more of an autobahn stormer than a true sports car, but a true sports car will never fit in your friends, family and their entire luggage. At INR 1.35 Crore (ex-showroom), the Audi RS6 Avant is tremendous value-for-money.
You get Porsche manic acceleration combined with the practicality of a station wagon. But its above all what the glossy brochures suggest, or what the detailed specification sheet calls for. It’s above flowery reviews and expressive photographs that barely quantify the pace and the grace. It’s a very special car, the Audi RS6 Avant, one so unique, and rare, and rebellious. Words will never do it justice, and only a true station wagon lover, or an ardent petrol head will appreciate the aura of this car. I’m just extremely lucky to have driven it.