Audi RS6 saloon (2008) review

Published: 22 September 2008

Audi RS6 saloon (2008) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
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  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

London motor show video

It’s a car of broad abilities, the Audi A6. An eco-friendly 2.0TDIe tax-buster at one end, some slick and savvy V6s in the middle – then this utterly bonkers RS6 road-burner at the other end of the scale. And it truly is upscale, with a 572bhp twin-turbo V10 engine and a list price of £76,160. We’ve had the five-door Avant version for a while now; Audi waited until the facelift to launch the saloon, so here it is.

Hmm, 572bhp you say. So the Audi RS6 quick, is it?

Yes, yes and thrice yes. The RS6 is utterly, rampantly, addictively, oh-my-gawd rapid. So quick it’s worth inventing a new adjective for, complete with a matching expletive.

Not only is it fast, but it sounds great too, with a hard-edged throb at low engine speeds that increases in urgency as the needle whips round the clock. But the best thing about its voice isn’t the climactic snarl, and nor is it the unfettered whoosh of two turbos dumping gobfulls of air into the cylinders. No, it’s the muffled boom as the tiptronic transmission grabs the next ratio. It sounds like a bomb going off under water, except it comes from the boot. It makes you smile and emit a muffled exclamation of your own, every time.

It’s an Audi. Does it handle?

Depends what you mean by handling. This thing grips like cat claws on curtains, and it changes direction with greater haste and agility than a 5.0m length and a two-tonne weight would suggest. And… you know what’s coming.

It just isn’t involving in the way the best sports saloons are, and you can blame the steering. It’s rubbery and numb. Sure, it’s sharp enough, yet you can feel the weight of that engine in the nose and, despite the latest Quattro system’s 60 percent rearward torque bias, there’s never a hint of rear-end throttle steer.

Of course, because it’s so quick and grippy, there are plenty of less enjoyable things to do than drive an RS6 quickly. But it’s a machine of devastating power and towering ability rather than one of enormous character. Impressive yet aloof, the RS6 just isn’t friendly and encouraging in the way BMW’s M-cars are.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Audi RS6 saloon first drive

Scroll down the page to the embedded player to watch our Audi RS6 Avant video road test     

London motor show video

Will its ride batter me senseless?

It can but it doesn’t have to. You get three settings on the Audi’s dynamic ride control, all set by the revised MMI controller. Go for ‘comfort’ and it’s just at the acceptable end of firm: thumpy over ruts, occasionally harsh but mainly bearable. Flick it to ‘dynamic’ and you’ll begin to believe that motorways – even autobahns – have been resurfaced in corrugated iron. And just forget ‘sport’ unless you’re on a racetrack.

What’s the inside story?

The usual. The RS6 has a fantastic cabin ambience, with loads of supple leather, a great driving position and wonderfully supportive seats. The dash looks impressive, works well, and there’s decent room in every corner. Even at £76,160, it’s befitting of the price.

Verdict

This is not one of those M3/911-style ‘if you can, you must’ purchases. More a case of ‘if you do, then fine’. The RS6 is not magically granted access to the club of iconic performance saloons by dint of its twin-turbo V10, even if it would qualify purely on account of thrust and noise. It’s let down by dynamics that deny it membership rights. And that’s a huge shame, especially bearing in mind the tactile delights of the old RS4.

It’s a near miss too, because driving this thing fast in a straight line is so much fun, you can’t help but feel let down by what happens in corners. In this class, it’s not good enough simply to go round them. This Audi needs the dynamic drama to match its pace and soundtrack. As it stands, it’s very, very good but not a true great.

Would you take an Audi RS6 over a BMW M5, or even buy either? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Scroll down the page to the embedded player to watch our Audi RS6 Avant video road test     

Specs

Price when new: £76,160
On sale in the UK: October 2008
Engine: 4991cc 40v twin-turbo V10, 572bhp @ 6250-6700rpm, 479lb ft @ 6250-6700rpm
Transmission: Six-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Performance: 4.5sec 0-62mph, 155mph (ltd), 20.3mpg, 331g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1985kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4928/1889/1456

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  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review
  • Audi RS6 saloon (2008) CAR review