► Audi RS6 estate review
► We drive new 2020 wagon
► 3.6sec 0-62mph, £92,750 price
Things that wear lots of hats – the Metropolitan Police, Libertines singer Pete Doherty, and the Audi RS6 Avant. This is a car expected to manage a split personality of Bruce Banner proportions: a 200mph towbar, a V8-powered family estate, and a 3.6 second 0-62mph run for five people. Audi simply doesn’t make a more conflicted car – even the R8 has a simpler brief.
Given that spec it’s unsurprising that the outgoing RS6 lingered on so long even after the launch of the updated A6 Avant – it was one of the last Audi products you could buy with analogue dials, in fact. Because how do you replace a car like that?
Audi RS6: what's new on the 2020 wicked wagon?
Simply, with more of everything that made the last RS6 so good – performance, practicality and ease of use, with the promise of an even better driving experience. The last point is the most important.
Rivals like the Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate and Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo have been all too happy to offer something practical that steers like a sports car. For customers that probably have a sports car as well.
Undeniably effective, the outgoing RS6 wasn’t exactly in the same league as those. Blame suspension too comfortable, steering too light of heft, and a chassis prone to nose-heaviness.
Like all fast Audi cars then?
That may have been true once but things are changing at Neckarsulm – you only have to look at the RS7, with which this car shares a platform, for evidence of that.
While it’s still a car you drive like a hot hatch – no need for finesse and delicacy here, simply lean hard on the outside tyres – there is way more nuance to the way the RS6 corners, without compromising the consistency of traction existing customers expect.
To achieve this in a two tonne car inevitably means using some crafty tech - variable steering and an RS-tuned rear differential generate heroic levels of turn-in grip; quattro all-wheel drive manages mid-corner stick, while rear-wheel steering carried over from the standard A6 lends some stability on the exit.
The latter is more pronounced in faster drive modes and at higher speeds – but you can really feel it rotating the car out of slow corners. Also helping to keep things on the level is the steel-sprung RS sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control. You pay extra for this, or pick a Vorsprung spec car – because wafty air springs remain the standard set up in the UK.
This DRC system uses dampers linked hydraulically on the diagonally to reduce bodyroll, brake dive and accelerator squat to levels not befitting of an enormous estate. You turn the wheel and wait for the roll but it just never comes – it’s very bizarre indeed, but very effective.
It’s also very stiff in its most dynamic setting. Likely too stiff for all but the best UK roads and the most committed drivers, which is a shame because it’s excellent. In reality the slightly softer air suspension version is going to be easier to live with day-to-day.
So the new 2020 Audi RS6 is quite good then?
The difference between the old car and the new is like night and day - no longer a one dimensional, stick-until-it-doesn’t sort of experience. This is much more interactive at the limit without blasting into howling understeer, and much more exciting as a result. Yet it’s just as good at being an A6 Avant when you need it to.
Largely unchanged is the performance on tap, particularly if you compare the new car with the wicked-up old Performance Pack edition. Here you get 592bhp and 590lb ft of torque for a three-tenths-faster 0-62mph time, so it’s not exactly lacking in go, plus there will undoubtedly be an even pokier version.
Even in its standard form it is still ludicrously, shockingly fast, with a big wedge of torque from the 4.0-litre, turbocharged V8 meaning you can haul it out of corners in a gear higher than you normally would. That’s handy, because while the eight-speed auto has been tweaked for faster shifts, it’s still slower than a dual-clutcher, particularly when you’re on the brakes and yanking the left pedal.
While we’re complaining, the steering is a bit light too.
Does all of that makes it quite effortless though?
Exactly that – this is not a hard car to drive fast or slow, and efficiency gains mean a promised 22.1-22.6mpg and 263g/km of CO2, so it’s (relatively) easier to live with too.
Easing the self-justification for buying an RS 6 is the fact in practicality terms it’s the same as the A6 Avant – five spacious seats and a huge boot remain unchanged over the standard car.
That brings a seats-up capacity of 565 litres and a seats-folded figure of 1,680 litres – not class leading - the E 63 beats it - but still a useful space with lots of latching points.
Verdict: Audi RS6
Should you buy one? Absolutely. The only question really is whether you can live with the firmer steel suspension in the UK, and if the new styling is a bit too in-your-face this time around. The last RS6 looked quite stealthy if debadged and in a dark colour. Not so much here.
Still, this is a product fettled by customer feedback (you can now have ventilation in the one-piece backrest RS sports seats, for example) so clearly Audi is responding to buyer demand.
Otherwise it turns out this is quite a simple one to sum up – the Audi RS 6 Avant has always been the ultimate fast and spacious daily with all-weather grip and a rock solid interior. Now it’s fun to drive too.
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