► Half a year in Audi's rocketship estate
► After 7000 miles we have the verdict
► Many highs, but only 20mpg average
Month 8 running an Audi RS6: the conclusion of our long-term test
After six months and 7000 miles, the Audi RS6 has finally left, and already its absence is being felt. It took me to Spa in total comfort, shipped kids about on the school run, lugged bags to the tip, and put a smile on my face with late-night cross-country blats home. Only once did it misbehave; more on that in a bit.
Choosing the spec really helped the bonding process. Cars can now be optioned in so many different ways that it’s easy to get it very wrong. But Audi’s online configurator is excellent, giving a very good idea of what your box-ticking will look like in reality.
I imagined being a relatively wealthy type buying the RS6 for real, a chap who wanted a very nice but not OTT spec. As a result, I bumped £75,500 to £86,760 without so much as visiting a showroom. Slightly scary!
I chose the optional 21-inch alloys at £2k, and it was only when I coincidentally met an Audi wheel designer that I learnt I’d chosen the more durable finish. There was a £1k sports exhaust, £850 all-LED headlights, £1.2k panoramic roof, £400 reversing camera, and £575 for an electric tailgate and keyless entry. I avoided the £4k carbon pack because it ruled out the £825 electric towbar – the law states an RS6 must tow a track car – but I did indulge in £1.5k carbon mirrors. Naturally, de-badging was essential.
I wondered if the sports seats would be less comfy, but they looked amazing and cost just £275 extra, so I decided to man-up. They proved perfectly cosseting, even on that long schlep to Spa. I don’t think I’d change one thing.
Audi dealers will always try to upsell you to the Dynamic steering, Dynamic suspension (both around £1k) and carbon-ceramic brakes (£8k) but we’ve sampled the two former options in other guises and never been convinced, and the ceramics are so expensive they’re just very hard to justify.
I resisted the urge, but was later asked to give passenger rides on track in a test car loaded with said options, and knew I’d made the right decision. The steering was sharper, but it also had less even, less feelsome weighting; I preferred my car’s more natural helm. The Dynamic suspension is a big upgrade, because you swap the standard air springs for steel springs. You certainly feel more connected to the road, comfort doesn’t deteriorate to the level you might expect and it comes into its own on the racetrack. But I spent most of my time wafting about, so the family and I appreciated the extra comfort on the standard suspension and, besides, you can firm the standard suspension into unpleasantly hard Dynamic mode with a button-press if the fancy takes you.
The carbon ceramics are a massive step up on the road, but disappointingly I had smoke pouring off them after three laps on track. I’d never track my own RS6 and I would prefer ceramics for the road, but I wouldn’t pay £8k. Then again, I wondered if I should’ve done when the standard discs warped after 2000 miles of gentle road driving.
Audi Peterborough responded swiftly, sending a low-loader to my home, although they never followed up on the workshop web link as promised, never did tell me what went wrong as requested, and were a bit relaxed at telling me when the car was ready.
But mostly I just loved the RS6: the ride was fantastic, the steering feelsome, the handling surprisingly engaging and ready to adopt a hint of oversteer to get all that bulk cleanly through a bend. And the powertrain is amazing: tuneful, unbelievably thrusty and matched to the James Bond of eight-speed automatic gearboxes, with cultured manners at a cruise and a streak of viciousness when action was absolutely necessary.
Clearly, you don’t buy a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 estate car with 552bhp to be parsimonious, and perhaps I should be grateful that its cylinder-deactivation tech helped me edge past 20mpg. But one thing niggled: I drove my old F10 BMW M5 harder – generally its rear-drive chassis goaded me into more bad behaviour – and tended to get around 22mpg.
I hear Audi has recently upgraded the RS6 for extra frugality. Clearly, another six-month test is required to verify this claim.
By Ben Barry
Month 7 running an Audi RS6 Avant: whoops, we’ve been done speeding!
Drive 400 miles to Spa, put a photographer in the boot, drive him around to take pictures of supercars, drive home. Can you think of a better car than the RS6? Greg’s CLS350 CDI wins the mpg war, but as I discovered last month, it can’t compete dynamically or in terms of ride comfort. I’d be driving on a track; someone else was paying fuel… RS6! The trip over reminded me why I love this Audi: it’s one of those cars that feels completely cohesive. I love the wafty ride quality, the steering and handling, the smooth but fast eight-speed gearbox, the hushed refinement, the awesome stereo and the fact that you can flatten the accelerator and vaporise hot hatches.
That does mean it requires frustrating restraint. I’d been hoping to squeeze in a couple of laps at Spa to relieve that frustration, but ultimately lapped at no more than 40mph. Shame, because I know how sorted the Quattro system feels on the road. Curse those photographers!
I wanted to get home a bit quicker, so I jumped onto the autoroute post-shoot, accelerated and was immediately pulled by a motorbike and introduced to a large group of policemen in a van equipped with the latest payment technologies. I’ll admit that I had none of the paperwork, GB stickers, breathalysers or yellow jackets that you’re supposed to carry, and prepared for a long unsponsored walk home. But one of the policemen recognised me! Result! Sadly, the Belgian police are highly professional and diverted my mind with chat while €80 was extracted from my bank account. The Nürburgring via the autobahn next time, methinks.
By Ben Barry
Month 5 running an Audi RS6: Greg Fountain swaps his Merc CLS Shooting Brake for the fast Avant
Life may be a rollercoaster but there’s no more literal way of experiencing it than by swapping a six-cylinder diesel for a twin-turbo V8. Okay, there is the option of popping over to Alton Towers for a spot of organ rearrangement, but the trouble with those rollercoasters is that you can’t actually drive them. So this is more fun.
The difference between Ben Barry’s RS6 and my long-term Mercedes CLS Shooting Brake is an astronomical 291bhp – or the total output of a Lotus Exige S – so you can imagine that the Merc feels like the ‘up slope’ of the rollercoaster by comparison. A twitch of right foot in the Audi and it’s Thunder Mountain all over again, complete with screams from the row behind.
Momentum isn’t everything, though. The ability to stop, to turn, to thread a string of corners together, are more important, and here the CLS scores points. It’s to do with three things: aerodynamics, chassis and weight. On the aero front the Audi really shouldn’t hang around with swarthy beauties like this Merc, because it ends up looking like a fat bus. It’s frontal area alone is 0.1 square metres bigger than the Merc’s, and the overall drag coefficient is 0.352Cd against the CLS’s 0.310. They sound like small numbers but are not – a supersonic fighter jet has a cd of around 0.016, that fat bus nearer 0.8. You can bet that Ben’s comedy mpg figure – which admittedly I wholly lived down to – is due at least in part to those Lego-spec curves.
Then there’s the chassis – my rear-drive CLS flits about moth-like through bends and over pockmarks, while the Quattro-carrying Audi drills in full pack, slamming nearly two tonnes into every crevice. The weight difference is 25kg – again a small number, but small numbers add up.
Over on the other page about now Ben will no doubt be dissing the CLS’s ride quality, but it’s not bothering me at all. Since we booted out the winter tyres I’ve been very happy with the road manners, though I accept the Audi is a real surprise here. And there are one or two other things I also accept about the Audi. First, I want one. My feelings about the interior, blessed as it is with Thunderbird 2’s quilted seats, are too effusive for family reading, and my earlier jibe about Lego should be taken as a compliment. Lego’s great, and the RS6 has the kind of brash, chunky presence I’d love to be able to pull off in a crowded room (more chance of that than the CLS’s immaculate couture). I love the CLS, but would’ve kept the RS6 if Ben had let me.
By Greg Fountain
Month 4 running an Audi RS6: one of our children’s peed in it!
Previously when my children have peed in the car, they’ve peed on child seats. Not this time. On arriving home, my two-year-old asked to stay in the RS6 and pretend to drive. I once did that, so I encouraged her while watching from the outside, hoping to nurture a future Sabine Schmitz. But after a minute she moved to the passenger seat, had one of those worrying small-child moments where frenetic, aimless activity ceases, and then popped up at the window with clenched teeth and panic-stricken eyes.
I knew what had happened; I whisked her from the car and grabbed a towel to mop up the pool of wee that was thankfully refusing to penetrate the leather. I grabbed a leather car-care kit from the house and followed the instructions about damp cloths and dry cloths and swirly motions. It seemed to work, and people who I later transported in the RS6 and would happily have complained of odd smells said nothing. But a couple of weeks later the smell hit me; I had to drive around with the sunroof open.
A cry for help on Twitter brought up Rob Carson’s mobile valeting service, Wax On, Wax Off (waxonwaxoff.uk.com). Rob was unphased by the surprise secretion, saying he routinely extracts vomit from cars on weekend mornings; this would be easy. Seeing as the RS6 needed a wash, I plumped for his £30 wash, dry and vacuum. But the most important job was getting that smell out. Rob correctly reasoned that some of the wee would have migrated between seat back and squab, and so deep-cleaned the seat’s nooks and crannies and then scrubbed the carpet beneath with some carpet cleaner before thoroughly vacuuming.
Then Rob opened up his van to reveal a 250-litre water tank, much of which he emptied over the RS6’s bodywork, in between treating it to snow foam and, finally, a thorough drying. Thankfully, once everything was finished, the RS6 looked not only as good as new, but smelled as good as new too.
Lesson learned: it really is important to fasten your two-year-old’s seatbelt, even when parked on the drive.
By Ben Barry
#Month 3 running an Audi RS6: the brakes grumble
At around 2000 miles, the RS6’s brakes – standard discs, not optional ceramics – started juddering. This wasn’t a wobble, it was a brake-disc earthquake. I hadn’t been on track, nor driven particularly hard. Odd.
The great thing about having a new car is that problems are taken care of, but it’s the hassle, the calls, the disappointment that your car has broken. I called Peterborough Audi. ‘Don’t drive it,’ they said. ‘Call Audi Recovery, get it recovered to us. We can give you a web-link to watch our technicians check it over.’
I just knew that the technicians would love me remotely watching them, so I said ‘great.’ It would have been greater if they could’ve just dispatched Audi Recovery, but still… they answered promptly, offered me a hire car and took the RS6 away within hours. I never did get that web-link, but the verdict was quickly in: ‘new discs and pads’. The RS6 was soon returned, fully valeted.
‘We haven’t heard of this issue,’ said the Audi manager who delivered my car. ‘But Audi will want the old brakes back for inspection, and if there are a few cases, you can bet there’ll be a recall.’
I asked for a full report but, two weeks on, I’m still waiting. Any RS6 owners with wobbly brakes? Get in touch.
By Ben Barry
Month 2 running an Audi RS6: the road-test review bit
Hot Audis blow a bit, well, hot and cold, you know that. But the RS6 is definitely hot. I love the way it looks both understated and impossible to mistake for a TDI, how special the interior feels, the way the doors phut shut like a silenced revolver. But mostly I love the way it drives. Can I take some credit for that? I resisted the urge to tick the Dynamic springs ’n’ dampers suspension option, leaving it on more comfortable air suspension. I also stayed away from the Dynamic steering, which always feels unnatural to me.
It’s odd, because with my road-test brain I keep thinking of ways to improve the RS6, and yet as an ownership proposition I’m not sure I’d change a thing. I’m simply not driving it everywhere in a bid to assess its ultimate dynamic excellence. That’s not to say it all falls apart the moment you start to push. The day I got the keys, I dialled up my preferences on Drive Select – Comfort steering and suspension, Auto engine and gearbox, Dynamic sound, Dynamic rear diff – and threw the RS6 into the first fast wet roundabout I could find, turning it in off-throttle.
Can you guess what happened? No, it didn’t. The nose chomped at the apex, the rear end stepped out a few degrees and the RS6 settled into a perfect four-wheel drift, all stability systems still engaged. This wasn’t oversteer for the sake of it, it was impeccable handling, the RS6 refusing to understeer and adopting an attitude that allowed me to get back on the power while hugging the ideal line. I know manufacturers dial in understeer as a safety thing, but I hate the helplessness of it all, and this just felt safe and fun.
The 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 is fantastic: smooth and quiet at moderate speeds, fearsomely quick and – with the optional sports exhaust – goose-pimple exciting when you pin it. It doesn’t rev as stratospherically as an M5 – peak power at 6600rpm plays 7000rpm, though it feels like a bigger gulf – but it’s at least as quick, maybe quicker. Unlike the M5, it doesn’t have a dual-clutch gearbox either, but torque converters are great these days, and this eight-speeder balances smooth shifts around town with super-quick ones when you’re on it.
I was dismayed by early RS5s’ steering, but there’s actual steering feel coming up through the electro-mechanical rack, and although you can feel the corrupting stickiness that the front driveshafts bring, I like the weight and speed and, yes, that feel. The RS6 rides magnificently too: astonishingly, it’s plusher than our Merc CLS350 CDI long-termer, and a world away from the spikey jolts of our old RS4.
For all that, there’s one option I maybe should’ve ticked, the – sharp intake of breath – £8k carbon-ceramic brakes. Mine have already developed a severe judder. It’s strange, because while I haven’t been driving the RS6 everywhere at maximum attack, I also haven’t been driving it so slowly that the brakes haven’t bedded in. I need to get it booked into the local dealer sharpish. Wonder if they’ve got any of those carbon-ceramics lying about?
By Ben Barry
Month 1 running an Audi RS6 Avant: long-term test review introduction
Whenever I do a trackday, there’s always a bloke who’ll turn up in an Audi RS6 towing a Caterham. He is That Rich Wally At The Track. I convince myself that TRWATT is a rubbish driver but, really, I’d trade places in an instant. Now, for the next few months, I have. There’s a brand new Audi RS6 outside my house!
This is my definition of a performance SUV: a family estate with adjustable ride height, 4wd and – oh look – a 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 in the nose with 552bhp and 516lb ft.
Firing up the Audi configurator was a lesson in self-restraint. Matt paint at £5675? Carbon ceramics at £8k? In fact, the brakes really focused me on what I wanted from an RS6: a fast, luxurious family wagon, not something I’d drive to the limit. So I stuck with stock brakes, and with air suspension, rather than optional Dynamic coil springs and dampers. I did, however, want to hear that V8, so added a £1k sports exhaust. And because the suspension was more compliant, I felt better about upgrading from 20in rims to the £2k 21s.
The carbon pack swaps the brightwork for more menacing carbon and brings a new grille, but it’s pricey at over £4k and one thing swung it: it also means the rear diffuser is carbon, so you can’t fit the electrically extending tow bar. RS6s are born to tow track cars, and removing that capability felt akin to a vasectomy. So I optioned the £825 tow bar and contented myself with £1.5k of carbon mirrors.
Inside, I stuck with standard sports seats with their cool Blockbusters design, because the comfort seats don’t look so good and cost £275. Will I regret that on longer trips? First impressions suggest not. You can also spend £5k-£9k on special leather, but I went for black Valcona leather with Rock Grey stitching at £250. I have infants to carry, after all.
With the kids in mind, I also added the £75 through-loading facility to the rear seats to help smuggle stuff between a pair of kids’ seats. I also spent £210 on manual sunblinds for the side and rear windows and £100 on front and rear heated seats. Finally, I added privacy glass at £390. After shielding the kids from the elements, I optioned the £1225 panoramic sunroof, which I’ll open at all times.
Then the Audi computer put a gun to my head. ‘Do you,’ it asked, ‘want rear side airbags?’ Come on, leave a box unchecked at £375 that could save my kids’ lives? Unfair. Tick.
I went for the £400 reversing camera, which probably sounds daft, but this is a big car and once you start using reversing cameras, you can’t go back, as it were. I also added the electric tailgate and keyless entry at £575; both options make the car more enjoyable on a daily basis.
All-LED headlights cost £850 and look great, plus I spend a decent amount of time driving at night, some of it on rural roads; brighter lights make a difference, especially in a car this quick. Tick.
The finishing touch was to de-badge it, because the coolest thing in the world is a de-badged RS6. And that was that: a £75,500 car optioned to £86,760.
It’s early days so far; I’ll let you know how we’re getting on next month.
By Ben Barry