REVIEW | 2021 Audi RS6 Avant is an everyday family sports car

It looks like a car that would be more at home racing around Kyalami than carting kids to school. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
It looks like a car that would be more at home racing around Kyalami than carting kids to school. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

South Africans have a curious aversion to station wagons given the practicality of the body style.

These big-booted family cars are popular in Europe but are hardly seen on our roads where large herds of SUVs roam instead.

Audi’s RS6 Avant is one of the few examples of the station wagon breed left in SA, and it’s become something of a cult car for its appealing mix of utility and fast pace. The latest-generation RS6 Avant has recently touched down and it’s more spacious and steroid-boosted than ever.

It’s a rival to sports sedans like the BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E63 S, but adds a dash more practicality with its larger boot. The long-bummed Audi holds 565l compared to 530l for the M5 and 540l for the E63, and the difference is even more pronounced when the RS6’s seats are flipped down; it can swallow an impressive 1,680l of bicycles, Labradors or other bulky objects. It’s also a more practical loading area than a sedan’s as it’s accessible through a large electrically-operated tailgate.

Along with the generous cargo capacity, Audi’s wagon takes four passengers in stretch-out comfort, and wrapping the family-sized cabin is a design far removed from the fuddy-duddy station wagon image of old. The RS6 Avant is festooned with aggressive bumpers and flared wheel arches to profess its sporting intent, finished off by a gloss black honeycomb grille, a large rear diffuser and a pair of bazooka-sized exhausts.

It looks like a car that would be more at home racing around Kyalami than carting the kids to school, and the engine and chassis live up to the sporting promise.

The car has six driving modes, and the sportiest setting dials up the emotion with sharper responses and a louder war cry. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The car has six driving modes, and the sportiest setting dials up the emotion with sharper responses and a louder war cry. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

A turbocharged 4.0l V8 fires a hefty 441kW and 800Nm to both axles via quattro drive and grippy 285/30 tyres.

The car impresses with its light-footed nature, with none of the ponderous feel expected of a large executive wagon.

Key to this was its standard sports suspension and lowered ride height, and also the four-wheel steering and quattro sport differential that come part of the optional RS dynamic package.

In tighter corners the rear wheels turn slightly in the opposite direction to the fronts, effectively shortening the wheelbase. In faster curves the rear wheels turn in the same direction as the fronts to lengthen the wheelbase for improved high-speed stability.

The car hugs corners without the understeer that plagued earlier all-wheel drive systems. The quattro drive adapts to driving conditions to shift up to 85% of the power to the rear wheels and up to 70% to the fronts. The wheelspin-reducing sport differential continuously shifts torque to the rear wheel with the most grip, allowing you to jump on the throttle earlier out of corners.

Progressive steering loads up more with increasing steering angle for precise feedback.

The test car’s steel brakes took punishment without fading, but RS ceramic brakes are available at R202,000 for race tracks.

At the press of a button the RS6 transforms from a smooth-sailing family wagon into a beast that will drink from its enemy’s skulls. The Audi drive select system has six profiles and two individually configurable RS modes that can be activated directly using a steering wheel button.

The difference between its personalities is quite pronounced and in its sportiest mode the RS6 dials up the emotion with sharper responses and a louder war cry. The suspension never becomes overly firm even in the most aggressive setting, and a smooth ride is one of this car’s calling cards.

Haptic feedback infotainment controls aren’t very user friendly. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
Haptic feedback infotainment controls aren’t very user friendly. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

In its milder modes the Audi makes a civilised commuter, rather than feeling like it’s always snapping at the leash for more action.

Top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h but can be increased to 280km/h with the RS Dynamic package.

Audi claims a sea level 0-100km/h sprint in 3.6 seconds and the test car matched that figure in our Gauteng test at Gerotek. It’s slightly slower than its Benz and BMW rivals (see comparison chart below), and these marginal differences might make interesting around-the-braai discussions. On the road, thrusting the throttle never leaves you feeling short changed and this Audi always feels devastatingly fast.

Exploiting the RS6’s sporting abilities hikes fuel consumption to nearly 20l / 100km, reducing to 15l when driving in more restrained fashion.

The test car had R350,000 worth of options including carbon fabric decorative inserts, head-up display, RS dynamic package, RS styling package and driver-assist features like lane-change warning and park assist.

The standard MMI touch response uses haptic feedback in a bid to make the infotainment icons feel more like real buttons, but it’s not user-friendly. The icons require a firm push without having enough of a distinctive “click”.

It’s a blemish on an otherwise clean sheet, in a car that’s a compelling mixture of luxury, practicality and sporting prowess.

Performance comparison chart.
Performance comparison chart.
Image: Supplied

Tech Specs

 

ENGINE

Type: V8 petrol turbo

Capacity: 3,996cc

Power: 441kW

Torque: 800Nm

 

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed tiptronic

 

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Quattro all-wheel drive

 

PERFORMANCE 

Top speed: 250km/h

0-100km/h: 3.65 seconds (as tested)

Fuel Consumption: 12.2l/100km (claimed), 15l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 285g/km

 

STANDARD FEATURES

ABS brakes, electric windows, remote central locking, electrically-adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column, infotainment system with Bluetooth and voice control, multifunction steering wheel, reverse parking camera, tyre pressure monitoring, panoramic glass sunroof, ambient lighting, electrically adjustable front seats, electrically opening and closing tail gate, heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, HD Matrix LED headlamps with laser light, RS adaptive air suspension, cruise control, RS sports exhaust

 

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: One year/unlimited km

Maintenance plan: Five years/100,000km

Price: R2,070,000

Lease: R44,076 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

 

Audi RS6 Avant

WE LIKE:

Practicality, pace, handling

WE DISLIKE:

Haptic-feedback infotainment controls

VERDICT:

A family sports car

 

MOTOR NEWS

 

Star rating

*****Design

*****Performance

**Economy

****Ride

**** Handling

*****Safety

*****Value For Money

****Overall


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