Astounding. That's what the Audi RS 6 Avant is. From the moment you clap eyes on its widened haunches to the first time you hold the accelerator down for as long as you dare the ultimate A6 estate is nothing short of a sensation. It's an intoxicating, exciting model that also happens to have space for a wardrobe or two. Crazy. Brilliant. We love it.
In the metal 5/5
We used to think the Audi A6 Avant in S line specification was about as sexy as a big estate car could get. Then the Ingolstadt massif handed it over to quattro GmbH and things got very serious. The wide rear haunches set the tone and they're complemented by new bumpers and a single large oval exhaust outlet on either side. A lower stance and detail changes throughout enhance the sporty appearance, including the large 'quattro' lettering in the new front apron. In Ireland, 20-inch seven-spoke alloys are standard, though we suspect that any buyers will be tempted by one of the three 21-inch rim options.
The standard fast Audi template is used inside, and that's no criticism. The RS 6's cabin feels sportier than the S6's, yet somehow just as luxurious. Perforated leather covers the flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel and the electrically adjustable sports front seats are trimmed in supple Valcona hide. MMI Navigation plus with MMI touch is standard, as is a thumping BOSE sound system. On top of all that the Driver Information System now features readouts for boost pressure among other things and it incorporates a shift light sequence when the driver chooses to override the automatic gearbox.
Driving it 5/5
Let's get one thing straight from the off: the RS 6 Avant is not a pure driver's car with detailed feedback and engagement with the driver. It does, after all, weigh nigh on two tonnes, have an automatic gearbox and more boot space than your average Premiership club dressing room. However, and despite all of that, this is a very special and highly addictive car to drive quickly. And boy does it do quick. The 0-100km/h time of 3.9 seconds is astounding, but it's the RS 6's acceleration deep into three-figure speeds that'll leave a lasting impression. We saw an indicated 290km/h before traffic on the autobahn ahead urged caution and the carbon ceramic brakes quickly scrubbed off the speed. The standard car has a 250km/h limiter, which can be raised to 280km/h and then 305km/h if the buyer so chooses.
Those ceramic stoppers are optional (and not cheap) and I for one didn't like the slightly soft feel to the pedal on initial contact. Not that their power was ever in question. Through all this the RS 6 Avant was utterly stable and rock solid on a road surface that was far from glass-smooth. Indeed, we found that it was far more comfortable to switch the damping into 'Comfort' mode while leaving everything else within the drive select system at 'Dynamic'. Once we left the autobahn it was clear that this meant more body roll - and less confidence in the grip level - so Dynamic mode was reselected.
In this guise the steering firms up too, and while it doesn't really tell the driver what's happening at road level, it is pleasingly direct and the nose obediently does what it's told. Helping that is an element of torque vectoring, thanks to the inclusion of Audi's sport differential on the rear axle - divvying up torque between the back tyres as the electronics see fit. Even at relatively high speeds on the public road it was nigh on impossible to detect where the power was being sent. It just gripped and went no matter what we threw at it.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox is special too. In Comfort mode it's silky smooth, but in Dynamic guise it manages to speed up changes and their ferocity is felt as a thump in the back. Through all of this the twin-turbo V8 engine shines through. It has a wide range of noises from the menacing bark at start-up to its full-blooded roar near the redline. There's even some gratuitous popping and banging in the exhaust on the overrun.
What you get for your money 4/5
No matter what way you look at it, the RS 6 Avant is an expensive car, with pricing expected to be well north of €140,000 here in Ireland. Thankfully, along with the ballistic performance, it's well equipped. As mentioned above, 20-inch alloy wheels are standard, as is MMI navigation plus with MMI touch, cruise control, Parking system plus and much more.
It always seems odd to talk about efficiency when reviewing high-end cars like the Audi RS 6, but we like to acknowledge the engineers' achievements. In comparison to its predecessor, the new Avant is 90kg lighter, uses 30 per cent less fuel, emits 104g/km less than before and yet is considerably quicker. Some might moan about the fact the new V8 engine is 20hp down on its V10-engined precursor, but the 50Nm gain in torque - and the availability of that across a wide engine speed range - is far more important.
Some will say that the Audi RS 6 is no driver's car, and we agree with that to a certain extent, but it's such a formidable, fast and exciting machine that those with deep enough pockets to afford such an extravagance are unlikely to feel disappointed. It's an occasion to drive this car quickly.