Audi RS6 Avant Performance review: 621bhp evolution is the best RS6 ever

Is this a new special edition Audi RS6 Avant?

No, the RS6 Performance now replaces the existing RS6 Avant. You can’t buy the mere 592bhp version of Audi’s ultimate A6 any more. Nein, the Germans insist you must now have 621bhp. Welcome to the most powerful factory RS6 yet.

So it’s just a tickle more power for the V8?

That’s the headline change. Bigger turbos equals more boost pressure, and that means you now have 29 more horsepower and 37lb ft more torque. Your 0-62mph time falls by two tenths to a scarcely credible 3.4 seconds, and depending which of the limiters you’re prepared to pay for this family wagon will knock on the door of 190mph.

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De-restricted, you, your family and 1,600 litres of boot space would be good for 200 miles an hour.

Those wheels look rather yummy.

Hoped you’d spot those. They’re a £2,250 option on the Performance in the UK, and save five kilos each versus the 22-inch rims found on the standard RS6. That’s very good news for steering and ride quality.

While we’re revelling in weight-savings, Audi’s also binned 8kg of soundproofing from the engine bay bulkhead, in a quest to give the effective but polite V8 a bit more of a cackle inside.

Has it worked?

No. If you were hoping Audi would really end its V8 uberwagon era with a flourish before committing the RS6 to a plug-in hybrid or even fully electric future, then you’re going to be disappointed. There’s a rumble on part-throttle that’s pleasing enough, but it’s hardly a volcanic eruption you feel in your kidneys.

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Flatten the throttle and the dominant noise is tortured air rushing through the hungry turbochargers, not fire and brimstone from the cylinders themselves.

I don’t mean to be ungrateful… but is that it? More poke, posh wheels, and less insulation?

You’ve a right to expect more. Where are the fabulous bucket seats from the RS4 Competition, and that car’s superb manually adjustable dampers? Where are the standard-fit carbon ceramic brakes, and that German favourite, the carbon fibre roof? The RS6 Performance is a very subtle mid-life tweak, rather than an engineer’s dreamboat, and there are too many holes in the standard spec list.

And that’s a serious problem when you spot that this car costs from £109,570. The loaded Carbon Vorsprung version is a £127,000 car in the UK. Even if you’re doing very well for yourself indeed, one hundred and twenty-seven grand is an eye-watering, stomach-churning, hair-whitening amount of money to sploosh on an estate car.

Ouch. Hardly has the market to itself, does it?

Quite. The Mercedes-AMG E63 is heading out the exit door but if you’re quick you can still get one, and it remains one of AMG’s finest achievements to date. Meanwhile, if you can do without a few hundred litres of ultimate cargo space, something called the BMW M3 Touring now exists.

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That’s about as complete as fast, fun family cars get, yet you can option one up to the nostrils and still have twenty grand in change compared to the RS6.

Still, the Audi’s better looking than the BMW…

True – this is a car that requires no excuses whatsoever about its appearance. None of the M3’s ‘it looks alright from the back’ or ‘the front grows on you as long as it’s painted a dark colour’ nonsense.

The RS6 Avant is one of the very best-looking cars around today. Evil on four wheels, it drips with menace and exudes a sure-footed stance that rivals mid-engined supercars for street presence. And on those new Performance-spec dished rims… Cor. Hnnng. Dribble.

Besides the blistered wheelarches, is there another reason to buy the Audi?

Actually there is. Because if you go looking for it really hard, this is a fast Audi that’s learned how to have fun.

Thanks to something called the quattro sport differential, the RS6 Performance is emphatically not yet another Audi that frowns with disapproval if you fire it down a twisty road.

If you’re just driving it briskly, it’s so far, so Audi. Grippy. Safe. Mature. And phenomenally, ruthlessly fast.

But if you’re prepared to be a bit brutal with throttle inputs – and jump on the gas earlier than you’d ever imagine possible in a 2.1-tonne car – then hold on tight. The power pendulum swings firmly to the rear axle and the RS6 is actually steerable with the throttle. It’s a hooligan. A yob.

The complete super-wagon, then?

Let’s quantify that. We’re not talking here about an M3 / E63-style rear-drive mode with smoke pouring off the tyres in acrid clouds. It’s more like an RS3’s drift mode, or a Focus RS. Keep your foot in, trust the computer knows where to direct the oomph, and catch the slide just as your jaw lands in your lap at what this safe, sensible Audi barge can do from apex to exit.

Ultimately it’s not begging to do a driver’s bidding like an M3 Touring. But for an RS6, it’s fairly sensational. Still plenty of room for improvement though: the typically Audi-ish brake pedal is horribly over-servo’d and demands you faceplant the dashboard. Downshifts are a bit tardy too.

You still get the sense this is a car happier at eight-tenths. But should you choose to, you get your money’s worth when you crank the big RS6 up to eleven.

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