Amusing as speed runs are, they never compare with staying ahead of an Airbus on final approach and rarely with an open winding road. With this kind of power talk always turns to racetracks, and we did check the calendar at the world’s fastest toll road and found it “closed” for racing. Sister company VW’s test track at Ehra would be nice for its open straight, but they’re a bit secretive about who gets in.
However, tempting as the idea is, a racetrack isn’t the best place to take an RS6 Avant, especially if it doesn’t have the optional ceramic brakes. Chassis tuning, advanced suspensions and quattro can do wonders but they can’t shed any of 4,600 pounds of car and driver being hauled around. You won’t be able to get anywhere near the 8:09 ‘Ring time bandied about unless you really have your act together and Queen Sabine is co-pilot, or better yet, driving. You won’t so easily recognize the grand touring ability of the car to cover vast distances in comfort without regard to conditions. And the tires and brakes will be trashed in no time if you don’t take care of them—and you won’t with 572 bhp.
The V-10 comes to life after a few spins and settles into a lumpy, cold-blooded fast idle, the sonic percussion so much like a muted Viper one observer said it sounded like a tractor. The torque converter has just enough slip that the lumpiness doesn’t translate to jerkiness while maneuvering out of your spot.
Steering feels quick because it’s just 2.2 turns lock-to-lock and it weights up nicely as you push harder but the physics of all-wheel drive and associated unsprung weight keep it from matching the feedback and precision of rear-drive cars; the M5 Touring has a clear advantage in this respect, the E63 wagon a lesser advantage.
The opposite-shock linked Dynamic Ride Control includes damping adjustable through MMI with options of comfort, dynamic and sport. Obviously you can choose comfort for max plush and sport for max firmness but the dynamic setting works so well it’s ideal for street use. Get a good ride most of the time—better than an S6 even with the RS’ 20-inch wheels and steel brakes-- and crisp response when you hit the bend or at very high speed, never touching a single control.
Cars with the ceramic brake package lose almost 27 pounds in unsprung weight which will help at the extremes but the ride improvement gains won’t match those found on much lighter 911s. The ceramics use rotors 16.5 inches in diameter, about the same as the Bentley Continental GT Speed, and part of the brake validation there is ten successive stops from 186 mph. But the standard steel brakes on our tester—15.4-inch rotors with six-piston aluminum calipers up front and 14-inch rotors in back, proved more than up to the task of the 174 mph top end. If you had to slow considerably you’d be more concerned about what was behind than in front of you, and the steel units were easy to modulate, fade free despite our hammering fully loaded, and not affected by cold or wet like some ceramics are.
An empty RS6 Avant carries 59% of its weight on the front end, but it doesn’t feel like it. You can make it understeer using too much throttle from start or being ham-fisted with the wheel, and it’s also possible to provoke a mild oversteer attitude even with ESP on with the buckets of power and 60% rear drive bias. Beating on it is likely to invoke ESP and waste time, tires, brakes, or all three, but smoothness and gentle touches are rewarded with a maddening pace that makes the RS6 feel a good 500-1000 pounds lighter.
There are two things you might find “not positive” and both are characteristic of some high-performance cars. First, when the P Zeros have been running high speeds for a while and you cool them at a reasonable (80-110 kph) for a mile or two before parking for a break or fuel, they have big flat spots when you take off again that are way worse than anything you’ve experienced leaving your overnight garage.
The other item is that you have to be careful with your right foot because you don’t hear boost and it comes on so progressively it feels just like a bigger engine. Not only can you quickly accelerate to a brisk pace without going past 2000 rpm, using the throttle to balance the car is best done, at least initially, with the “lap timer” window called up so you can see the red bar graph. At slow speeds with ESP off a big red bar indicates a good chance you’re soon headed for the nearest piece of civil engineering.
Official European figures put average fuel consumption at 14.0 liters/100 km (`16.8 mpg) with urban around 12 mpg and “highway” in the very low 20s. Our example, run to speed limits where they applied and with a good deal of abandon where they didn’t averaged exactly the 14.0l/100 km over more than 1700 kilometers and 10 days. Few of us that could afford the car would be concerned about fuel economy, but is nice to know you can have a family rennwagen and perfectly viable alternative to a light aircraft without four people using excessive resources.
When a German publication lined up the planets with an RS6 Avant, BMW M5 Touring and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon the resulting subjective scoring put the Benz ahead of the Audi 421 points to 418…but the Mercedes had a four-point advantage in cargo because of the upright hatch. We would choose to squeeze the bags.
This particular example was tested in Europe and therefore carried nearly a page of optional equipment which added about 13,500 euros to the tab before taxes: 20x9.5 alloys, power door closers and hatch, phone, navigation, HomeLink, power tilt/tele wheel, advanced parking, etc. If an RS6 ever comes to North America (and we aren’t holding our breath for this one) expect most of these to be standard equipment with options limited to adaptive cruise, rear side airbags and so on.
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