September 22, 2003

Backroads and Stratmospheres's OC.T Tuned RS6
Text and pictures Don Pavlik

What gets your heart racing?

Fast cars?

How about the keys to a 515 horsepower RS6 for the day? While attending the Northeast Audi Show, yours truly and Neil McGarry had the rare opportunity for a grin-filled day on Vermont's twisting and challenging back roads with Statmosphere's tuned RS6. 

The RS6 is a beast that—straight from the factory—comes with a healthy 450 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque at your beck and call. Stratmosphere's little goodies— O.CT engine management software and a tuned exhaust— add another 65 hp and 85 lb-ft of torque.

To put things into perspective:

  • The RS6 is burdened with a mere 7.81 pounds for each horsepower produced.
  • A Porsche 911 twin-turbo is saddled with 8.19 pounds per horsepower produced.

That's right, the RS6 in this configuration has a better power-to-weight ratio than a 911TT! Stratmosphere's RS6 possesses so much raw power that any move you want to make is literally a throttle-twitch away.

The RS6 is a deceptively fast car.

Drop the hammer from a stop and there's a brief pause while the twin-turbos spool up. Then power swells and you're off at a blinding pace. It's so smooth in its power delivery that you're almost unaware of your rate of acceleration until you notice surrounding traffic quickly falling away and the speedo needle quickly ticking off marks around the 200 mph speedo dial.

At the top of first gear the car makes a soft and polite shift into second gear, resulting in more extremely urgent acceleration while the exhaust wails quietly in the background. The top of second gear arrives, at this point you'd think the party is over right?

Oh my friends, here is where the party starts.

A polite shift into third, then the most extraordinary thing happens—the car suddenly feels like warp drive has been engaged. Exaggerations aside, the car simply puts you in the seat while the scenery flies by. Before you know it the speedo approaches a buck and a quarter.

Oh, my!

My first experience with RS6 warp was an odd yet extremely satisfying experience, marked with giddy exclamations and a string of expletives not suitable for print.

It's fast—very, very fast. When you ask, the car hustles right now.

The RS6 also does one other thing at an amazing pace—consume fuel. On my drive with repeated and consistent calls for lots of thrust, the trip computer hovered around 10-12 mpg.  

Stratmosphere's RS6 exhaust proved a very civilized upgrade. The exhaust tips filled out the rear valence nicely. The exhaust note in normal cruise or while wide-open running through the gears is well-suited for the stealth but potent RS6 and rarely brought attention to itself. However, when full power is called for, a subdued wail is heard from the rear.

Nicely done. 

The Drive

It's staggering just how fast the RS6 will overtake traffic.

Passing opportunities exist with an RS6 that other cars simply do not have a chance of pulling off. On back roads, coming up on slower traffic presented nary a hurdle. Simply follow briefly until a teeny-tiny passing opportunity arrives, then dial up some boost and whooosh! you slingshot by traffic at an unreal rate while quickly reaching very illegal speeds.

Amazing, simply amazing. 

The transmission, especially in Sport Mode, downshifts willingly, offering plenty of thrust in a hurry. Sport Mode does nifty things like hold the current gear if you're hustling and lift off the throttle. It will also downshift if you brake before entering a corner, which keeps the engine right where it needs to be to rocket you out of that corner. The transmission logic isn't perfect, though as it would sometimes upshift at inopportune times (most often right before slowly approaching a corner.)

Quite frankly, the car has so much power that being in the wrong gear isn't an issue. Light pressure on the throttle or a quick flick of the steering wheel mounted shift paddles (or the Tip lever) causes an immediate shift. I prefer the manual tip mode and shifting with the paddles while in the twisties, but Sport Mode is fairly entertaining if you want to move swiftly with minimum fuss, which the RS6 offers.

Handling is excellent for a vehicle of its size. (Let's not forget this car seats four very comfortable adults—or five if you're good friends.) The car pretty much takes whatever you throw at it in stride.

Stuff it into a corner and it just hunkers down and sticks in the corner with surprisingly little body roll.

Push it hard and it will ease into understeer.

The suspension is firm enough for hard running without beating you up when daily traffic prevents you from digging deep into the throttle.

Cues of the mass and size of the car are surprisingly absent unless you really push it. It doesn't possess the nimbleness or razor sharp handling of a smaller, lighter car, but that's to be expected with a curb weight of just over 4000 lbs.

Steering when underway was, for my taste, properly weighted and provided good road feel. There was a tendency for the car to track road imperfections but with 255/40-18 tires stuffed in the wheel wells it's somewhat expected.

I've never been a fan of the Servotronic steering. Servotronic substantially reduces steering effort and feel at low speeds making parking and low speed maneuvers nearly effortless but the dramatic change in steering effort always seems out of place.  

Brakes?  How about eight pistons with 14.37" rotors up front and 13.19" in the rear.  Braking was sure, strong and predictable with good pedal feel and modulation. It was raining during my drive so maximum braking was not called on very often and I can't comment on the braking ability from numerous back-to-back stops from high speeds. 

While on the drive I was also a passenger (and a very bad one I might add) while Neil was behind the wheel. The car feels fast when you're driving and it's even more amplified when you're a passenger blasting down back roads. Neil was driving much more aggressively, thanks to much more race track experience and more nerve—or is that fearless skill?

From where I was sitting, my brain calculated that approaching corners dictated prudence by use of brakes was in order, but we were still accelerating hard. Turned out the brakes were well up to the task and burned off speed easily. I made a few comments about conditions and such, but finally resigned to simply not looking.

Neil was a good sport and never once called me a weenie.


The RS6 interior is a comfortable, well-executed environment for putting all the brute force of the twin-turbo V8 to use without even realizing it. Audi excels at handsome, well thought out interiors and the RS6 is not overlooked. Fit, finish and material quality are first rate and everything is where it should be. The seats are firm without being harsh, but could use a bit more side bolstering for aggressive cornering. It's an interior you could easily pull off a 12-hour drive without feeling stressed. The RS6 may be fast but it doesn't beat you up in the process.

Sporting luxury.

Stratmosphere's RS6 is a pure joy to drive—it's brutally fast and comfortable. It's the perfect car for dealing with daily rush hour traffic, offering the ability to turn that traffic into dots in the rear view mirror when the road opens up.

It's the perfect stealth daily driver.

Many thanks to Stratmosphere for the opportunity to try out their RS6 beast for the day.

RS6 in Action (1:49)
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Windows Media, 4.65MB

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Rush, NY  14543

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