28 Dec 2013

2013 Audi RS6 Avant Review

Colin Hubbard reviews the Audi RS6 Avant, which thankfully still has a twin-turbo V8

2013 Audi RS6 Avant

I can’t put my finger on it but there’s something about hot estates which really gets me excited.  I think it’s partly the thought of breakneck speeds but also the ability to take the dogs to the park at the weekend.

Over the years there have been many variations of the theme with shooting brakes, fastbacks, tourings and sports tourers but you can’t beat a good old fashioned estate car, especially with a powerful motor and muscular styling.

Audi have been key to this over the years firstly with the RS2 in 1994, the RS4 launched in 2000 and RS6 released in 2002. These are all proper performance cars, not just an estate shell with a silly motor but individual body styling, all wheel drive and a well set up chassis.

It’s showing that Audi launched all these cars as Avant only yet the RS4 and RS6 were released in other variants years after, based on the success of the Avant’s.

The RS6 was the first big league player in 2002 when it was released with a 4.2 litre V8 and two turbochargers. Audi stepped up the game again in 2008 when they released a new model but with a 5.0 litre V10 and again two turbochargers developing a staggering 571 bhp and 479 lb/ft.

Now how the hell were Audi going to beat the performance of the last model in the German race for horsepower yet the stay in check with the worlds determination to drive down vehicle emissions?  Let’s see.
2013 Audi RS6 Avant

Here we have the new RS6 available in estate flavour only and with the engine downsized by 1000cc and losing two cylinders. This isn’t progress and surely it’s going to get beaten hands down by its German rivals in the horsepower game.

Well no, that isn’t going to happen because in a quest to reduce emissions there has been massive R&D into engine and gearbox technology so sometimes you don’t need a blunt instrument when a knife edge will have just the same, if not a greater, effect. Combine these attributes with weight loss, using aluminium where possible and you have a car which is larger in every dimension yet faster, more agile and far superior in terms of fuel consumption.

The heart of the new RS6 is a 4.0 V8 with the usual twin turbo chargers but this time they are twin scroll units and with direct injection and both air and water intercoolers to keep the incoming air cool. Factor in the stop start tech and cylinder deactivation and it can achieve a combined mpg of 28.8 and the CO2 figure of 229g/kg should keep swampy happy for the moment.

They haven’t forgotten about petrolheads either as it develops 552bhp and 516 lb/ft of torque which may be 19bhp down on the old model but it’s 37lb/ft torque up and 15kg lighter. In addition the new 8 speed tiptronic box means when it’s in Dynamic mode it can always be in the right gear for instant acceleration. This equates to a 0-60 in 3.9 seconds, I repeat 3.9 seconds, and goes onto a governed top speed of 155 mph, but this can be raised to 174mph with the Dynamic package or even 189mph if you pick Dynamic Plus which includes Carbon Ceramic brakes. Sadly today's car is only capable of 155 mph.

Contributing to the performance figures is Audi’s renowned Quattro all wheel drive system and in this case a locking centre diff sending 60% of the power backwards and 40% forwards but it can if necessary send up to 70% to the front or up to 85% to the back.
2013 Audi RS6 Avant dashboard

The suspension is a combination of air springs and adaptive dampers which are controlled through the information system - you can choose from comfort, dynamic, auto and lift.

Braking is taken care of by steel discs and 6 pot calipers with 390mm discs at the front so on paper it promises to be a hugely powerful set up. Carbon ceramic disks are optional and I’m glad aren’t fitted to this car as I’m not a fan of them on a road car.

The car is painted in Estoril Blue (crystal effect) which looks stunning against the titanium look 21 inch alloys. It has blown arches front and rear which make it instantly recognisable over the cooking models and the huge wheels are a perfect fit.  I just hope their size doesn’t ruin the handling.

The front bumper has a bit of a Jimmy Hill chin with a silver coloured splitter, presumably to help calm the front end down towards and during the ridiculous top speed. The main front and side grill are fronted in a satin black honeycomb design plastic which I really like but imagine will be tricky to keep clean. The front headlights are the optional all LED units and look smart in an Iron Man kind of style.

Moving to the side and there are silver mirrors to match the front splitter and defined side skirts which have a little flick line toward the rear which then carries onto the rear bumper.

The rear end is standard issue A6 but with a neat little tailgate spoiler and a black diffuser dominating the lower section with a generous oval exhaust protruding out of each side.

It’s all finished off with the Titanium twin spoke alloys with 285/30/21 tyres all round. It’s a beautiful looking car and I’d stick my neck out here and say the best looking Estate car ever, in the flesh it just looks so right.
2013 Audi RS6 Avant

I’m looking forward to sitting in the car and seeing what they have done - in the back of my mind noting Audi’s reputation for making the best interiors in the class. When I step in I’m not disappointed, the entire interior has a quality feel and the fit and finish top class. The dash styling’s got real panache with gentle curves and shapes with a blend of carbon fibre, satin steel, stitched leather and high grade plastics.

Little touches like the lining to the door pocket being made out of tactile plastic so your glasses don’t slide about to the colour 7” Driver Information monitor that rises out of the otherwise flush dash when the engine is started make living with the car that much nicer.

The quality of the carbon fibre on the dash and door cards is beautifully finished, grain perfect and it gives the inside a futuristic look so much so I wrote down 'spaceship cabin' on my notes.

The all electric front seats are a work of art.  They have integrated headrests and winged shoulder support while the inside sections are finished off in honeycomb design stitching taking styling cues from the exterior grill and it works really well, no doubt they received some design cues from sister company Bentley.

The rest of the cabin is as lavishly appointed with the usual A6 dimensions meaning a huge boot capable of swallowing half a dozen Labradors, a spacious rear seat and generous front seating area.

The driving experience is not bad either. The engine starts with a meaty kick and settles to a well insulated purr.

Out on the open road the car rides very comfortably, the air springs do a great job of ironing out the bumps and undulations while still keeping near 2 tons of motor car in check. As the car has to be effectively dual purpose - one minute a kiddy carrier and the next an autobahn warrior - it has a fully adjustable chassis adjusted from the display on the dash and with a little fettling it can go from composed to aroused.

In dynamic mode it feels hunkered down and a little bouncy on the straights but can go gung ho through sweeping corners with the huge 21” wheels being kept in check. Grip levels from the Pirelli P-Zeros are high and combined with the self locking centre diff distributing power to which ever end demands the most the lateral support from the corner winged seats was tested to the max. Thankfully they proved up to the task.

The engine’s giving the chassis a full workout today.  It’s a docile unit in comfort mode and using part throttle is silky smooth, refined, quiet and every day usable offering up to a combined 28 mpg. Select Dynamic mode though and it’s a different animal.  The more aggressive mapping seems to tighten the engine and drop the gearbox down to a gear more suited to immediate acceleration than the optimum economy.

Now it’s showing its true colours with RS ebbing out of the engine bay and through the Quattro system.  At any speed there is instant acceleration - so much so that it felt like there was a direct correlation between the throttle travel and speedo needle rotating.

The engine note is brutish.  Being turbo charged it saps a little noise from the V8 but there’s little escape from the aggression of over 500bhp and over 500 lb/ft and at full throttle the tone is like there’s a silenced machine gun being firing 2 feet in front of you. As the self-shifter changes up between ratios there’s an intimidating crack from the exhaust as the spark is cut and a thud from the gearbox as the power is picked up in the higher gear, this is hugely powerful engine which would annihilate the old V10 engined RS6 in a drag race.
2013 Audi RS6 Avant

At medium revs pootling about you can sometimes catch the automatic transmission out in Dynamic mode as it surges forward a little.  The turbos are a bit too keen on and off boost but you can reign things in using the paddles which are located nicely behind the horizontal spokes on the wheel. 

To be honest the car does a much better job at finding the right gears than me but you can make the engine snap, crackle and pop like it’s a bowl of Rice Crispies in manual mode.  When you change down the gears there’s a blip on the down shift and when you accelerate hard toward the 7500rpm redline then back off it pop pop pops on the overrun.

After a 10 minutes or so I put the transmission back to fully automatic mode and then put the chassis, gearbox and engine into auto mode selected from the main screen display. It’s not as exciting but it’s the mode you would live with every day, just enough compliance on the chassis and the engine’s refined but still devastatingly quick. The matter of overtaking is over in a flash, you just have to think about a gap and you’re in it.

After spending time with the RS6 I am genuinely impressed not just with the cars performance, ability and pace but for the ability to transform into a spacious, luxurious and fuel efficient car at the touch of a button.

There’s little competition out there on sale today, BMW no longer make an M5 Touring, Jaguar don’t currently offer an XFR Shooting brake, but Mercedes AMG have 2 offerings in the shape of the E63 AMG Estate and CLS63 AMG Shooting Brake. Both the AMGs offer different takes on the estate package the E63 being a conventional shaped estate whilst the CLS 63 is a more expensive but funkily shaped ‘Shooting Brake’ with less usable boot space.

The AMGs both have a 5.5 litre twin turbocharged V8’s driving the rear wheels only with similar power to the RS car but with more torque so in a straight line and in the dry may be quicker. Throw in some rain and some corners and the Audi will be the faster and more composed vehicle.  Yes it won’t be as playful but do you want to step the back out in a 2 ton car on the school run?

The base price of the RS6 is £75k, which is the same as an E63 AMG Estate.  It’s well specced as standard, just £83k as tested with optional LED headlights, 21” alloys, adaptive cruise control, crystal effect paint, reversing camera and phone prep so represents good value for money. Given the choice of both my money would go to the Bavaria based company.

The RS6 combines blown arches with purposeful body aero and well suited Alloys and has shown that you don’t need fancy shooting brake style to create what is the best looking estate car of the moment.  

Factor in 90’s supercar performance and you have some serious Estate Car Porn.


Price - £75,500 (£83,680 as tested)
Engine – 4.0 litre, V8 twin turbocharged, petrol
Transmission – 8 Speed Tiptronic
0-62mph – 3.9 seconds
Top speed - 155 mph (governed(189mph with Dynamic Plus package))
Power - 552 bhp between 5700 - 6600rpm
Torque - 516lb ft between 1750 -5500rpm
Economy - 28.8mpg combined
CO2 - 229 g/km
Kerb weight - 1935kg unladen

2013 Audi RS6 Avant engine

Review by Colin Hubbard