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2020 Audi RS 6 Avant First Drive: Tasting forbidden fruit

Auto123 headed to the Malibu canyons in California for a first drive of the 2020 Audi RS 6 Avant

Malibu, CA - While fans of the brand and of wagons are certainly familiar with the RS 6, this is the first time the model will be sold on our market. And yet this is the fourth generation of this family hauler that always gives a smile to those in the family who takes themselves for a Schumacher. 

The first RS 6 sold in Europe hit the road in 2002 with a 4.2L V8 also used at the time in the large A8 sedan, but with the output pushed to 444 horses. 

The second generation got a V10 borrowed from the S8, but with its own unique melody and 570 horses. In Europe, the most recent RS 6 dates back to 2013, year which marked the return of a V8, this time a twin-turbo delivering 550 hp. 

Photo: B.Charette

In 2020, Audi brings to market the first RS 6 with 4.0L twin-turbo V8 to hit 600 hp (in Europe; for North America it’s a still-impressive 591). As mentioned, this is the first time our market gets to partake of this delicious forbidden fruit, and those who know the car are craving a taste. For good reason.

Everything under one roof
There are very few cars on the market that have so many features all in one package. While the general shape of the A6 is discernible when looking at the car, the RS 6 only shares the front doors and the tailgate with the regular model. Note that we’ll also be getting the A6 wagon in addition to the RS 6 next year. 

Photo: B.Charette

Other visual notables include the wide body (40 mm wider) to accommodate the standard 21-inch tires or optional 22-inch tires. The RS 6 is also closer to the ground with an oversized grille that gives it a mean predator look. The proportions are well balanced and frankly, no matter from what angle you look at it, this RS 6 is beautiful. Lights with optional laser beams come from the A7 and the functional rear spoiler is the longest on offer from Audi and delivers significant downforce at high speed.

And if you’re wondering why the RS 6 is only available in the Avant model, it’s because Audi leaves the sedan segment to the RS 7, which offers the same engine and the same performance in a different shell. The customer base is smaller when you get to this category of vehicles, so Audi doesn’t want to cannibalize itself unnecessarily.

Photo: B.Charette

Speed freak
When the RS 6 arrives on our roads sometime in the fall of 2020 (Europe sales start this December), it will be available in an entry-level version with an electronically imposed 250 km/h speed limit. But, for a supplement (the amount of which remains to be determined) you’ll be entitled to an RS 6 that can sprint to 305 km/h. 

This hopped-up version comes with carbon ceramic brakes, the Dynamic package that includes sport steering and an optional four-wheel steering system. The latter sharpens response to speed and cuts the turning radius by one meter at low speed. The brakes come with 10-piston rotors and P285/30R22 tires at the four corners; this variant is a real racing machine. 

That said, even if you opt for the base model, you still have more power than you can use and driving dynamics that probably exceed anything you know. The ever-present quattro system sends 60% of the power to the rear wheels, which accentuates the rear bias drive for more pleasure. However, the system can send up to 85% of power to the back or up to 70% to the front wheels if the conditions require it and according to the drive mode selected. 

Photo: B.Charette

Audi uses a lightweight 48-volt hybrid system introduced in the A6 sedan in 2018 that it says saves nearly 1L/100 km. It works in conjunction with a 8-speed automatic transmission that comes with paddle shifters on the steering wheel and a manual drive mode as well as a cylinder deactivation system. We were able on our test drive to maintain an average fuel economy of around 10L/100 km, which for a performance monster like this is rather impressive. 

Inside
Fit and finish are always a highlight in Audi cars, and here unique leather coverings add to the high-end feeling of the interior. The ambiance is completed by the new digital displays that include three screens (one in front of the driver and two on the centre part of the dashboard). This digital universe fits naturally with the rest of the cabin and is very intuitive.

Photo: B.Charette
Photo: B.Charette

Up and down the hills
Those who have driven the Malibu canyons know how their roads can make you feel like you’re on a amusement-park ride as you careen between mountains and ocean. A great decor to put the RS 6 to the test, which included drives of two models. The first had adjustable air suspension and the other a regular suspension that comes with the optional Dynamic package and connects diagonally between the front and rear dampers. 

When the front fender is compressed, it sends the oil pressure to its diagonal counterpart at the rear to prepare it for road imperfections. This configuration reduces unwanted pitch and roll. For everyday use, though, the air suspension is more comfortable. 

Photo: B.Charette

With the Dynamic package, the driving height is 10 mm lower than that of the A6 and it drops an additional 10 mm at high speed - rather practical when you’re in a race car capable of driving at 305 km/h. 

Switching between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic drive modes brings noticeable differences when driving. Each mode changes the behavior of the engine, transmission, steering, suspension and, where applicable, the torque-vectoring rear sport differential. 

It's even possible, if you go on a racetrack (and are more skilled than the average bear), to completely disable the traction control system. Just like in the RS 7, you also have two preset buttons, RS1 and RS2. In both cases, you configure each parameter of the car, engine, suspension, steering, etc ... and place all in RS1 memory. Then you can set the most dynamic settings across the board and place it in RS2 memory. 

Photo: B.Charette

Voilà, you can switch from road- to track-friendly settings at the press of a single button and change the character of the car instantly. I should mention that despite all the power of the RS 6, driving remains very civilized and surprising comfortable even with 22-inch wheels. As mentioned, we would opt for air suspension for better comfort.

Conclusion
80% of the 2020 Audi RS 6 Avant wagons already ordered in Germany will be fitted with carbon-ceramic brakes. It's not that German drivers are particularly fond of this kind of brake, but if you opt for the 305 km/h version, you have to buy the carbon-ceramic brakes. And because you can really go that fast in Germany, it’s a no-brainer. 

So if you find yourself on the Autobahn next spring and you see an RS 6 appear in your rearview mirror, best pull to the right. 

In addition of having enough storage space (565 litres, or 1,680 with the seats lowered) for a well-packed family vacation, you can also do a 0-100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and ride at over 300 km/h. Who said you can’t have it all? 

Photo: B.Charette

All this can be yours, in Europe, at a price starting at 117,500 Euros. Figures for North America have not been provided yet, but even in a base version it will probably be more than $140,000.

We like

High-quality fit and finish
Power to spare, and then some
Extraordinary handling

We like less

High price point
Impossible to enjoy the car to its full potential on our roads, alas
Expect heavy depreciation over the years

 

Consult our listing of pre-owned Audi RS 6 vehicles available in your region of Canada

Photo: B.Charette