• IAIN ROBERTSON
    Audi RS

    Audi RS

    No single motorcar of the past quarter of a century has impressed Iain Robertson
    as much as the Audi RS6 Avant and the all-new, imperious, ‘master of all it surveys’
    is being readied for January 2020 deliveries, in its most competent form ever.
    The growth of the estate car market, which is intrinsic to the UK motoring scene,
    every bit as much as our demand for convertibles and sports cars, has been
    recognised by a number of manufacturers over the past few years. While Volvo is
    acknowledged as a brand serving that segment, it is not alone, with Peugeot,
    Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Jaguar and, naturally, Audi all pitching their finest offerings
    into the ring.
    Audi RS

    Audi RS

    However, with utilitarian needs central to the estate car’s existence, most of those

    carmakers tending to it relied on external suppliers, usually car tuners and their like,
    to produce limited numbers of higher performance variants, among which the 1980s
    AMG (Merc) Hammer and its in-house, current and thunderous E63 successor are
    prime examples. Yet, it was Audi that established a manufacturer-based option that
    would combine super-luxury with ultra-high-performance around 25 years ago, when
    it leant on its close relationship with Porsche to create the first RS2 Avant.
    Audi RS

    Audi RS

    If the prospect of trans-continental, all-season travel, with partner, two children,

    granny and family pet on-board, out-accelerating Porsches and topping-out at close
    to 190mph has even an ounce of appeal, then you may start to comprehend the
    impact that the original RS6 had on me, in 2002, at its Scottish-based launch. A
    group of us flew into Edinburgh Airport, grabbed the keys to an RS6 and drove to the
    stately Balbirnie House Hotel, in Markinch, Fife, our abode for the night. We were
    joined by Audi fan, Jay Kay, lead singist of popular beat combo, Jamiroquai.
    With its widened fenders, purposefully low stance and big alloy wheels, all enrobed
    by an estate car body and driven by a grumbling bi-turbo V8 petrol engine
    possessing a basso profundo exhaust tone, it was a touch of class that was doing
    what no other carmaker had dared to do before. In some ways, it was an intimidating
    and exciting machine but its quattro drivetrain and impeccably good road manners
  • ensured that, despite its ability to smash the 0-60mph increment in less than 5.0s,
    familiarity with its dimensions and immense potency grew rapidly and easily.
    Audi RS

    Audi RS

    Four generations in and RS6 has been redressed. Personally, I feel that it looks

    slightly more ‘overkill’ externally, with (for Audi) a particularly heavy hand applied to
    some of its bumper detailing. Huge vents intended to gulp copious amounts of air at
    the front compete with similar outlets at the rear to exhaust pent-up heat. While not
    the conservative visual feast of the Mark One version, it remains beguiling. However,
    what lies beneath is the epitome of formidable RS engineering, with complex five-link
    suspension front and rear, a road-ripping 595bhp, fuel-sipping mild hybrid
    technology, illuminating LED laser headlighting and a promise of 0-60mph in a
    Tesla-taunting 3.3s (0-124mph in 12.0s). It is a confident statement of performance
    intent, terminating in the signature drainpipe exhausts; still of big oval design, just
    one at either end of the back bumper.
    Audi RS

    Audi RS

    Developing a hefty 590lbs ft of torque, at the heart of the 4.0-litre V8’s potency is a

    48v electrical system, with a 12kW lithium-ion storage battery for harvested energy.
    At speeds between 34 and 99mph, should the driver lift off the accelerator pedal, the
    engine will enter ‘coast’ mode for up to 40s, while also recovering energy. The mild
    hybrid belt-driven starter/generator restarts the engine imperceptibly, as conditions
    dictate. Combined with a ‘start:stop’ facility that works at speeds of up to 13mph, fuel
    savings of around one pint every 60 miles can be attained. Okay. It is not much but,
    when you take the RS6’s vast performance envelope into account, it is a practical
    means to a fuel-saving end. However, the engine also incorporates a ‘cylinder-on-
    demand’ system that, at low to medium loads, can switch off cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8,
    by turning off their injection and ignition systems and closing their inlet and exhaust
    valves; once the throttle is re-applied, the engine bursts into life and returns to
    normal instantly.
    Of course, it would not be an Audi RS, let alone a pinnacle RS6, did it not have some
    bravado in its armoury. An innocuous, flush-fitted switch in the centre console
    carrying an ‘exhaust’ graphic, allows the driver to select one of two ‘noise’ settings;
    one a just-letting-you-know-I’m-here level, with the other a more hell’s-bells blast of
    raucousness, which might be unseemly for a luxury estate car but, then, this is an
    Audi RS6 estate car.
    The new multi-link, air suspension system uses aluminium extensively in its construction, while the comprehensively re-engineered power steering ensures remarkable levels of agility and vital feedback to the driver’s fingers. Audi’s fine-tuning engineers sought to achieve a series of significantly enhanced dynamic improvements to the car, partly to respond to requests for less heft at the helm but, also, to make the RS6 feel wieldier. Using the ‘Drive Select’ program, two specific chassis set-ups can be customised by the driver and an RS switch on the steering wheel activates them. While 21.0-inch diameter alloys are standard, the 22.0-inch option (pictured on the test car) equips the car with 285/30 section tyres in Vorsprung trim for even greater grip levels. Advanced ceramic brakes that save around 34kgs over the normal steel system provide prodigious braking potential.
    The clear black, fully digitised instrument panel is activated at start-up and provides an enormous array of detail information that the driver can dial-up. In fact, with the sort of details that a race engineer might find mildly discombobulating, the readouts can include temperatures of drive components, levels of G-force and individual tyre pressures…when you would have time to look and contemplate any of them, is anybody’s guess. The ventilated and heated Nappa hide seats are luxuriously comfortable but still allow decent space fore and aft, with a load area that can grow from 565 to 1,680-litres, when the rear seats are folded.
    Conclusion:      Audi works to its own Kaizen system of constant product improvement. Just as you think that it cannot make its subsequent model better, it does so. The new Audi RS6 Avant is an ultimate car in innumerable ways. Prices will be announced soon.