by Sebastian Cenizo
At long last, the forbidden fruit that is the Audi RS6 Avant can be purchased on US shores. It's been a decade-long waiting game for Audi's fastest wagon, but it's one that doesn't disappoint. When it comes to fast cars that send power to all four wheels, the people in Ingolstadt really know what they're doing. Audi's latest creation is arguably one of its best yet and is a car that could even eclipse the incredible Audi R8 supercar. Since our market has been overlooked for years, the Mercedes-AMG E63 wagon has had the run of the yard, while less traditional choices like the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo have also taken a slice of the pie. Now that the RS6 is finally offered here, things will be shaken up with a new wagon that is fast, practical, spacious, and luxurious. Is this the ultimate one-car-garage filler? Well, its 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 engine that develops 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque makes a good case for that, but is it a jump ahead of the competition or just a worthy rival?
The Audi RS6 Avant is an all-new model in the U.S., although international markets have had access to its predecessors. Still, it's worth noting that the RS6 features a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that hasn't been seen on an Audi Sport product before.
4.0-liter Twin-Turbo V8 Hybrid
The RS6 is instantly recognizable as a special and extremely sporty model. Flared fender arches are filled by 21-inch wheels as standard, with 22s available. At the front, the trademark Singleframe grille with RS-specific details is topped by a narrow vent between the HD Matrix LED headlights, while a contoured hood, brushed aluminum-look mirror caps, and a panoramic sunroof draw your eyes back. At the rear, the typical dual-exit oval exhaust tips are framed by a new diffuser while a subtle roof spoiler and animated LED taillights complete the aggressive look.
The RS6 is no small vehicle, measuring a grand 196.7 inches in length with a wheelbase of 115.3 inches. Height measures 58.6 inches, while the width is increased by 1.6 inches compared to non-RS models, for a final figure of 76.8 inches with the mirrors folded in. Curb weight is unsurprisingly hefty, with the all-wheel-drive wagon tipping the scales at an immodest 4,960 pounds.
As standard, the 2021 RS6 is available in only one color, and it's the calling card for fast Audis everywhere: Nardo Gray. A number of metallic options are available for those willing to spend $595. The available shades include Florett Silver, Glacier White, Mythos Black, Navarra Blue, and Tango Red. Also available for the same price is Daytona Gray, a pearl finish, but the most expensive option is a crystal finish and costs $1,075 for just one color choice: Sebring Black. If you want to spice up the color of your brakes, you can get the standard setup painted red for 500 bucks.
The RS6 is a standalone model - at least for now. However, we wouldn't be surprised if a more powerful Performance model joins the family. That's not to say that the current model needs more power. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 under the hood produces more than enough grunt, with 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque being distributed between all four wheels via Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system. A supremely quick eight-speed automatic regulates shifts and removes the possibility of human error from the acceleration claims. Speaking of which, the monstrous wagon gets from 0-60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. In a car that weighs as much as some large SUVs, this supercar-rivaling acceleration is almost incomprehensible. Keep your right foot buried to the floor and this family car will do 174 mph without breaking a sweat. That limit is raised even further, to 190 mph, if you spec the ceramic brake upgrade with the Dynamic Package. It's not all about the straight-line stuff either, with standard rear-axle steering, a rear differential, and adaptive air suspension balancing comfort with incredible handling too.
The Audi RS6's power plant is nothing short of a force-fed bomb. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo engine produces a whopping 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque while being aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system that includes brake regeneration. Despite its impressive capacity, the engine has no trouble spooling the "hot-vee" turbochargers up. The throttle response, acceleration in any gear and at any speed, the endless wave of torque, and the feeling that it wants you to push its limits - all of these things combine to make a sports car that just happens to look a little like a family wagon. It doesn't matter what you line up against or who's driving it, the RS6 will either embarrass them or, at the very least, seriously surprise its opponents. That feeling of endless shove is enhanced by the wonderful eight-speed automatic that is a far better effort than some of the older units. It's smooth, sharp, and intuitive. Take manual control and it obeys your every command in the blink of an eye. To put it simply, the entire package is nothing short of magnificent.
We all know the RS6 is stupidly fast, but it's so much more than a one-trick pony. There's no point in having the capability of achieving such high speeds if you'll only ever be able to use any of it on dead straight private roads. Fortunately, the RS channels its rally heritage by being obscenely brilliant in the corners, whipping you around the tightest bends far quicker than you think is possible. Sure, a Porsche 911, which is lighter, will be ahead, but the RS6 won't be far behind. The only slight downside is the feel of the steering system, which still shows hints of being numb, although it's not as bad as some electrically assisted systems. Still, even without the ceramic discs, the RS6 continues to impress by being incredibly sharp and dependable when you jam hard on the brake pedal. Despite this, you can still comfortably bring the car to smooth stops time and time again.
Speaking of smooth, the ride is absolutely impeccable, with a long wheelbase and standard adaptive air suspension cushioning even the largest bumps and undulations. Overall, the RS6 is a brilliant driver, whether that driving is happening on the daily commute or on the quiet canyon pass.
Buying a car like this comes with plenty of exciting advantages, but it also comes with an expensive caveat: gas mileage which isn't exactly stellar. No official figures have been published yet, but the 2021 RS6 is estimated to return 17/25/21 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. With a 19.3-gallon gas tank, it should return around 405 miles with mixed driving. This range is on par with the Mercedes-AMG E63 S, which is around four miles less capable.
The RS6's interior is a stunning mix of space, luxurious materials, and hi-tech screens. As always with the German brand's modern offerings, the build quality is impeccable and everything is perfectly placed. However, those who like using physical knobs and dials may be disappointed by the three screens, one of which is used to adjust the quad-zone climate control system. More tech is available on the options list with a head-up display and a night vision camera, but standard stuff like heated and ventilated 14-way front seats are just as appreciated.
The RS6 seats five, and thanks to that long wheelbase, sitting in the back is not a problem for taller adults, although the person in the middle should probably be a pre-teen to ensure no complaints in the legroom department. Getting in and out is also easy, with the RS6's stance proving comfortable to accommodate. In front, both occupants get 14-way adjustable seats that offer the perfect vantage point for a person of any size, but if you don't like large side bolsters, comfort seats are also an option. The chairs are both comfortable and supportive, and in the driver's seat, the view in every direction is good. Still, you may wish to take it easy until you're comfortable with managing the RS6's overt bodywork in tight spaces.
Valcona leather with honeycomb quilting and contrasting stitching is lavishly applied to the interior of this gorgeous car, with almost no sign of plastic anywhere. Aluminum highlights various design features and the complex dash looks like something out of a spaceship. As standard, black leather with Express Red stitching is complemented by Aluminum Race anthracite inlays, which looks like a silver carbon fiber, although you can have the real deal with Carbon Twill inlays for $500. Should you not like red stitching on the seats, you can opt for Rock Gray or black at no charge, but the more adventurous among us may like Cognac Brown leather with Granite Gray stitching - also a no-cost option.
The RS6 is quite a practical car, with 20 cubes behind the rear seats - enough for your monthly grocery run. Should you need more space, you can drop the 40/20/40 splitting rear seats to open up a space of 59.3 cubic feet. However, it's worth mentioning that the Mercedes-AMG E63 S offers as much as 64 cubic feet.
In the cabin, there are four cupholders, center armrest storage, small door pockets, and a reasonable but still small glovebox. There's also a spot in the center console for your phone.
The RS6 is quite a tech-friendly machine, featuring standard automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and a surround-view camera. You also get those HD Matrix LED headlights with auto high beams and dynamic DRLs, LED tails with animation, and a 12.3-inch configurable driver info display that can show anything from maps to media, to performance parameters and gauges. You also get an 8.6-inch screen for vehicle settings and the quad-zone climate control system. Other standard features include a power tailgate, keyless entry and ignition, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, forward collision preparation, front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated power-adjustable front seats, a panoramic sunroof, multicolor configurable ambient lighting, adaptive air suspension, and rear-axle steering. If that's not enough for you, the options list offers features like adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go and traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, massaging 18-way front seats, heated rear seats, vehicle exit warning, a head-up display, soft-close doors, and a night vision camera.
The infotainment system in this car is the latest MMI variant with a 10.1-inch horizontal touchscreen display managing everything. It features navigation, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, HD Radio, Bluetooth connectivity, four USB ports for both data and charging, wireless smartphone charging, and a 705-watt 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D Premium sound system. If you want to upgrade, there's an even more impressive 19-speaker 3D Advanced surround system, also from B&O, with 1,820 watts output. The system works well and looks brilliant, but as mentioned before, the lack of knobs and buttons - save for those on the steering wheel - may irk some.
Thus far, the 2021 Audi RS6 Avant has been completely free of recalls, but this is a brand-new model, so we may yet see some problems pop up. That said, Audi has a good reputation for well-built cars.
Should anything go awry, the RS6 benefits from four-year/50,000-mile limited and powertrain warranties. In addition, you also get complimentary maintenance for the first year or 10,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Six-figure cars aren't often tested by crash agencies and the RS6 is no different. However, the A6 which is the basis of this beast, has been crashed and achieved a full five-star rating from the NHTSA. From the IIHS, the 2020 A6 got the highest result possible with a Top Safety Pick + award.
As standard, the RS6 is well taken care of with a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, HD Matrix headlights with auto high beams, lane departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, a tire pressure monitor, lane departure warning, Pre Sense forward collision preparation, forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking, and frontal, side-impact, knee airbags, rear side-impact, and curtain rollover airbags, totaling ten. The options list has more to offer with adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, vehicle exit warning, a night vision camera, and a head-up display.
The Audi RS6 is absolutely incredible, but it's not perfect. That thirsty engine is quite an important factor and the fact that the wagon can haul less than some other rivals stands as evidence that it's not exactly the most practical. Still, it has an absolutely stunning cabin with gorgeous quilted leather, a list of standard features longer than your arm, and incredible performance. It deals with corners and straights with the same astonishing fire that you'd expect of a much smaller sports car, yet it has space for five people and their luggage. It also looks unlike anything else on the road, and its abilities are nothing short of insomnia-inducing for supercar owners. Sure, it's expensive, but what car with these sorts of capabilities isn't? The way we see it, this car is a bargain. It's two cars for the price of one - on the one hand, it's luxurious, comfortable, smooth, and civilized, but when you need Mr. Hyde to come out, he's ready and waiting. The ultimate one-car-garage filler? Quite possibly.
As you can expect, this isn't a cheap car. Base pricing for the cheapest variant starts at $109,000 excluding the $995 destination charge. Sure, there's only one trim level, but the options that can be added make this thing so expensive that you could easily buy another decent car with all the options added on. Fully loaded, you're looking at a grand total of well over $140,000.
Just one iteration of the Audi RS6 is currently on offer, but one is all you need. This car comes with a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 591 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque, all of which is managed by an eight-speed automatic transmission that feeds power to all four corners of the car. An all-wheel-steering system improves maneuverability while adaptive air suspension helps keep things taut when you need better responses, and supple when you want a comfortable ride. Features like heated and ventilated 14-way power-adjustable front seats and quad-zone automatic climate control help increase comfort while a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display controls media for the 16-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. Other nice touches are a panoramic sunroof, configurable multicolor ambient lighting, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot. If you're willing to delve into the options, you can consider enhancements like adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, ceramic brakes, heated rear seats, and a night vision camera.
There are two ways to increase the RS6's top speed from 174 mph to 190, but they're very similar. For $9,000, you can fit the car with ceramic brakes that wear red calipers, or you can spend 500 bucks less and have those same calipers painted gray. Another option worth looking at is the Individual Contour Seating package, which costs $1,500 and adds heated and ventilated massaging 18-way power front seats with adjustable headrests and passenger seat memory. The Driver Assistance package is another standout offering that adds $2,250 to the end cost. Along with a higher bill, you also get adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition and lane keep assist. From a visual perspective, the $6,350 Carbon Optic package replaces all the traditionally chrome exterior bits with carbon fiber, gives you black badges, and equips 22-inch alloy wheels and 285/30-profile summer tires.
Frankly, there's no such thing as a badly specced RS6. In bone stock base form, it's a highly impressive car, and there are no paint finishes or interior color choices that stand out as grotesque or unwholesome. Still, there are some things worth adding if you want a complete package. We'd definitely consider the ceramic brake upgrade to unleash the RS6's full potential. We also think that the Driver Assistance package with its adaptive cruise control is worth adding, and the massaging front seats are also hard to ignore. Beyond that, there are plenty of other options that can further enhance it, but we'd be happy with this spec and the fact that it keeps the price below $130,000.
2021's Mercedes-AMG E63 S hasn't arrived yet, but the 2020 model is still worthy of consideration. Also powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, the E63 S produces a monstrous 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque - considerably more than the RS6 boasts. This helps make it a tenth quicker from 0-60 mph with a time of just 3.4 seconds. However, the Merc can only get to 180 mph, while the Audi only stops pushing at 190 mph if you spec the right options. The E63 S pulls a point back with its cavernous 35 cubic-foot trunk, 15 more cubes than the RS6 offers. Nevertheless, the Audi has a far more modern interior and also costs less, with the E63 S asking for at least 111,750 of your dollars. That's a small difference, but it's all the more obvious when the Merc is older. Ultimately, both are excellent choices, but it may be worth waiting for the facelifted 2021 E63 Wagon before making a final decision, because, at present, the RS6 is the better bet.
The Porsche and the Audi are very similar vehicles, sharing a number of components. One of these is the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, although in GTS form it only produces 453 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. So why not compare the Turbo instead? Well, this non-Turbo-badged model is already considerably more expensive than the RS6, with an asking price of $135,500 before you ask for any additional equipment, something that Porsche is famous for overcharging on. So does its longer body and lighter curb weight make a difference? Well, the cargo area only offers 18.3 cubes, which isn't far behind the RS6. However, with the seats down, it falls badly behind, offering in excess of ten cubes less. What about performance? Well, the Audi is almost half a second quicker from 0-60 and can outrun the GTS on top when the Porker hits its 179-mph limiter. The Audi seems like a clear winner in all respects.