What's the best way to spend six figures on an RS car?
Audi finally has both of its family-friendly performance titans in the US (three if you count the RS Q8, but we're not). The speedy Audi RS 6 Avant and RS7 Sportback both come packed with a ferocious 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 pumping out 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft. Both come with all-wheel drive. But they very different approaches to style and substance.
The RS6 Avant is the more aggressive-looking vehicle that descends from a long line of European sport wagons. We've only been able to look at them with envy until recently when Audi graced us with the latest hot Avant in the US. The RS7 is a four-door coupe combining Sportback practicality with stunning and finely honed looks.
Audi customers are now presented with two wickedly fast yet practical cars, and they're begging for a complete comparison. So here it is. We've driven both, and we have a favorite.
These cars may look completely different on the outside, but they share a common heart. Audi's 591-hp, 590-lb-ft, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. That system smooths out the stop/start and nearly eliminates turbo lag. Audi says the RS6 and RS7 take only 3.5 seconds to hit 60 mph with launch control engaged, though the reality seems quicker than the numbers suggest. Audi's launch control throws the rear end into a massive squat and shoots the front end into the sky. It's unlike any system we've ever tested.
Both models lean more towards the luxury end of the performance spectrum, offering superior comfort to options like the BMW M5/M8 Gran Coupe and Mercedes-AMG E63. This relaxed demeanor comes at the expense of sharpness, as the Audi twins feel slightly less engaging to drive than their rivals.
Trust us though; neither one will leave drivers yearning for more speed. Both cars achieve a 155 mph top speed, or 190 mph with the optional carbon-ceramic brakes. Those brakes are 10-piston units up front with massive 17.3-inch rotors, stopping the car more readily than almost any car we've ever tested.
Power might be identical, but both cars have a completely different aesthetic. The RS6 has clearly been to the gym and has the stance to prove it. It's low, wide and the fenders with their flared arches stand out as a homage to the iconic rally-dominating Audi Quattro. Complimented by massive 22-inch wheels and the steeply raked rear, the RS6 looks like nature planted it on the road.
On the flip side, the RS7 is a smoother-looking vehicle, and because it's on the A7 platform, it's already a wide car and doesn't need those exaggerated wheel arches. That gives the RS7 the chance to be a more svelte-looking machine better suited to an executive parking space alongside the other German sedans.
As with what's under the hood, there's not much difference between the RS6 and RS7 inside, at least in the front row. Audi's latest cabin design is modern and simplistic, offering easy-to-use technology that's less complicated than what BMW and Mercedes offer in their vehicles. A 10.1-inch touchscreen offers wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, while a secondary 8.6-inch screen adjusts the climate controls. The 12.3-inch Audi Virtual Cockpit display is our favorite feature, with the ability to show a full-color map and change the gauge design.
Our RS6 and RS7 test vehicles came equipped with a stunning black leather interior with contrasting red stitching. For $500 extra, the Carbon Twill structure inlays looked incredibly cool with an unfinished carbon weave. These cars differ slightly in their interior dimensions. The RS6 offers marginally more rear legroom and significantly more headroom. If either of these measurements is crucial to your purchasing decision, get the wagon.
With its Sportback design, the Audi RS7 is among the most practical four-door cars on the market today. The rear hatch opens to accommodate 24.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats. To put this into perspective, the BMW M8 Gran Coupe offers 11 cubic feet in its conventional trunk, and the more practical M5 still only offers 14 cubic feet. Even the AMG GT 4-Door with its hatchback design fails to match the RS7 with 12.4 cubic feet, and the Porsche Panamera similarly falls short with 17.6 cubic feet. Should you require even more space, the RS7 offers 49.1 cubic feet of volume with the seats folded, enough to fit a mountain bike.
The RS7 offers more space than most luxury buyers will need, but the RS6 Avant is more impressive. Its spacious cargo area holds 30 cubic feet, or 59 cubes with the seats folded. The RS6 is the more practical of the two, but it's outmatched by its key rival, the Mercedes E63 S Wagon, which offers 35 cubes behind the second row and 64 total with the seats down. Porsche's Panamera Sport Turismo wagon is smaller than both Audis, with only 18.3 cubic feet (49 cubic feet total).
Unfortunately, you're going to spend more than a hundred grand on either of Audi's family-based performance monsters. The RS6 comes just below the RS7's starting price of $114,000 at $109,000. In the six-figure price range, the $5,000 difference in starting price is negligible. If you're going to go fully loaded, the difference does become more exaggerated. You can pay up to $152,745 for the RS7 versus $140,000 for the RS6. In both cases, unlocking the full 190 mph top speed requires upgrading to carbon-ceramic brakes in gray for $8,500 or red for $9,000. The one thing we would urge anyone to spend extra money on is the $1,000 sport exhaust to unlock the V8's sound properly.
We've already talked about the styling differences between these two cars, but there's more to it than how they are shaped. Are you a wagon person, or are you among the majority who believe wagons are ugly family vehicles? It's difficult to explain this to non-car people, but car enthusiasts love the idea of a station wagon. There's a cool factor in having a low-slung car that will hold its own with many supercars while having space for kids, a dog, and a weekend's worth of luggage in the back.
There's also the joy in having the one car that can satiate family needs but also thrill on a back road or a track day. That doesn't mean the RS7 isn't a cool car for enthusiasts as it ticks plenty of family-friendly and commuter car boxes. It will also hold its own with supercars costing twice the price. You just won't get the same attention at a Cars And Coffee event, the same amount of luggage in the back, and if you have a dog, you'll have to be cool with it treading all over the back seats.
Behold, our groundbreaking take; the Audi RS6 Avant and Audi RS7 Sportback are both stupendous cars. You won't make a mistake buying either vehicle. Now that the obvious is out of the way, let's dive a bit deeper. Deciding between these cars based on their performance or interior design is the same as flipping a coin since they are essentially identical in both regards. Styling is entirely subjective, but we think diehard car enthusiasts will prefer the Avant's menacing design while more mainstream buyers will gravitate to the Sportback's curvy body. That leaves price and practicality, where the RS6 pulls ahead in both categories.
Judging on the criteria laid out here, the RS6 Avant is the clear winner. It's our personal favorite too. Decades of watching Europeans enjoy the RS6 Avant are finally over, and we hope US buyers will take this opportunity to buy this car now that it's available here. Some buyers will never comprehend why car enthusiasts consider fast wagons to be cool. For those buyers, the RS7 Sportback is a stellar option. Oh, and the RS Q8 exists if you want a similar experience but higher off the ground.