It's still the ultimate wagon.
If there is a stronger case for keeping the wagon alive than the Audi RS6 Avant, we don't know what it is. With a twin-turbocharged V8 lump making almost 600 horsepower, awesome styling, and a genuinely practical cabin, it's one of our favorite Audis. Some day not far from now, an electric RS6 Avant will arrive, but this performance wagon will always be known best for having a big gas engine under the hood with a minimum of eight cylinders.
Audi is now celebrating 20 years and four generations of the RS6, including earlier sedan variants. Dating back to the C5 generation of the A6, every RS6 has mixed raw power with Audi's stealthy styling brilliantly, providing a formidable alternative to the BMW M5 through the years.
The RS6 story started when quattro GmbH asked Audi staff members which model they felt deserved a sporty range-topper following the RS4. It was a discussion that took place not long after the start of the new millennium, and it was the C5 Audi A6 that was selected as the perfect candidate.
The C5 was already a handsome sedan, but in RS6 guise, it was even better. Sold in the USA for the 2003 model year and limited to just 860 units, it featured upgrades like wider sills, new skirts, wheel sizes measuring up to 19 inches, and those now-familiar oval tailpipes. Back in 2002, twin-turbocharged V8s weren't as prolific as they are today. With a displacement of 4.2 liters, Audi actually had to extend the front end to make space for the V8 in the A6's body.
Following a development process in tandem with Cosworth, the V8 in that first RS6 produced 444 hp and 413 lb-ft of torque. It was the most powerful Audi at the time and was capable of 0-62 mph in only 4.7 seconds, although understeer was still too prevalent in this earlier iteration of the quattro all-wheel-drive system. This generation of the RS6 sedan was sold in the US, but America missed out on the C6 and C7 that followed.
The C6 arrived six years after the first RS6. It came with a 5.0-liter V10 making a phenomenal 572 hp and 479 lb-ft, a dramatic rise over the previous RS6. Stephan Reil, who has been in charge of the development of RS6 Audis, said, "I don't know of any engine compartment that is filled better than the one in the RS6 C6." The V10 weighed 613 pounds. This RS6 could reach 188 mph and took 4.5 seconds to hit 62 mph.
Like the E60 BMW M5, the RS6 C6 was the last one to have a V10 engine. For the C7, Audi retuned to a twin-turbo V8, this time a 4.0-liter unit. The sedan was canceled but the Avant still never made it to the US. However, Americans did benefit from the RS7 Sportback for the first time which used the same engine. Despite a 20-hp deficit over its predecessor, the C7 RS6 was faster, dipping below four seconds for the 0-62 mph sprint. A new eight-speed tiptronic automatic and standard air suspension were among the other improvements. Despite the V10 having been replaced, the C7 was a better car than its predecessor in almost every measurable aspect.
The current C8 RS6 Avant finally arrived in 2019. For the first time, Audi's revered performance wagon was also sold in the US. Sharing only its front doors, tailgate, and roof with the normal Avant, it ushered in a much bolder design than previous RS6s. The 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 is supported by a 48-volt hybrid system and is powerful enough to get the RS6 to 62 mph in just 3.6 seconds, but independent tests have proven that it's even quicker than this. The R8 might still be Audi's halo car, but there's something so cool about a wagon that can embarrass some supercars off the line.
All-wheel steering and available 22-inch wheels were other firsts for the greatest RS6 Avant yet, the former making the large wagon more agile than previous versions of the RS6.
BMW no longer makes an M5 Touring and, currently, the only wagon of a similar size that Mercedes-Benz sells in the US is the much less powerful E450 All-Terrain. Quite simply, the RS6 - and especially the Avant - has been one of the jewels in Audi's crown for two decades and shows no sign of letting up.