Malibu, CA. I review many new cars and SUVs every year and there is a constant throughout. This constant can ruin a Porsche Cayenne and make a Nissan Altima shine. The constant is expectations. After driving over 2,000 vehicles in my career, these expectations always serve as a guide. Like you, I had high hopes for the Audi RS 6.
I drove the previous generation RS 6 Avant back in 2013 and it cemented what were then semi-reasonable hopes for the car – it had to be and was great. In the six years since, I’ve driven the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S and a few other larger high-performance sedans such as the Porsche Panamera, the Mercedes-AMG CLS 63, Audi RS 7 and the now gone but never forgotten BMW M6 Gran Coupé. These cars were or are all remarkable, without exception. The all-new Audi RS 6 Avant had to, at the very least, be as exceptional.
A dragon among wagons
I first laid eyes on the car last July and immediately collapsed into a puddle of myself. If you’ve not done so already, take a few moments to examine the picture gallery and soak in the physical specifics that create this car’s visual impact. So dominating is the RS 6’s presence that it makes the new Mercedes-AMG E 63 S wagon I crossed look timid and cowardly – and this is not a car that is easily pushed around.
I’ve described in some detail on a few occasions how the Audi RS 6 seems to suck the 21- or 22-inch wheels up into its fenders and how these fenders are 40mm wider on each side over the regular A6 Avant. The most impressive effect the combined flared fenders and large wheels have is shrinking the car’s height and wheelbase. What they also do is create a lateral continuation of the top-most portion of the gargantuan grille and RS 7 LED Matrix laser headlights. Wheels never sit this high, or front fascia this low. From certain angles, the RS 6 Avant looks like anime.
The 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant is arguably the greatest expression of Audi Sport’s philosophy which is “performance, prestige and exclusiveness with full everyday practicality.” Within its confines, the RS 6 Avant is exactly an A6 Avant with all the space for five occupants, a large boot for a stroller, hockey equipment or camping gear. The car is loaded to the hilt with Audi’s dual screen setup and all the associated bells and whistles.
There are some touches that remind you that this is not regular A6 as the seats, steering wheel and a few other elements either hold an “RS” logo or unique touches. Said steering wheel holds a simple “RS Mode” button which unleashes you preferred level of RS madness not once, but twice. On top of the four prescribed Drive Modes, the RS 6 allows you to program an RS1 and an RS2 mode for your pure enjoyment.
I was admittedly silly-giddy at the thought of finally driving 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant and sampling the 4.0-litre TFSI twin-turbocharged V8 and its 592-horsepower and 590 lb.-ft. of torque. The lovely burble upon start-up is a superb indicator if things to come, if anything else.
The cars we were given for review were identical save for one item, the chassis. The Red cars in the images were setup with Audi’s optional RS sport suspension with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), steel springs and adjustable dampers. The grey cars featured the standard RS adaptive air suspension drops the car 20mm compared to the conventional A6 Avant and, at speed, will lower the car a further 10mm.
Otherwise, all included the Dynamic package plus with the higher 305 km/h top speed, dynamic all-wheel steering and quattro sport differential as well as the carbon ceramic brakes. Here’s a good time bring up my projected pricing structure: Base price: $130,000 CDN. Dynamic package plus: $7,000. Carbon ceramic brakes: $10,000. RS sport suspension: $2,000. So yes, a top-loaded 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant will set you back $150,000
Standard air suspension is the way to go
The practical difference between the two suspension options is that the RS adaptive setup delivers a plusher, smoother and more refined ride quality. Through the numerous (and crowded) canyon roads above Malibu, the adaptive dampers were brilliant and compliant. The RS sport suspension is a far more track-dedicated arrangement that will be considered harsh through Montreal or Toronto roads.
No matter how hard I was on the throttle, brakes or how much steering angle I’d dialed in, the big wagon obeyed predictably. As most of the switchbacks were sown together at low to medium speeds, the RS 6’s all-wheel steering was most influential in the car’s uber-responsiveness. Once more, the adaptive dampers, even when left in “auto”, masterfully reacted to mass transfers. At one point however, my driving partner and I needed to pull over and collect ourselves, if you know what I mean. The RS 6 would have continued on for ever.
So finally, how fast is the new 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant? It’s stupid-fast. But the speed comes with little drama, which is good and unfortunate. I think I recall the C7 RS 6 reviewed years ago was punchier, and shockingly fast. The new C8 is more powerful so I expected a size-13 work-boot kick in the back of the head, which never came. The quattro system and 8-speed are so in tune with each other and the 590 pounds of torque between 2,050 and 4,500 rpm that once inertia is broken, the rush is sustained and endless.
This sensation is not unusual in modern big-power vehicles, and it does suit the Audi Sport mantra quite well. The RS 6 Avant will reach 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds and 200 km/h in about 12 seconds. Not that I attempted the latter but a brief merge onto a highway demonstrated that sprinting from 80 km/h to 1X0 km/h takes but a brave and foolish nanosecond.
Is it the One?
A nanosecond I would repeat endlessly because, let’s not kid ourselves, the 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant is the dream. Despite Audi Sport focusing heavily on the RS Q8, it’s the RS 6 that true enthusiasts, diehard Audi Sport fans want. It is the be-all, end-all in the automotive world. It is the perfect amalgamation of styling, power, performance with an overdose of cool-not-cool station wagon-ess.
I was told that the Audi A5 and R8 both generated a landslide of hype when they were announced, more so than the RS 6, and I was around back then. Although this is surely true, the 2021 Audi RS 6 Avant is not your typical poster car, like the R8. And yet, the love it’s receiving on an all social media of late seems equal to that of the new C8 Chevy Corvette and the new Toyota Supra.
Remember, we are talking about a station wagon. Are we finding out that North America is ready to embrace the wagon again? Is this what’s really happening.