IMAGINE opening a garage door and finding inside a line-up including the Bentley GT Speed, Ferrari 599, Pagani Zonda F, Lamborghini Mucielago, and that F1-inspired quart-million pound device the Mercedes SLR. You would know this was supercar land – but would you then park among those desirables an Audi estate?
Well you would if you were driving Audi’s new RS6. You see all of the cars we’ve mentioned above belong to a rather exclusive club – they all pump out power in excess of 570bhp – and so, remarkably, does the Audi.
What makes this car all the more remarkable is that the fact it combines stunning acceleration and speed with the ability to lug serious loads about. And this in a machine that when crawling around town behaves far, far better than anything this powerful has the right to.
For a car dubbed the most powerful production estate on the market, the RS6 is frankly un-prepossessing to look at – sure it appears purposeful, with its big arches flaring into the doors, the more dramatic bumpers supplying vital extra cooling air to the bigger brakes, the subtle matt aluminium styling touches and the equally innocuous rear spoiler. All of this car’s real secrets, however, lie under the bonnet.
Contained within is a 5-litre V10 petrol engine, using the TFSI technology that Audi developed in its 24-hour-race-winning Le Mans sports cars. The direct injection system makes the RS6 an efficient beast – okay, it will never come near to appearing on the shopping list of the eco-warrior, but with a 20mpg fuel rate and 333g/km emissions level it qualifies as the most economical and cleanest car in its class.
And yet as well as those 570 horses, you get almost 650Nm of torque, which will see the RS6 through 60mph in around 4.5 seconds and onto the electronic limit of 155mph that virtually all supercars are anchored at – except that Audi instead allows you to have it limited to 175mph, if you wish…
This car will outpace a BMW M5 or Mercedes SL63 AMG estate, and while they vainly chase the Audi they will burn more fuel and produce more CO2. Driving the RS6 is a somewhat surreal experience. There is no doubting its power – exercise your right foot and licence-losing territory comes up in an instant, though the delivery of all those horses is so refined that it oozes confidence, and you really do need to watch the speedo to alert yourself that you may be straying into illegal territory.
Yet come into a village, relax that right pedal, let the ratios drop through the silky smooth, yet so swift, auto gearbox and the car will purr along at 20mph without a murmur of complaint.
It handles too, greatly helped by that Audi essential quattro four-wheel drive.
There are some superbly twisty roads around Audi’s favoured continental test location, where the RS6 was launched, and tackling them in the mighty estate was a blast, using the gearbox in its manual mode and performing instant changes through the steering wheel paddles, each accompanied by an intoxicating grunt from the powerplant.
The RS6 is a real, proper, top performance car, which makes the fact that it’s also a five-door estate all the more remarkable. It really can be a family runabout, if you are the kind of affluent family that can pay to put fuel in it, and Audi admits that buyers for the car will be of a very particular type – probably loaded enough to add it to that fleet of desirable cars we listed at the start!