When it comes to defining a family car, many would think of traits such as boot space, legroom, storage, or comfort. Few though would have speed, power, and engine noise near the top of their list, but that doesn’t mean these aspects should be forgotten. Why should having a practical family car means you have to disregard the traditionally more exciting avenues of car ownership? Well, Audi has a long-standing solution to this problem in the form of the RS6, and they kindly gave us the keys to their latest 2020 edition…
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s go over a few headline facts and figures. Firstly; Power, with this generation of RS6 receiving a tweaked and revised edition of the V8 twin-turbo seen before, now pumping out a whopping 592hp. That power is funnelled to all 4 wheels by an 8-speed gearbox, the result of which is the eye-watering 3.6 seconds 0-60 time and a top speed of 190mph. Yup, that’s 190mph from a ‘family’ car…
Then there’s boot space, which comes in at a very luggage-friendly 565 litres, so they’ve got the family and pets covered too. Similarly, the options list caters for all, with a wealth of tech on offer from 4-zone climate control, heated rear seats, Bang and Olufsen audio, and even a portable espresso maker. Suffice to say, on paper the RS6 covers pretty much all the bases, and considering how the previous generation RS6 blew me away 2 years ago, this should be a slam-dunk review… Or will it be?
You see, the world has moved on from 2 years ago. Environmental factors have become ever more prevalent, and the SUV market has continued to grow. Does the fast-estate recipe still work, or has Audi been left behind? Headline figures only tell so much, so let’s dig in.
More Than Just a Face Lift
The latest generation of RS6 (generation code ‘C8’) is fairly easy to tell apart from the previous, largely thanks to the overhaul of the external appearance. Aggression has been cranked up a notch or two, with more noticeable arch flair, angrier lines, and sharp creases sweeping across panels. The arches need enlarging too, as the model on test came fitted with quite frankly ludicrously big 22” wheels, and yet they somehow didn’t look outlandish (standard size is a ‘meagre’ 21”…).
The Vorsprung trim option also includes various trim swaps to black, covering areas such as the badges, roof inserts, window surrounds, and side sills to name a few. These certainly add to the stealthy look and compliment the stunning Navarra blue paint.
All of this means that, as far as estate cars go, few carry as much presence as the RS6.
As the heading suggests though, it’s not just the external features that the Audi engineers have been busy refining. Oh no, because by far the most dramatic overhaul can be found inside the cabin, where a heavy sprinkling of the future has been applied throughout. It’s clear to see a lot of techs have originated from Audi’s premium A8 line, but whereas other vehicles in the fleet receive watered-down versions, the RS6 seems to have received a full-fat offering. The result of this is a whopping 3 displays with which you can view vehicle data, along with a superb heads-up display projected onto the windscreen, giving you a variety of information from local speed limits to engine boost pressure.
The fit and finish of the entire cabin is quite phenomenal and raises the already high bar which Audi set.
The tactility, fit, function, and lighting of the RS6’s cabin impressed every time I was in it, a truly fantastic feat of engineering and design.
On the Road
So whilst the styling and interior have been radically overhauled, the drivetrain follows a similar recipe to the previous model, albeit with a few tweaks here and there. As mentioned earlier, the engine power output has been increased, but it still delivers power to the road through the same 8-speed gearbox and Quattro all-wheel-drive system. However, there has clearly been a number of tweaks as well as the addition of rear-wheel steering.
The rear-wheel steering is an interesting one; a feature that felt a little numbing on a standard A6 but which really brings the RS6 alive. The car feels more nimble, connected and the steering feels overall feels a step ahead of the previous generation. Whether the system received a bit of RS-specific tweaking or not I do not know, but the result is that this 2+ tonne family wagon handles and drives far better than it has any right to.
The drive select system for changing the vehicle’s characteristics also seems more powerful than ever, making this RS6 a car of two very distinct personalities. With the suspension, steering and drivetrain softened right off, the inner A6 takes centre stage; it rides bumps well, purrs along near-silently, and can return a respectable ~30mpg on a long run. The economy figures are phenomenal for such a powerful vehicle, no doubt partly thanks to the new mild-hybrid system, 4-cylinder operating mode, and evolution of the engine-off coasting modes. There’s a definite sense of technology beavering away in the background to constantly savour every drop of fuel, and it’s fair to say they work rather well!
Switching to dynamic though, and everything instantly sharpens up, the deep roar of the V8 engine becomes far more vocal and the insane levels of performance become effortlessly accessible. Acceleration is gut-wrenching to an almost hilarious level, the chassis firm (highlighting how poor UK roads are) and the enormous brakes provide a heap of stopping power. Stopping power is sorely needed too, as the RS6 gathers pace at a scarcely believable rate of knots. It’s hard to put into words how much this car warps your perception of speed, with vast quantities of it so effortlessly available it becomes a real job to ensure road-speed legality is upheld.
The result of all of this is that the RS6 covers ground at a pace no family estate has the right to. On top of that, you’re sat in a supremely comfortable cabin and the driving experience is utterly enjoyable.
How one car can manage all of this I just don’t know, but the RS6 just does. Bravo Audi.
So the Audi RS6, how does it stack up in the year 2020?
Well, thanks to a number of key refinements, largely on the technological side, it stacks up better than ever. The infotainment system and interior quality are next levels, whilst the inclusion of the mild-hybrid and cylinder shut down ensure fuel economy is kept in check.
So the recipes still the same, but Audi have tweaked it to include all the ingredients required of a car in 2020. I loved the previous generation car and yet they’ve still managed to find a way to improve almost every aspect of it. This is truly staggering and makes it hard to find any real fault with the RS6. The only quibble I found? The price.
All that performance does not come cheap, with the RS6 as tested coming in at an eye-watering £112,840 on the road.
Thank you to Audi UK for arranging our Covid-friendly RS6 loan.