A trio of Audi RS6s: a vision to strike fear into the otherwise happy, dappy hearts of Labradors everywhere. Now, as progress reports go, this isn’t the most, well, progressive.
Audi first struck upon the fast estate formula in 1994 with the 315bhp, Porsche-engineered RS2, but it wasn’t exactly an instant hit: only 182 made it to the UK. An RS4 followed six years later, and with the fast, all-weather estate concept finally established, Audi introduced the bigger RS6 in 2002.
Since then there have been precisely no great leaps forward. The first RS6, the C5, featured a twin-turbo 4.2-litre V8 driving all four wheels and was available as a Plus model with an extra 30bhp. The latest, the C7, is a twin turbo 4.0-litre… and you can guess the rest although the Plus model now adds 45bhp.
But this isn’t Audi stubbornly resisting advancement, it’s the firm nailing the formula first time out. OK, so since day one the RS6 has been criticised for not being as interactive as a BMW M5. Or to put it another way: it doesn’t oversteer. But people don’t drive like that in the real world.
It’s a more safety-conscious motor, one that’s as concerned with looking after your family on a dark, wet motorway as it is charging across a moor with only you on board. It’s the all-weather everything car: stability, speed, space, stealth and so on.
And as power outputs have climbed (the latest develops over 100bhp more than the first, even though they’re separated by only a decade), rivals are homing in on Audi’s position rather than vice versa. The latest Mercedes-AMG E63 is 4WD, rumour has it the next M5 will be as well. They need to be because a two-tonne wagon putting 600bhp through the rear wheels alone is just too much. Audi figured this out years ago.
That said, the first RS6 was a bit of a blunt instrument. It steers sweetly enough, the hydraulically assisted wheel light and accurate in your hands, but driving first and last back-to-back you quickly realise just how far gearchanging and turbo response has come on. The C5’s five-speed auto gives the whole car a lazy feel.
The C6 was the engine car. The one Audi built because it didn’t think it’d be able to get away with it again. The 5.0-litre twin-turbo V10 develops 572bhp, which unusually means it’s more powerful than the car that replaced it. Imagine Apple launching a new i8hone with less processing power than its predecessor…
The V10 in the 2008 RS6 is a special motor, not only revving harder than the V8 in the 2012 C7, but also sounding sharper. However, the sense you get driving it is that the chassis is so busy keeping the rampant power in check that it can’t spare the time to communicate with the driver.
The current car has restored some balance. With a faster gearbox, uprated 4WD and less weight, it more than makes up for the 20bhp deficit. We’ve measured it at 3.4 seconds to 60mph – over half a second quicker than the V10. And the chassis has the ability to distribute that power more evenly and progressively.
It’s a heavy car, the mass takes some managing (and the steering is unhelpfully gluey), but you wouldn’t believe the way it goes down a road, or the feeling of security it imparts. Families love ’em. That hasn’t changed since the RS6 first appeared, and it won’t anytime soon, either.
AUDI RS6 2002 (C5 GENERATION)
Engine: 4172cc, V8 twin-turbo, 444bhp @ 5700rpm
4131b ft @1950-560Orpm
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.6secs, 155mph
Transmission: 5spd auto, 4WD
Economy: 19.3mpg, 350g/km CO2
L x W: 4851mm x 1849mm
AUDI RS6 2008 (C6 GENERATION)
Engine: 4991cc, V10 twin-turbo, 572bhp @ 6250rpm
4791b ft @1500-625Orpm
Performance: 0-62mph in 4.6secs, 155mph
Transmission: 6spd auto, 4WD
Economy: 20.2mpg, 333g/km CO2
L x W: 4928mm x 1889
AUDI RS6 2012 (C7 GENERATION)
Engine: 3993cc, V8 twin- turbo. 552bhp @ 5700rpm
5161b ft @ 1750-5500rpm
Performance: 0-62mph in 3.9secs, 155mph
Transmission: 8spd auto, 4WD
Economy: 28.8mpg, 229g/km C02
L x W: 4979mm x 1936mm
FANCY ONE IN YOUR GARAGE?
2006 RS6 AVANT £24.995
You don’t often see them this good. Strong money, but fewer than 30k miles and a big history file takes the sting out.
2009 RS6 AVANT £28.995
Full Audi service history, many options and 52k miles for this V1O Avant. Seems well-cared for.