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Audi RS6 Avant (2020) review: Flying without wings

When we took delivery of the Audi RS6 Avant in mid March 2020, the UK (plus Europe and the whole world, really), was on the cusp of going into shutdown. So, in a world where you couldn’t spread your wings, what better way to feel like you’re flying – almost literally, given how fast this thing is – than sitting behind the wheel of Audi’s five-door estate car on steroids?

The answer: probably none. The Audi RS6 represents the pinnacle of everything the German marque is and does. This car is fast. It’s stylish. It’s comfortable. It’s laden with tech. It’s also surprisingly ‘normal’ – a word you might not use for a vehicle that features an increasingly rare V8 engine – if you’re looking for a family estate with a bit (ok, a lot) of extra grunt.

All of which sounds stupendous. Because it truly is. If, that is, you can afford one – because the RS6 Avant’s on the road price starts at £94,890 and rather quickly jumps over the six-figure mark – and its ongoing fuel and tax costs. At least you needn’t buy the sportscar and family getabout separately, though, as the RS6 is pretty much those wrapped all into one.

Flying without wings

Headline specs see the RS6 Avant’s twin-turbo V8 push this near-two-tonne hunk of a vehicle from 0-62mph in just 3.6 seconds. To put that in perspective: the base Audi R8 sportscar does that in 3.4 seconds.

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Not that it’s all about staring at the numbers, it’s about feeling – and believe us, pop the RS6 into launch mode and you will feel like a jet about to take-off when this motor gets whipped up.

Lob it into corners and that electronic differential and Quattro four-wheel drive systems will take over, pushing the power proportion to the rear wheels and keeping everything stuck rigid to the road. It’s not front heavy like the outgoing model was renowned for being either. And boy is it fun.

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While the RS6 can feel raw and raucous, it doesn’t have to. The 8-speed tiptronic gearbox doesn’t overdo things – so go easy on the pedals, and you’ve got all the practicality and smoothness of an A6 Avant. Well, minus some of the range potential no doubt – the quota is 22.8mpg, helped along a tid bit by mild-hybrid technology – and the not insignificant fact the exise duty is the highest possible (281g/km CO2 sees to that).

That said, however, the RS6 Avant can automatically deactivate some of those eight cylinders if you’re going steady, pushing the miles per gallon quota closer to 30. Still not amazing, but shows this car does have a split personality. In a good way.

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Visually speaking, too, there’s an air of understatement about the 2020 RS6. It delicately surfs the line between hench muscle-car and family estate, balancing brains and brawn to just the right degree.

When options are fairly scarce in this bracket – and not to any great surprise, given the almost contradictory nature of a ‘family sportscar’ – we’d rather have an RS6 on the drive than a Mercedes-AMG E63 Estate or Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo. The Audi looks more modern by far, altogether more considered; there’s a glimmer of naughtiness in those LED lights that those competitors just lack.

First-class comfort

This balancing act is brought through into the interior design too. The RS6 is a masterclass of elegance and comfort. It’s got all the necessary nods to sporting heritage, such as the stitched finish on the (ultra-comfortable) sports seats, but, again, it’s practical: spacious up front and in the back, with easily ample room to carry around five adults.

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You’ll feel perfectly comfortable pootling along down the motorway, with just enough coddling from those seats when thrashing around a corner. Pay for all the extras and that comes with heated and cooled seats – the latter extra handy when you’ve shot away at such speed that spontaneous sweats kick in.

What’s really standout about any modern Audi is the on-board tech. It’s an abundance of screens, the RS6 has Virtual Cockpit beyond the steering wheel; and dual touch panels to the centre split between dash and column heights, as used for all the mod cons.

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When Audi first pushed out this all-touch system we were dubious about the lack of physical, tactile controls. But, as we’ve come to learn, it’s all about living with the car: you can programme the system to have your favourite apps as shortcuts, for example, while the haptic feedback of the screen is so convincing it’s almost like touching real buttons anyway. Changing heat/cooling with physical overrides would still be handy though.

As ever you can go as overboard as you dare with all this tech. The RS6 Avant certainly isn’t short of an extras list. From the top-end where you’ll find the £8,000 ceramic brakes – look at them, though, those red callipers really set off the grey paint job – through to the still-top-end where you’ll find the Bang & Olufsen sound system (£2,295 as part of the Comfort & Sound Pack).

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While these prices might make your stomach drop (but not quite as much as it will when driving the car), there’s no denying the dues each extra can bring. The B&O soundsystem, for example, is supreme. So if you want to go extra midlife crisis and rewind to the 90s and turn your vehicle into a (legal) rave then go for it – it’ll sound better than your nostalgic thoughts.

There’s also a shed load of safety tech available: adaptive cruise control with auto-braking, lane departure warning, sign recognition, pre-sense safety with front/rear/side avoidance assists. Just because it’s got the muscle doesn’t mean it lacks the brains. 

Verdict

The idea of a family sportscar might sound somewhat conflicting, but the Audi RS6 Avant is a tour de force – a superbly balanced blend of all-out muscle, with enough restraint to act as a spacious and comfortable family get about.

Yes, the RS6 costs a fortune to buy and run – and its green credentials are mighty close to zero – but it’s streets beyond its Mercedes-AMG and Porsche competition, both visually and in raw performance terms.

Want to fly without wings? Here’s a first-class ticket for the whole family.

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