£79,505 - £86,420 Price range
If you’re looking for an obscenely fast large estate car you really only have two options, the soon-to-be-succeeded Mercedes E63 AMG estate or this – the Audi RS6 Avant.
With a twin-turbocharged V8 the RS6 has the power to live with most supercars and, if the standard model’s still a little ‘tepid’ for your liking, you can always go for the RS6 Avant Performance. It drops the basic car’s 0-62mph time from a rapid 3.9 seconds to a that-bit-sparkier 3.7 seconds.
While speed is there in spades, handling finesse is not – the RS6 has bus-like dimensions and Audi’s clever engineers haven’t been able to mask that. Ponderous steering does little to reassure you of the car’s abilities, but at least the quattro four-wheel drive system makes it surprisingly well behaved to drive.
It’s also a brilliant family car – albeit one that’s expensive to run. There’s loads of space for four passengers and a boot that can swallow their luggage for a week. It can even tow a 2,100kg trailer.
As a top-of-the-range Audi, the RS6 isn’t short of standard equipment – the list includes matrix LED headlights (which let you use full beam even in the presence of other road users), a Bose stereo, sat-nav, huge 20-inch alloy wheels and an aggressive body kit.
The standard A6 is already a paragon of build quality and ease of use, and the RS6’s interior adds numerous sporty touches that make it feel that bit more special. From the body hugging front sports seats finished in Valcona leather to the vast swathes of carbon fibre that can be found scattered round the interior it feels (and is) more expensively appointed than the regular car.
Spend even more on the Performance model and the carbon fibre trim gets blue inlays and the seats are a mix of regular leather and sporty Alcantara.
Standard fit is an eight-inch sat nav screen with crisp graphics and a touchpad, so you can write post codes in using your finger as a pencil, or do the same with the more conventional scroll dial. Both are easier to operate on the move than the touchscreens fitted to other cars.
If you want to travel at tremendous speed, cross country, with the family and its dog in tow, few cars can match the RS6. There’s space for four tall adults to sit for long journeys in complete comfort and back seat passengers get their own heater controls. Meanwhile the pooch can stretch out in the 565-litre boot, which is big but not quite as big as the Mercedes E63’s.
While the straight-line performance of the RS6 can’t fail to bring a smile to your face, the same is not true when you happen on some bends, where the big Audi is remarkably low on smiles.
That’s mostly down to the steering, which feels slow to react and weighs up inconsistently, so that you’re never quite sure what to expect on turn in. Nor is it the most accurate and the RS6 always feels like a big car that doesn’t want to be hurried.
The four-wheel drive system also takes a little bit of fun out of proceedings but, with a minimum of 552hp to play with, most people will be grateful for the extra traction and the surprising ease with which the RS6 puts its power down.
All models come as standard with Audi’s air suspension, which can be setup to cancel out body lean or to be as comfortable as possible on a long cruise. It also has the advantage of being able to keep the Audi level even when it’s carrying a heavy load.
Also standard is Audi’s eight-speed automatic gearbox, which shuffles through its cogs almost imperceptibly, while not offering the lightening changes of a well-sorted twin-clutch unit.
Uprated brakes are a welcome inclusion on any fast car and the ones fitted to the RS6 think nothing of brushing off high speeds time and time again. Even more stopping power can be had by specifying the optional ceramic brakes – they shouldn’t need replaced as often as the regular items (if at all) – a good thing given their £9,375 price tag.
It doesn’t matter if you go for the RS6 or the RS6 Performance, either way you’ll end up with an estate car that is blindingly quick.
In ‘standard’ tune its 4.0-litre V8 engine produces 552hp and 516Ib ft of torque – enough to rocket the car from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. The Performance model boasts power of 597hp, torque of 553Ib ft and a 0-62mph time of just 3.7 seconds.
Both models have cylinder-on-demand technology, which can rest half the engine when it’s not needed, nevertheless you can expect fuel economy of no better than 29.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 223g/km for an annual road tax bill of £295.
Fling the contents of your wallet at Audi – to the tune of £2,600 – and you’ll get the Dynamic Package, which loosens the speed limiter to 174mph and buys you adaptive dampers that make the suspension even more adjustable. King of the options list, however, is the £11,500 Dynamic Package Plus that – thanks to a limiter set to 189mph – turns your RS6 into the fastest estate currently on sale and, rather reassuringly, adds a set of fade-resistant carbon-ceramic brakes.
Giving the RS6 meaner looks than the standard RS6 is a styling pack that includes flared wheel arches, a ground-hugging front bumper, body skirts and a roof-mounted spoiler.
Standard equipment includes sat-nav, matrix LED headlights with washers, a 14-speaker Bose stereo, and cruise control. Even the practical stuff is taken care of with a boot that opens and closes electrically and matt chrome roof rails.
Audi RS6 Performance
Performance models get bigger alloy wheels – 21-inch rather than the standard car’s 20-inch items – and a titanium grey trim finish for most of the exterior details, while a steering-wheel mounted Drive Select button means you can tune the car’s systems without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
Like any Audi (top-of-the-range or otherwise) the RS6 comes with an expansive options list. Useful kit to go for includes self park (£810), adaptive cruise control with lane assist (£2,100) and a head-up display (£1,240). You can even adds a sports exhaust (£1,000), which makes the RS6 sound as good as it goes.
Arguing that the RS6 is a sensible purchase is near impossible – it costs a huge amount to buy and run, and you’ll need access to a test track if you ever hope to test its performance to the full. In the real world – where you adhere to speed limits – Audi’s own bi-turbo diesel A6 will be nearly as quick, without the crippling costs. But for some the RS6’s status as the fastest estate currently on sale will be all that matters and in this regard it has yet to be matched – and probably won’t be for quite some time to come.