Audi’s latest RS model, the RS 6 Avant (estate), which arrives I August, is mainly about figures. All 200 units destined for the UK this year have been sold even with the price tag of £76,985 but most carry a vast list of options so the real price will be closer to £100k.
The new Audi RS 6 Avant competes for premium high performance sales against the BMW 550i M Sport Touring and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Estate, an exclusive sector which sells just less than a 1,000 units a year in the UK. Although only available as an Avant estate the new RS 6 will also compete against the BMW M5 Saloon and the Jaguar XFR-S Saloon say Audi.
Top speed is governed at 155mph but can be derestricted by an Audi dealership and increased to 189mph. Whatever the top speed the zero to 62mph acceleration time stays at 3.9 seconds, 15% faster than the outgoing model. That makes it faster for acceleration than most supercars.
It might be a sports car in disguise but this new third generation RS 6 Avant quattro estate can carrying five people in luxury if not total ride comfort and if needed there is up to 1,680-litres of load space.
I’m not finished with figures yet. There is a standard eight-speed tiptronic automatic gearbox, quattro four wheel drive and this latest RS 6 Avant has a 4.0-litre V8 560PS twin turbo petrol TFSI engine which replaces its predecessors 5.0-litre, V10 580PS twin turbo TFSI petrol unit. Although pure PS power output is 3% less from the new V8 engine it matters not because the all important torque is 8% higher at 700Nm from 1,750rpm rather than 650Nm.
Fuel economy is 42% better at 28.8mpg rather than the V10’s 20.2mpg, CO2 emissions are 31% lower at 229g/km rather than 333g/km and the latest model is 4% lighter in weight thanks to user the smaller engine and the 20% use of aluminium in its construction..
To nicely finish these impressive vehicle figures off, the new RS 6 Avant is 1.66% less expensive than its predecessor even though it is more advanced, better looking in a muscular sort of way and really looks like a top of the range premium hot-shot model on the inside.
Finally on the subject of sales figures, with over 42 models now in their range, Audi’s premium brand growth in the UK has been impressive with record sales again last year of 123,622 units, an 8.6% increase over the previous record year of 2011. Already for the first six months of this year Audi’s UK sales are up by 11.7% over the same period last year to 73,767 units. To meet this increase Audi has obtained another 4,000 units of right hand drive production which pushes their planned sales target of 136,000 units this year to 140,000. Currently in the premium brand UK sales battle Audi is outselling BMW by 8,553 sales, Mercedes-Benz by 19,130 registrations and for the record - Jaguar by 65,109 units.
Will Audi achieve their aim this year to become the UK’s best selling premium brand? Early indications look as though they just might, although the new RS 6 Avant available in such small numbers will not be a deciding factor but of course its outright performance and image will have the ‘halo’ effect for the whole range.
At the heart of the new RS 6 Avant is its 4.0-litre, V8 twin turbo petrol engine which pushes this model into the ‘supercar’ league but without the usual high increases in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. This new V8 engine also uses cylinder-on-demand technology so it can operate as a V4 under low load conditions at road speed above 15.5mph and engine speeds between 930 and 3,500rpm. The switch between four and eight cylinder modes takes a few hundredths of a second and the only real indication to the driver that it is taking place is a visual signal within the instrument cluster. A start/ stop function is also included in the engine design to bring emissions to nil when the estate is stationary. Of course there are the usual Audi engine/transmission response adjustment settings which allow the driver to personalize the performance.
But it is on the move that this engine excels and its staggering for response and acceleration bearing in mind this is a luxury estate over five metres in length and weighing over two tonnes and fitted with potentially power-sapping quattro all wheel drive not to mention an automatic transmission. So we know the top speed as standard is restricted to 155mph which can be freed-up to reach 189mph but that is a bit of a sales gimmick. We know that the zero to 62mph is astonishing in a car of this type at 3.9 seconds but even more impressive is the zero to 100mph figure which is said to be 8.7 seconds. And just as impressive is the fact that all this performance from a twin turbo petrol engine comes with no drawbacks for this sector in fuel economy or high CO2 emissions. The official Combined Cycle figure is 28.8mpg and on my test drive this week around the traffic congested roads of Bracknell and Ascot, some legally fast running on the M3/M4 motorways and the winding and hilly side roads around the Berkshire countryside, the fuel consumption was 24.1mpg which is not prohibitive in this performance car sector. The much reduced CO2 emissions of 229g/km still mean a VED road tax cost of £840 for the First Year rate and then £475 for the second year onwards. Company car drivers, unlikely candidates for this car, would pay the maximum 35% in Benefit-in-Kind tax. Insurance ratings are yet to be quoted but expect it to be close to the maximum Group 50.
The RS 6 Avant has as standard an eight speed tiptronic auto transmission with Sport, Manual and Drive modes operated by gear shift paddles or the gear selector lever. The lower ratios are tightly spaced for relatively quick changes maximising the explosive power output of the engine while a tall eighth gear maximises fuel economy in open road cruising conditions. Drive then goes to the quattro all wheel drive system which distributes power as required fore and aft. In addition to smoothing out the delivery of huge driving power there is a torque vectoring function, a self locking centre differential and a sports diff in the rear axle to shuffle drive between the two rear wheels for optimum cornering grip in all road and some off-tarmac conditions. The estate sits on huge 21-inch 9.5J, 275/35 ZR20 wheels and tyres as standard. Grip of course is immense in wet or dry conditions during cornering but more importantly during acceleration for this model. Drive to all four wheels keeps the estate well balanced but on the down side it does cushion the driver from feeling exactly where the power is being distributed and the same lack of feedback applies to the steering as well. I liken it to the difference in the sensitivity you get from your fingers with and without rubber gloves.
Fitted as standard is adaptive air suspension, the first RS model to receive this treatment. This system can be adjusted through the on-board Audi Drive Select controller to provide various levels of ride comfort and handling ability and probably most people will leave it in its auto setting. Audi also offers the £2,075 Dynamic Ride Control sports suspension package which instead of air cushioning uses adjustable dampers and steel springs for improved body stability. Our media launch test cars were fitted with this option and even on the Comfort setting on country roads the ride was harsh; there was considerable noise and shockwave intrusion from pothole impacts. On smoother motorway surfaces the ride comfort with the coil spring system is fine but overall with a deteriorating road surfaces I would suggest sticking with the standard air system. This is a view upheld by Audi who believe the majority of RS 6 Avant owners will stay with the standard air suspension system.
The resurgence in the new car market for performance estates or shooting brakes by well off customers now bored with big SUVs is notable with BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Aston Martin and Porsche all restoring life to the market sector with new sports machines that are loads of fun to drive but can still carry large loads in the back.
MILESTONES. Audi RS 6 Avant 4.0 TFSI quattro five door executive sports estate. Price: £76,985 (as tested £101,020). Engine/transmission/suspension: 4.0-litre, V8, direct injection twin turbocharged petrol with cylinder on demand technology and start/stop function, 552bhp (560PS), 516lb ft (700Nm) of torque from 1,750rpm, 8-speed tiptronic auto with Drive, Sport and Manual modes, quattro all wheel drive, self locking centre differential and sport rear axle differential, adaptive air suspension as standard or the £2,075 option of coil spring and adjustable shock absorber sports suspension as fitted to the test car. Performance: 155mph restricted (or up to 189mph unleashed), 0-62mph 3.9-seconds, (0-100mph 8.7 seconds), 28.8mpg (24.1mpg on test), CO2 229g/km, VED road tax £840 First Year rate then £490 second year onwards, BIK company car tax 35%. Insurance group: 48E. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,979mm, W 1,936mm, H 1,461mm, boot/load space 565 to 1,680-litre, five seats. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: Explosive acceleration performance, big improvements in fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions, marginally lower in price than its predecessor, beautifully crafted high specification interior, roomy, muscular exterior styling, overall quality. Against: Optional coil spring suspension upsets ride comfort and compliance, lack of feedback through the quattro all wheel drive and steering functions, well equipped as standard but still too many too expensive extra cost options which should be standard in a niche performance car of this quality and image. Miles Better News Agency