The Enigma: The Ultimate RS Models – The Automotive Version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by: James McRory for Audi Australia, photos: Mark Bramley

Thundering twin-turbo soundtrack, extraordinary balance and handling – and you can take the whole family along for the ride – the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback just keep getting better.

They’re big and incredibly luxurious. They each sport absolute state-of-the-art automotive technology and they each deliver supercar performance and handling. In many ways both the RS 6 Avant ($216,000*) and the RS 7 Sportback ($224,000*) are an enigma – a contradiction in terms.

If you were to try and describe the RS 6 Avant to someone in basic terms, it is, essentially, ‘a large luxury station wagon that can do 0 to 100km/h in 3.6 seconds and 200km/h in 12 seconds’.

The elegant RS 7 Sportback described in the same way wouldn’t make much more sense, ‘ a large luxury five-door’ delivering the same blistering performance.

These are the fastest RS cars to come from Audi Sport in its long and illustrious 25 years of operation. No small claim given the calibre of high-performance luxury vehicles that are Audi Sport’s stock-in-trade.

But mention these cars to a car enthusiast and you will be met with a knowing nod. These two vehicles which share the same superb 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 engine and drivetrain are celebrated performance icons as much because of their unique dual personalities as for their blinding performance capabilities.

Once you lay eyes on them, the idea that these full-sized luxury cars are something special is immediately evident, although their styling isn’t over-the-top. There’s more than a hint of aggression particularly in the front end treatment and the HD Matrix LED headlights with their telltale blue Audi lasers light. Then there’s the wide, low stance coupled with the huge flared guards filled with 22-inch wheels which is another giveaway. The RS 7 Sportback is a good 20mm wider than an A7 Sportback on each side, while the RS 6 Avant is a full 40mm wider on each side than the A6 Avant on which it is based.

Both cars have a tangible presence, although the RS 7 Sportback tends more to the elegant, grand tourer side of things and the RS 6 Avant is perhaps more imposing. In terms of the styling, it’s very much a matter of which look works best for you and indeed what sort of lifestyle does your daily driver supercar need to accommodate. That said, both cars carry five adults in absolutely superb cabins and have tremendous room for luggage and all the equipment of a very active lifestyle. The RS 7 Sportback has 535 litres of luggage space with the seats up but that increases to 1390 litres if it’s just you and a front passenger. The RS 6 Avant has 565 litre with a full complement of passengers on board and a cavernous 1680 litres with the rear seats folded down.

In addition, the rear seats in both cars offer versatile folding options so you can carry skies in the back if you wish while still carrying two rear passengers and golf clubs or mountain bikes are a cinch. Although it’d be a crime to throw a muddy mountain bike in the back of either.

The thing is though that you can if you want and yet you are driving a car that is one of the fastest on the road. That 4.0-litre TFSI V8 engine with its twin-scroll turbochargers makes a whopping 441kW of power at just over the 6000rpm mark and a stump-pulling 800Nm of torque that’s on hand from a touch over 2000rpm to 4500rpm. That results in the aforementioned 3.6 second 0 to 100km/h time and an electronically-governed top speed of 280km/h.

As if that isn’t enough, customers can opt to dial things up even further by adding the RS Dynamic package plus which increases the top speed to 305km/h and also adds ceramic brakes. But even amidst the soaring performance figures we find another anomaly in that both the RS 6 and RS 7 can return fuel figures of 11.6L/100km when you’re not driving hard. This is thanks to a combination of the 48-volt mild-hybrid electrical system which can recover up to 12kW of power while coasting, a start/stop system and cylinder of demand (COD). That’s right, when not required, half of the eight cylinders – 2,3,5 and 8 to be precise – are shut down without you even knowing or feeling it. And they’re fired back into action just as seamlessly the very second you want that extra urge.

With an eight-speed transmission and the very latest quattro all-wheel drive, the experience from behind the wheel is mind bending. The surge of power feels instantaneous and boundless and the physical size of the car is immediately forgotten. The best way to describe the sensation is to say that it shrinks around you and handles like a nimble two-seater even around the tightest bends.

This is due in no small part to the dynamic all-wheel steering which appears for the first time on these models. This is just as beneficial manoeuvring in a tight space as it is at speed and gives the RS 6 and RS 7 a nimbleness that belies their physical size and the fact that they are ‘fully loaded’ with every conceivable luxury item and finish.

Also aiding in this incredible agility and ride is the quattro sport differential which can direct almost all of that massive torque to the rear wheels if required (normal split is 40:60 front and rear) and the new adaptive air suspension which is another first for RS 6 and RS 7.

This whole combination results in a car that is as solid as a rock not matter the speed. Straight-line is a given, but also around tight corners it just hunkers down, grips and slingshots out the other side. In a car of any size this is impressive, but given we’re talking five-seaters, it’s just incredible. And they’ll do it all day long without so much as raising a sweat. Massive brakes with 10-piston callipers on 420mm ventilated discs up front and 370mm discs on the rear are faultless and more than up to the task of pulling the RS 6 and RS 7 down from speed again and again without protest or any sign of fade. If you’re really serious about your performance, then there are the ceramic discs that are bigger still – 440mm up front – and you can even opt to have your callipers coloured to add a little individual flair.

In fact there are a couple of packages available for those wanting to add a different feel or look, from external to the interior, but the standard equipment across the board is exceptional.

The interior is spectacular even for a company renowned for producing stunning interiors. It has everything from a huge panoramic sunroof to the Audi phone box light with wireless charging, Audi virtual cockpit, head-up display, Audi connect plus, interior ambient light package, premium leather Valcona leather upholstery (front seats are heated of course) and leather covering everything from the dash to the door rails and rests.

Every little detail from the stitching to the inlays and Audi Sport light projection from the underside of the doors has been carefully considered to add to the feel and quality of the interior. There are plenty of vehicles purporting to be at the pointy of the luxury market that couldn’t match these two for ride, comfort or appointment. That they can do all the gentrified Dr Jeckyll bit and then slip seamlessly into Mr Hyde territory though is what makes them so very special.

It goes without saying that as the editor of Audi Magazine Australia I’m a dyed in the wool fan of the brand, but we all have our favourites, and mine is the RS 6 Avant. Everything about this car is absolutely spot on in my opinion, from its look, to the fact that you can drive it to the shops, to the office, or take the family on a long road trip in absolute comfort. It has the most impeccable road manners – pure limousine ride – yet it has the most exhilarating turn of speed and handles, to use the hackneyed phrase – like it’s on rails. And the sound of the twin-turbo V8…

I’ll have mine in Nardo grey thanks.

(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges)