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Audi RS 6 quattro Avant

Click to view picture gallery.Estate cars are sensible vehicles:
  load-luggers, workhorses... Right?
  No, not anymore, they’re not.
  Because Audi
s latest RS 6 quattro
  Avant is cleared for take off —
 
Avant-age Audi...”

IN THE PAST WE'VE HAD SPORTS ESTATES AND SPORTS WAGONS but now a new breed of supercars — or should I say 572bhp super-estates — are taking on the likes of exotic two-door coupes, open sports cars and a very few high-performance saloons. This is traditionally the territory of Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Pagani plus Audi, BMW and Mercedes with their RS, M and AMG sporting brands.

And it is the premium German brands of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz who have now taken the 'load- luggers' to impossible heights of desirability and performance.

Take the new Audi RS 6 quattro Avant estate — not only is it the most powerful pro-duction Audi ever (572bhp from its 5.0-litre, V10 twin-turboed petrol engine), it is more powerful than the BMW M5 Touring which has a 'mere' 500bhp and the Mercedes E63 AMG Estate, which has 507bhp. When it comes to torque — or grunt — it's the same story:
Audi 479lb ft, M5 384lb ft E63 and E63 AMG 464lb ft. So, Avant-age Audi!

When it comes to 'how fast', all three are restricted to a politically-correct 155mph. As for 0-62mph acceleration times, the 2.1-tonne RS 6 Avant takes 4.6 seconds (the same as the C63 AMG Estate); the M5 Touring 4.7 seconds. Fuel economy is marginally better for the RS 6 (at 20.2mpg combined), CO2 emissions are also the lowest from the Audi (at 333g/km) but, as you might expect at this level, they are all in the top road tax bracket
at 400 this year but rising. As for London Congestion Charges and company car tax penalties, if a customer can afford close to 80,000 to order and buy any of these cars these issues will not concern the buyer and neither will the escalating cost of fuel.

The RS 6 quattro Avant is priced from 77,730 and the good news is that deliveries start to UK customers on 24 May. As always with Audi supercars, the bad news is that there's a waiting list of about a year.

Around 600 RS 6 vehicles will be available this year and 80 per cent of that total will be Avant estate versions. The RS 6 quattro Saloon joins the line-up in November.

Audi UK said at last week's media launch that money and running costs are not issues for customers buying this type of supercar. They tend to have several cars, so being 'wait-listed' is not a problem for them. The customers will tend to be retail buyers but they are senior executives in business, company owners, sports men and women. Audi UK also said that the Avant estate will be far more popular than the RS 6 Saloon because of its 'grand tourer' design. With its 1,660-litres maximum luggage carrying space, it is also more useable and practical than the Saloon.

True to Audi tradition, the front-end form of the new RS 6 quattro Avant follows function over the design used for the standard A6 models. The high-performance engine and the two turbochargers need a considerable amount of air to breathe, as well as for cooling, which is why the intake apertures at the front have been enlarged. Arched struts form the surround and the front apron has been restyled. The single-frame grille featuring a high-gloss black guard with six-cornered diamond-look styling and a red and silver RS 6 logo serves to emphasize that this vehicle belongs to Audi's high-performance family.

To create space in the front apron for additional air flow, the halogen fog lights have been integrated alongside the xenon headlights which incorporate adaptive cornering lighting. The Audi signature strips of ten LED daytime running lights at the edge of each headlamp unit add a distinctive touch.

The profile is characterized by the accentuated, wide side sills and hugely flared wheel arches. Like the bonnet, the front wings are made of aluminum in order to reduce weight.

The rear-end incorporates a mean-looking racing-style diffuser with large oval tailpipes integrated into it. A subtle roof spoiler, which accommodates the third brake light, provides the finishing aerodynamic touch. The tail lights, too, incorporate LED technology.

Externaly, the Audi RS 6 quattro Avant measures 4,928mm in length, 1,889mm in width, 1,468mm in height and has a wheelbase of 2,846mm. Internally, the cabin of the new RS 6 quattro Avant is best described as 'crafted' with the usual impeccable Audi quality. Generous amounts of carbon-fibre, aluminum, leather and Alcantara create a luxurious yet sporting feel. Climate control, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, SatNav, leather upholstery, reversing sensors, etc, are all standard.

The RS multifunction sports steering wheel has a flat-bottomed design reminiscent of the steering wheels used in motor racing. It incorporates controls for operating the telephone, navigation system and audio system. Shift paddles for the tiptronic transmission allow rapid manual shifting, and an RS 6 emblem on the lower spoke adds a distinctive visual touch.

The clearly laid out and easily readable instrument cluster features a turbocharger boost pressure indicator, an oil temperature gauge and a lap timer, all of which can be accessed via the driver information system.

The highly-contoured sport seats provide the best possible support — they need to, given the acceleration and cornering forces this all-wheel drive super-estate can provide. They can be electrically set to precisely the desired position and feature an integrated head restraint plus a manually adjustable thigh support.

The RS 6 Avant offers generous space for five people and their luggage. In its normal configuration, the luggage compartment has a capacity of 565 litres; with the rear back-rest folded down, the volume increases to an impressive 1,660 litres although the rear seats do not, unfortunately, fold completely flat. A load-through hatch, roll-up cover blind, luggage net, rail system and a twin loading floor with integrated dirt-resistant liner are all included as standard features.

And so on to the performance... It is the torque (479lb ft from 1,500-6,250rpm) that sets this car apart from the competition. Due to the RS 6 Avant's hefty weight and potentially power-sapping quattro all-wheel drive system, it needs all that grunt to get it moving rapidly — but rapid is exactly how it goes. The six-speed automatic transmission has the usual normal, sport and manual modes and the suspension settings, too, can be adjusted to Comfort, Dynamic and Sports modes. To be honest, the ride is better and more controlled in Comfort mode.

There is, of course, an electronic stability programme, traction control and differential lock to keep the huge amounts of power and torque relatively under control but these in no way dampen the RS 6's supreme abilities. The engine's power surge is huge, response is instant, and the car, quite literally, leaps forward. This latest quattro system is split 40:60 with 40 per cent of the drive going to the front wheels and 60 per cent to the rear. This rear-end bias gives it stability under hard acceleration and optimum directional drive out of corners. For such a huge and heavy car, the performance is nothing less than remarkable.

And the fuel consumption? I suppose it's rude to ask, but if you do then '20.2mpg on average' is the official answer. In practice, 12.2mpg whilst hustling the Avant around the fast sweeping roads in the South of France, with an average of 14.6mpg when I took to cruising along at a more restrained pace. But this is not something that will put off potential RS 6 owners.

Nor will the fact that it's already sold out this year and will be really expensive to run. Ride comfort over poorer surfaces and heavy steering at very high speeds are two other points wanna-be RS 6 owners will be prepared to bear in return for the RS 6's undoubted plus points: it's truly desirable, awesomely fast and has huge grip; it's also a versatile high-profile passenger and luggage carrier of superb quality. And whether you want to class it as an estate, grand tourer or large performance car, the RS 6 really is a genuine supercar. — David Miles

Audi RS 6 quattro Avant
| 77,730
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Overall test MPG: 14.6mpg | Power: 572bhp | Torque: 479lb ft
CO2 333g/km | VED Band G 400 | Insurance group 20