The Audi RS6 Avant - A Video History
It wasn’t easy for Audi to keep the RS6 Avant alive, but it somehow pulled it offby Tudor Rus, on LISTEN 01:25
It August 2019 when, while looking for hot stuff to write, the undersigned stumbled upon Audi USA’s newsroom website, where the first article on the top of the page said, in Caps Lock: ALL-NEW AUDI RS6 AVANT IS COMING TO AMERICA!
Why the yelling, you’re wondering? Well, Audi’s RS history spans over a quarter of a century, and it is only now that the U.S. gets the RS6 Avant for the first time. Now, the 2020 Audi RS6 Avant is an absolute monster regardless of how you look at it - design or spec-wise. Its 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine makes 591 horsepower (441 kW) and 590 pound-feet of torque (800 Nm). On asphalt, these numbers generate 0-62 mph (100 km/h) sprints ticked in 3.6 seconds and electronic nanny-restricted top speeds of 155 mph (250 km/h).
Also responsible for such crisp performances is the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission with launch control mode and Audi’s notorious Quattro permanent all-wheel drive complemented by wheel-selective torque control and a sport differential. You get the point - beastly specs for a beastly machine. But beastliness has been embedded in the RS6 Avant’s DNA since the model’s inception back in 2002, as you are about to find out.
Evolution of the Audi RS6 Avant
There wouldn’t have been an Audi RS6 without the bonkers RS2
First, let’s give an honorable mention to the magnificent Audi RS2 Avant, Audi’s original RS-badged car that wouldn’t have happened with a little help from Porsche. The RS2 Avant was sitting on the lackluster platform of the Audi 80 sedan, and its body was concocted inside Audi’s design department, but when Porsche stepped in and added brakes, wheels and tires as icing on the cake that also included a complete engine re-tune and the marriage with a six-speed manual, the RS2 Avant gained whole new dimension.
315 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque came rushing out from a 2.2-liter turbocharged five-cylinder engine capable of pushing the RS2 from naught to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 5.4 seconds thanks to Quattro all-wheel drive.
2002-2004: Audi RS6 Avant C5
The first-ever Audi RS6 came first in five-door Avant form (that is Audi’s word for wagon or estate), but it eventually spawned a four-door sedan version as well. The RS6 was based on the S6 which was in turn developed on the A6 underpinned by Volkswagen Group’s C5 architecture employed between 1997 and 2004. In fact, the RS6 inherited the firewall’s aluminum structure from the V-8-powered A6.
The RS6 used a 4.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, 90-degree V-8 which was the fruit of a partnership with U.K.’s Cosworth Technology.
The end result was a power boost to 444 horsepower unlocked between 5,700 and 6,400 rpm as torque levels that could go as high as 428 pound-feet (580 Nm) on a very wide band that started at 1,950 rpm and went all the way up to 5,600 rpm.
Quattro all-wheel-drive was a menu standard as was a Torsen T2 center differential which had been taken (and modified in the process) from the Audi D3 A8 flagship powered by a 6.0-liter W-12 engine. Two more differentials were also fitted, one on each axle, together with a five-speed automatic gearbox from ZF and Brembo eight-piston mono-block brake calipers on all four corners. Those were very much needed, as the RS6 tipped the scales at 4,112 pounds (1,865 kilograms), so inertia could easily turn into a party pooper. Top speed came in at 155 mph (250 km/h) “courtesy” of an electronic limiter, but the RS6 could do much more provided it was offered the right amount of space.
On the inside, customers got Recaro seats as standard and a CD-radio Bose sound system.
On the outside, the RS6 could wear 19-inch wheels if the owner really wanted them; rounding up the suite was a pair of xenon headlights. As the first RS6 was heading to its retirement, Audi made the decision to produce a limited run of 999 cars under the RS6 Plus moniker. Power went up by 29 horsepower to 473 horsepower thanks to a new ECU, the ground clearance dropped by 0.39 inches (10 mm), and top speed was now 174 mph (280 km/h), a bit more worthy of the German autobahn. Therefore, the charge from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) was now attainable in 4.4 seconds instead of 4.6 seconds. On the acoustic and visual side, the RS6 Plus brought a new sports exhaust setup with black pipes and two-tone leather/Alcantara interior packages. Oh, and it was only available in Avant shape.
2008-2010: Audi RS6 Avant C6
After a four-year hiatus, the Audi RS6 Avant made a comeback in 2008 with a bigger engine and considerably more power.
Audi dropped a 5.0-liter, bi-turbo V-10 under the hood of the second-generation RS6 Avant and it pumped out 571 horsepower and 479 pound-feet (650 Nm) of torque.
In case you were wondering, that’s the same engine mounted centrally inside the Lamborghini Gallardo, but with unique extra parts - around 400 of them, actually. Perhaps even more impressive was the number of radiators - seven - that used to cool the engine, further assisted by four electric cooling fans. This whole setup, together with other components, contributed a lot to the car’s hefty weight of 4,464 pounds (2,025 kilograms). In fact, to cope with the extra grunt and mass, Audi offered (as optional gear) silicon carbide brakes reinforced with carbon fiber for the front wheels and 420 x 44 mm drilled and vented discs.
But it didn’t matter to Audi or its customer base, because the engine inside the RS6 Avant packed 70 horsepower and 111 pound-feet (150 Nm) of twist more than BMW’s 5.0-liter V-10 unit which equipped the M5 at that time. Peak torque was, again, available on a wide band, between 1,500 and 6,250 rpm, with the 0-100 km/h (62 mph) sprint time being cleared in 4.6 seconds thanks, this time, to a six-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission. Although top speed was limited at 250 km/h (150 mph), customers could ask Audi to remove the limiter, which saw top speed jump to 170 mph (274 km/h). Just like it was the case with the first-gen RS6, the Avant variant came first, followed a couple of months later by the sedan. On the inside, the second-generation Audi RS6 packed the likes of DAB radio, DVD-based sat-nav, as as well as a solar sunroof that powered the A/C while the vehicle was stopped with the engine turned off.
The second-gen Audi RS6 Avant also received its own Plus version, just like the model it replaced.
This variant, however, was even limited in numbers the first-gen RS6 Avant Plus, with just 500 units built. The engine compartment got a handful of carbon fiber bits and bobs, but power and torque stayed the same. Top speed, on the other hand, was unlocked to a whopping 188 mph (303 km/h). The 0-100 km/h (62 mph) sprint remained a crisp 4.6 seconds. On the inside, the Plus featured leather-covered instrument panel and center console.
2013-2018: Audi RS6 Avant C7
Christmas came early in December 2012 for Audi fans as Ingolstadt revealed all the details of the RS6 Avant C7. The coordinates were like this: twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 engine packing 553 horsepower and 516 pound-feet (700 Nm) of torque. With this grunt roaring from under its hood, the RS6 Avant could reach 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.9 seconds and then up to a top speed (electronically limited, of course) to 155 mph (250 km/h). Customers were given the option of choosing the Dynamic or Dynamic Plus packages, which increased the top speed to 174 mph (280 km/h) and 190 mph (305 km/h), respectively.
To keep things fresh for the RS6 C7, Audi introduced the RS6 Avant Performance in 2015.
The most notable change was a new ECU that took the V-8’s power output to 597 horsepower. Torque also took a hike to 553 pound-feet (750 Nm). As a result, the sprint time from naught to 100 km/h (62 mph) dropped to 3.7 seconds. Top speed stayed the same, but the RS6 Avant Performance could now accelerate from 0 to 200 km/h (124 mph) in 12.1 seconds. Not bad for a car that tipped the scales at 4,299 pounds (1,950 kilos).
On the visual front, the Performance sported Audi’s Matrix LED headlights, a new sports exhaust, and cockpit-wise, a new combo of leather and Alcantara trim. Audi, however, was not done with the RS6 Avant C7 just yet, because, in 2018, the RS6 Avant Nogaro was presented. Limited to just 150 examples, the RS6 Nogaro was meant to celebrate the RS6 Avant’s retirement, so Audi made it rain on this one with ceramic brakes on all four corners, a sports differential, large 21-inch wheels, a titanium exhaust setup and a hefty punch of 597 horsepower and 553 pound-feet (750 Nm) of twist. Now, we’re pretty sure you knew this already, but the name Nogaro comes from Nogaro Blue, the exact same color the RS2 came in. And to make things even special, Audi did some business with Abt Sportsline, who would take the 4.0-liter V-8 and pump it up to 695 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque (880 Nm). Downright scary.
2020-present : Audi RS6 Avant C8
Which brings us to the first Audi RS6 Avant to hit U.S. shores, namely the all-new 2020 model of the power estate. The 2020 RS6 Avant uses the same 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, but it’s been tweaked with a mild-hybrid system to produce 591 horsepower and 590 pound-feet (800 Nm) of torque.
Needless to say, this is the most powerful Audi RS6 Avant ever concocted, but also the most aggressive-looking of the bunch.
Quattro all-wheel-drive helps the 2020 RS6 Avant on its way to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 3.6 seconds. We’re a tad disappointed that top speed is still limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), but again, safety reasons are a sound explanation and a pretty good motivation for Audi to do so. But, if you happen to live near the German autobahn, the same Audi will sell you the Dynamic package, which grants a top speed of 174 mph (280 km/h). Oh, so you’re even more ballsy? Then go for Dynamic Plus and unlock a top speed of 190 mph (305 km/h).
Although Audi was one of the first carmakers to jump on the SUV/crossover bandwagon, Ingolstadt has always made efforts to offer cars such as the RS6 Avant or the R8, for that matter. So for that, we’re taking a bow. The prominence (both financial and popularity-wise) of the VW Group also helped Audi on its way of keeping fans and purists happy with products such as the RS6 Avant and R8, but that doesn’t make Audi’s merit less significant.
With the 2020 RS6 Avant making its historical way to the U.S., Audi will reach a new slice of the customer pie and who knows, maybe the audacious station wagon will fuel the passion for a new generation of gearheads. And with a bit of luck, they’ll dictate the trends, and maybe, just maybe, the SUV craze will meet its end.
Read our full review on the 2020 Audi RS6 Avant.
Read our full review on the 2016 Audi RS6 Avant Performance.