The four rings of power; Audi's RS6 has long been the 'go to' choice if you needed a rapid big estate. The competition's become a lot hotter since the old V10 model was deleted. JONATHAN CROUCH reports.
THE concept of accelerating from zero to 62mph in less than four seconds takes a bit of bending your head around, but that's the capability on offer from Audi's latest RS6. A top speed of up to 189mph and the potential for up to 29.4mpg are also delivered by this PS80,000 leviathan. Overkill doesn't come any more polished than this.
That 'world's fastest estate car' billing clues you in to what to expect from the Audi RS6, but even knowing that fact ahead of driving it won't prepare you for quite how brutal and inexorable its power delivery is. Nothing can.
Under the bonnet, this car gets a 560PS twin turbo 4.2-litre V8. True, it doesn't yowl like the old V10 powerplant did, but that engine never felt particularly well suited to a big estate car. The reason? Torque - pulling power. Where the V10 could manage 650Nm of torque, this one's packing 700Nm and it's delivered all the way from just 1,750rpm, so you get the punch low in the rev range, meaning that the engine is never caught off the boil. As soon as you poke the accelerator, you've got its full measure.
On the move at speed around especially tight twisty roads, this car never shrinks around you when you're really driving it hard. But you're also always in awe of the fact that it feels so completely unflappable, with an almost complete absence of roll, understeer and pitch when accelerating or braking, thanks mainly to a couple of things - one mechanical, one electronic.
The mechanical bit is covered by a sport differential that through the bends, actively distributes torque between the rear wheels. Electronics furnish you with a torque vectoring system that acts on all four wheels, lightly braking any that are about to lose traction during cornering.
The massive blistered wheel arches may not be as overt as they used to be, but it doesn't take long to figure out that this RS6 is no cooking A6 wagon. The most noticeable changes are the matte aluminium applications on the body, the matte black honeycomb radiator grille at the front of the car, the bumpers, the wings, the sill flares and the roof spoiler.
Audi will also sell you two optional exterior design packages - Matte Aluminium or Carbon - are also available to further customise the look. Inside it's as well finished as you'd expect from a range-topping Audi model with swathes of buttery honeycomb-quilted leather and slick controls that look and feel expensive. The driver's information system even gets a shift light which illuminates green segments as revs increase. The bar turns red and begins to blink when revs approach the red line. Space in the back is more than adequate, with up to 1,680 litres when the standard split rear seat folded.
This thing is quite jaw-droppingly fast - certainly quick enough to make its key rival from Mercedes seem as if it's weighed anchor.
It's not perfect, of course. Steering remains the most obvious area for improvement, while some will feel the car's personality only really emerges when the optional sports exhaust is fitted. And, despite the weight savings, it's still large and heavy enough to lose a little to Audi's smaller RS 4 Avant model on tight and really twisty roads.
It feels churlish to grumble though. The engineers at quattro GmbH have hit virtually all of their design objectives with this RS 6. It has a charisma of its own, a special interior and looks like a supercar's evil henchman from outside.
Best of all, that devastating power never, ever loses its appeal. The result is an astonishing machine - and a monumental force to be reckoned with.