Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Audi RS6 Avant has a clear USP, but one that could make you love or loathe it. And what’s this Marmite marker, you might ask? If you're looking for a serious turn of speed, minus any savagery – that is, something that's not uncomfortable or overtly challenging to drive – then it's one of the best performance car options out there. The trade-off is that it's less fun than more banzai competitors such as the BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E63 S.
Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re driving a standard Audi A6 Avant, right up until the moment you squeeze the accelerator. Under the bonnet lurks a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 petrol engine that is capable of dispatching a mighty 592bhp and 590lb ft of shove.
It's not simply the way the RS6 accelerates that’s outshone by the E 63 S, though. It makes a good noise, the RS6, but even with Audi’s optional RS Sports Exhaust system fitted, it's more mellifluous, like a snoring grandpa, than a rip-snorting lunatic.
Again, if you're after something discreet, that might well be a plus point, but anyone looking for a proper, grin-inducing beat will find the E63 S more apt. Its raucous spitting and snarling is a show of civil disobedience, but one that will almost certainly make you grin.
That theme continues through to the handling. The RS6 is extremely surefooted, grips really well and steers confidently. In fact, with its standard rear-wheel steering, which is designed to help tighten its turning circle at town speeds as well as increase its stability on faster roads, it's as easy to drive in tight car parks as it is reassuring to drive quickly on flowing B-roads.
But despite also being four-wheel drive, both the M5 and E 63 S have more playful handling. You can use their power to make them wriggle safely with a little rear-end slide out of corners, if the mood takes you. Indeed, on a track you can turn off their four-wheel drive and unleash their power to the rear wheels alone – if you really want to up the ante and the sideways antics.
You cannot do that in the RS6. Of course, that won’t make the blindest bit of difference for day-to-day use, but it's a clear pointer to the differences in philosophies between the RS6 and its rivals – the M5 and E63 being more focused performance cars.