New Audi RS6 Avant vs Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate

With close to 1200bhp between them, the new RS6 Avant and the E63 S Estate are as rapid as they are practical. But which is best?...

Audi RS6 Avant vs Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate header

The contenders

NEW Audi RS6 Avant 4.0 TFSI quattro

List price £92,750
Target Price £91,177

New Audi RS6 is cheaper but less powerful than our favourite top-end performance car.


Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate 4.0 4Matic+

List price £100,050
Target Price £89,704

The current car to beat at this price point, because it’s fast and hugely entertaining.


If someone told you that they’d just bought a hybrid, you’d probably assume they’d gone all sensible and had a Toyota Prius parked on their driveway. But these days, not all hybrids sacrifice all fun at the altar of fuel economy – quite the opposite.

Take the new Audi RS6 Avant. It has a 48-volt electrical system that provides some ‘mild’ hybrid assistance, and that means it drinks less petrol and pumps out less CO2 than something with 592bhp would otherwise do. But its mighty 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 is most definitely the dominant force that gives it the acceleration to see off a Porsche 911.

Audi RS6 Avant rear cornering

Indeed, it’s so fast that it’s very much a rival for the Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate, which has long been one of our favourite performance cars. Why? Well, there’s something refreshingly simple about this big V8-powered estate. Any electricity it uses is mainly just to spark up its frankly bonkers 612bhp 4.0-litre twin-turbo engine, which, along with its riotous handling, makes it hugely entertaining. And why else would you spend £100,000 on a fast estate if not to be entertained?


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

That fact that these two-tonne estates can go from 0-60mph in well under four seconds is certainly eye-opening, but the E63 pulls out a clear lead thereafter and, believe it or not, can keep pace with a £150,000 Honda NSX supercar. Yes, the RS6 pulls more smoothly and from lower revs, but above 2500rpm all hell breaks loose in the E63, pushing you harder and farther back in the seat.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate rear cornering

Then there’s the noise. Both have various modes that make them roar more aggressively, but the RS6 is always mellifluous – like a gently snoring grandpa – while the E63 wants you to think it’s a racing car. It isn’t, of course; the spitting and snarling is all for show, but such civil disobedience certainly makes you giggle.

With these cars in maximum attack mode, everything is more aggressive in the E63. Take its automatic gearbox, which responds more quickly but does so with a slight jolt. The RS6’s ’box is neither as fast nor as fierce.

Audi RS6 Avant front cornering

Both cars steer intuitively and the RS6, with its standard rear-wheel steering (something that the E63 doesn’t have), feels more agile in tighter bends. However, the E63’s steering is more tactile, feeling alive in your hands and more connected to the road.

On £2000 optional 22in wheels, the RS6 has slightly more grip and is superbly predictable, rather like a laser-guided missile. And it deals with bumps and camber changes in the road just as adeptly as its rival. It then uses its four-wheel drive effectively to allow you to power out of corners with just a hint of a wiggle from its rear end.

Mercedes-AMG E63 S Estate front cornering

The E63’s four-wheel drive can be disengaged entirely, and making it rear-wheel drive means there’s more than just a wiggle. That’s why it’s best left for a track. Yet, even with it engaged, you can feel more of the power being sent to its rear wheels, so if you like being able to adjust the car’s cornering stance via the accelerator, it’ll do that. At the same time, it controls lean better through quick left-right kinks and feels a little more stable.

Dial the mode back to ‘chilled’ and the RS6 is easier to live with. Even with the 22in wheels and RS Sport suspension (£1300), in place of the standard air suspension, it’s barely any firmer than a regular A6 around town. It’s also decidedly smoother than the E63. At higher speeds, the difference in ride isn’t so stark, but the RS6 remains better, while generating far less road and wind noise.


Next: What are they like inside? >>

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