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2020 Audi RS6 Avant Was Worth the Wait


By Jared Gall, Car and Driver

It's an unforgiving world, the station-wagon market, with thin resources and savage competition for an ankle-deep pool of buyers. If you're going to wade in, you'd better be prepared to make a splash. One way to do that is to finally cross an ocean. For the first time, the 2020 Audi RS6 Avant will be available in the United States, and it's arriving ready to scrap.


The RS6's twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 turns direct-injected gasoline and compressed into a 591-hp tidal wave. A standard eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, and launch control should make for mind-numbingly consistent hole shots, if not for the face-flattening effect of an estimated 3.4-second launch to 60 mph. Spec the optional carbon-ceramic brake rotors and that charge will continue until 190 mph. With the standard brakes, the governor is set to a still-felonious 155 mph.

Audi has long been in the business of boss wagons, just not in the U.S. The 2008 to 2010 RS6 powered by a 572-hp twin-turbo V-10 based on the contemporary Lamborghini Gallardo's was a definite high point. The new RS6's mill lacks the novelty and character of the Gallardo's but offers the salve of the modern era: more oomph. Output is up just 19 horsepower compared with the V-10's, but torque stands at 590 lb-ft compared to 479 in the old RS6. We won't wince if you say, "about 600 horsepower," and it's not all gratuitous muscle; each U.S.-market RS6 will be fitted with Audi's new 48-volt belt-driven motor-generator, which feeds energy to a dedicated lithium-ion battery under braking and coasting that lets the 4.0-liter beast slumber longer when the car is stopped.


Worth the Wait

The only current-generation A6 family member with a V-8, the RS6 Avant moves, like the rest of the gang, onto the Volkswagen Group's new MLB Evo architecture that also underpins vehicles as dimensionally and monetarily diverse as the Audi A4 and the Lamborghini Urus. The RS6's steering is quick and precise and makes quick work of hurrying this two-ton shuttle down a mountain road. The amount of electric assist and the ratio are adjustable, the helm growing heavier and quicker in the Dynamic driving mode. And the brake pedal is deliciously firm, perhaps the most surprising thing about this car. It feels like Audi consulted Lamborghini's engineers, or Porsche's. With little range of motion, it relies more on pressure than position to modulate squeeze on the massive (up to 17.3 inches in front) brake rotors.


The RS6 Avant's Pirelli P Zero PZ4 summer tires start squealing earlier than you might expect, although since each one manages about 1000 pounds, we can sympathize. And noisy or not, with an optional 285/30R-22 chunk of rubber at each corner (21s are standard), the Avant is resolute about its path through any turn. With enough determination and that much torque on hand, however, it's possible to set the Pirellis to smoldering if you want to film a Ken Block response video.


Audi will offer American buyers two suspension choices. The base setup uses air springs and passive dampers, with the more-expensive Dynamic Ride Control using old-fashioned steel springs and adaptive dampers. Victor Underberg, head of technical development for Audi Sport, notes that the height adjustability and load-leveling capability of the air springs makes that system the better choice for people who will be hauling heavy loads.

The optional steel-spring setup offers greater adjustability but skews the whole scale toward stiffness and handling. Even in the softest Comfort mode, the ride is choppier. It's clear that breaks and bumps are being transmitted into the body shell through metal and oil rather than rubber and air. Buyers, consider your suspension choice a predetermined regional directive. 


Regardless of which suspension is fitted, the RS6 Avant gets rear-wheel steering that points the rears in the opposite direction of the fronts at low speeds for greater maneuverability, and the same direction at high speeds for stability.


Long-Roof Awesomeness

While we will again be getting Audi's A6 Allroad in this generation, it'll be a whopping 3.1 inches narrower than the RS6. Those wild fender bulges are not an illusion. Audi's designers actually mentioned Lamborghini when talking about the RS6's styling. Nobody was going for subtlety here. Only the front doors, roof, and tailgate are shared between the RS and other A6-family Avants, which also ride 0.8 inch higher. The headlights and front fascia are the same pieces you'll find on a current Audi RS7, and not only are the rear fenders widened, but the wheelhouses are larger. The ratio of massive wheel to narrow band of bodywork to squat long-roof greenhouse makes the RS6 look like a real-life Hot Wheels toy—so much so we were surprised when we put our hands on the roof that we couldn't zoom the car back and forth. Furthering that impression, the exhaust finishers are so massive they'd be laughable, if they weren't so awesome.


Audi's marketing team says that they expect the RS6, with a starting price in the neighborhood of $120,000, to pull buyers from just about everywhere in the market—sedans, SUVs, sports cars, you name it. Which makes sense, since the RS6 capably does the work of all of those vehicles. This car isn't wading into hostile territory. It's taking the fight to everybody.

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Unplugged Magazine: 2020 Audi RS6 Avant Was Worth the Wait
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