If the prospect of trans-continental, all-season travel, with partner, two children, granny and the dog on-board, out-accelerating Porsches and topping-out at close to 190mph has even an ounce of appeal, then you may start to comprehend the impact that the original RS6 had on me. With its widened fenders, purposefully low stance and big alloy wheels, all enrobed by an estate car body and driven by a grumbling bi-turbo V8 petrol engine possessing a basso profundo exhaust tone, it was a touch of class that was doing what no other carmaker had dared to do before.
Four generations in and RS6 has been redressed. It looks slightly more ‘overkill’ externally, with (for Audi) a particularly heavy hand applied to some of its bumper detailing. However, what lies beneath is the epitome of formidable RS engineering, with five-link suspension front and rear, 595bhp, mild hybrid technology, LED laser headlighting and a promise of 0-60mph in a Tesla-taunting 3.3s (0-124mph in 12.0s). It is a confident statement of performance intent, terminating in the signature drainpipe exhausts.
Developing a hefty 590lbs ft of torque, at the heart of 4.0-litre V8’s potency is a 48v electrical system, with a 12kW storage battery for harvested energy. At speeds between 34 and 99mph, should the driver lift off the accelerator pedal, the engine will enter coast mode for up to 40s, while recovering energy. The mild hybrid belt-driven starter/generator restarts the engine imperceptibly, as required. Combined with a start:stop facility that works at speeds of up to 13mph, fuel savings of around a pint every 60 miles can be attained. However, the engine also incorporates a ‘cylinder-on-demand’ system that, at low to medium loads, can switch off cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8, by switching off their injection and ignition and closing their inlet and exhaust valves; apply the throttle again and it returns to normal instantly.
The new multi-link, air suspension system uses aluminium extensively in its construction, while the comprehensively re-engineered power steering ensures remarkable levels of agility and vital feedback to the driver’s fingers. Using the ‘Drive Select’ program, two specific chassis set-ups can be customised by the driver and an RS switch on the steering wheel activates them. While 21.0-inch diameter alloys are standard, the 22.0-inch option equips the car with 285/30 section tyres in Vorsprung trim for even greater grip levels. Advanced ceramic brakes that save around 34kgs over the normal steel system provide prodigious braking potential.
The clear black, fully digitised instrument panel is activated at start-up and provides an enormous array of detail information that the driver can dial-up. The ventilated seats are luxuriously comfortable but still allow decent space fore and aft, with a load area that can grow from 565 to 1,680-litres, when the rear seats are folded.