The appeal of a fast wagon is strong within ‘car people’. And Audi does them well – very well. Uber wagons come closest to that illusive chameleon car that can do it all. SUVs are hampered by their inherent form in terms of performance, while sedans miss out on ultimate pragmatism. Therefore, Audi has been fulfilling this quotient of the market with go-fast Avants since its genesis, the Porsche-fettled RS2. Now, for about the same money, you can buy a new RS4 or park the now replaced Audi RS6 in your driveway.
Controversial. That’s one way of summing up the B9 Audi RS4 Avant. Lopping off two cylinders to create a V6 and placing two ‘hot vee’ turbos within its banks had fans of the screaming atmo V8, ahem, screaming. The B8’s 4.2-litre bent eight, punching hard to 8250rpm, is one of the true aural automotive delights. However, the 2.9-litre V6, with its bass-focused, deep baritones and overrun theatrics, has its own charm. It’s one that, if given the chance, is enticing to the ears.
The switch to a V6 (which is also used by Porsche) didn’t hamper power. The kilowatt count remains at 331kW, but torque jumps to 600Nm. Paired with grippy Pirelli P Zero rubber and torque-vectoring quattro all-wheel drive, the RS4 shoots to 100km/h in a claimed 4.1sec – and that’s being conservative. On the open road it’s ruthlessly fast and effective, with the ZF eight-speed auto proving an adept partner to the bent six.
There’s a new dynamic character at play, too. Thanks to the adaptive dampers, a genuine duality of character is possible. The softest Comfort mode affords a plush ride, while Dynamic mode is reserved for smooth roads or track use as it sharpens the ride demonstrably. The downside is that the dampers, in Comfort mode, struggle with rebound and Dynamic mode is just too firm unless certain road conditions are met.
However, the real surprise is how playful the rear axle is with the Sport differential. It takes a bit of muscling to get it moving, but gone are the days of understeering Audis. Also, it doesn’t matter what the weather is doing because the RS4 finds traction where its seemingly impossible.
Inside the RS4 is as luxe as you’d expect a modern Audi to be. The Alcantara steering wheel is chunky and feels nice in hand, the dash is minimalist elegance and the seats are supportive as they are comfortable. What’s more, there’s also 505L of cargo space, which expands to 1510L with the 40/20/40-split rear seats folded.
AUDI RS6 PERFORMANCE
The RS6 Performance is dominated by its 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8. With 445kW (6800rpm) and 700Nm (1750rpm), there’s no surprise that the sizeable Avant can reach 100km/h in just 3.7sec – despite weighing the best part of two-tonnes. The rate at which it accelerates off the line and on the run beggars belief. It’s a case of getting strapped in and holding on while you riffle through the auto’s eight ratios.
It sounds dirty. Whoever believes turbos sanitise menacing acoustics need to get behind the wheel (or bumper) of an RS6. Yet, switch out of Dynamic mode, closing the bi-modal exhaust’s flaps, and it’s the perfect Q car. One that’s just, and we mean just, subtle enough to pass in the school car park and at soccer on the weekend.
The figure on the scales, a rather unflattering 1950kg, doesn’t hamstring the big Audi when it comes time to stop and corner. With a tricky quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system and ultra-wide tyres, the RS6 hunkers down and grips on corner exit, firing out of apexes like a scalded cat. Of course, the nose-heavy weight has to be managed, but the RS6’s dynamic capability is utterly impressive. Even the ride isn’t as terse as you’d expect from a wagon riding on 21-inch wheels.
Inside the RS6 is opulent. Yes, it misses out on the screen-fest that is modern Audis, but some would argue that’s for the better. The materials used, as well as the fit and finish, are superb and you really get a sense of expense within the cabin. And yes, the boot is relatively capacious at 565L, expanding to 1680L with the rear pews stowed.
|AUDI RS4||AUDI RS6 PERFORMANCE|
|Engine||2894cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo||3993cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic||8-speed automatic|
|0-100km/h||4.1sec (claimed)||3.7sec (claimed)|
|Efficiency (combined)||8.9L/100km (claimed)||9.6L/100km|
|Country of origin||Germany||Germany|
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