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Buy the new Audi RS4 Avant or get a used Audi RS6 Performance

By Trent Giunco, 06 Sep 2019 Advice

Buy the new Audi RS4 Avant or get a used Audi RS6 Performance

Fast wagons are Audi’s forte – all you need to do is choose between a boosted V6 or V8

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.

 

AUDI RS4

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.

Specs comparison

  AUDI RS4 AUDI RS6 PERFORMANCE
Price (new) $152,900  $245,400
Engine 2894cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin-turbo 3993cc V8, dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Output 331kW/600Nm 445kW/700Nm
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
Drivetrain AWD AWD
Doors 5 5
Seats 5 5
Wheel size 20-inch 21-inch
Country of origin Germany Germany

Wheels staff picks


Trent Giunco
Staff Journalist
The original C7 RS6 remains a special bit of kit for me. It’s one of the first properly fast cars I road tested. Through the rolling hills in country NSW, the sheer rate of acceleration from the brutish V8 and quattro all-wheel drive was addictive. After every mash of the throttle to the firewall I couldn’t help but giggle and say to myself, “let’s do that again”. It sounds mega, goes like stink and, for a car of its heft, hangs on well through corners with ferocious grip. It’s also another excuse to get a dog… one that presumably doesn’t get car sick… oh, and win the lottery to pay for it all.

Andy Enright
Deputy Editor
There’s something very right about the RS4 returning to a twin-turbo V6. After all, that was the configuration in the original B5 RS4 from 1999. In the interim, the RS4 has only accumulated around 10% in weight but has added nearly 20% more power. It’s now lighter and wieldier than the 2012-2015 B8 RS4, with a far pointier front end. There’s just something so appealing about the RS4’s sheer depth of capability that, for me at least, means it would always get the nod over the RS6.

Cameron Kirby
Staff Journalist
If the twin-turbo V10 C6 RS6 was in this equation, it’d be a much harder choice, as the appeal of that engine is irresistible. However, with these two, it has to be the RS4. More practical, fresher, comes with a warranty, and I’m not really going to miss the extra power. Internet commenters that deride the lack of V8 in the current gen clearly haven’t spent enough time to understand the breadth of ability the twin-turbo V6 offers. Off to the dog park post haste! 

Reckon we’ve got it right? Or are we way off the money (literally)? Find your best and let us know in the comments what you’d buy.

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