July 25, 2024

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A Year With the Best Audi Ever Made


In 2020, Audi announced they would give enthusiasts what they had demanded for literally decades. Fans of both fast Audis and wagons were finally going to get the holy grail of performance longroofs, the Audi RS6 Avant. Being one such long-suffering fool myself, I made sure I was top of the list for one, price be damned, and in March of 2021 I finally took delivery of my car.

Now, I’m back to deliver the story of living with the Audi Uber Wagon as a daily driver for the past year.

2021 Audi RS6 Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $110,045 ($123,790)
  • Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 591 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 590 lb-ft @ 2,050 rpm
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo space: 30 cubic feet | 59.3 cubic feet with rear seats folded
  • 0-60: 3.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 155-189 depending on the spec
  • Quick take: Simply one of the best cars Audi’s ever made.
  • Score: 9.5/10

A Whole Lot to Love in the RS6 Avant

First off, let’s start with the good: Basically everything. Seriously, there is so much that is good in this car I could write novels on the things I enjoy about my car.

The first thing that catches your attention is the styling of the RS6, the way it’s aggressive without screaming “look at me” (a la Lambo Urus). Historically that has been Audi’s modus operandi when it comes to the RS6; it’s not a car that on first glance your average commuter will pay too much attention to. It’s on the second (and third) glance that the massive grille makes its presence known, quickly followed by the bulging wheel arches. 

It’s when you finally get a chance to take in the whole package you realize that this car was designed for serious business. For me it’s one of the best looking cars on the road today. The only real flaw is the oversized diffuser accent on the rear bumper that really stands out if you don’t tick the Black Out Trim box on the order form.

Those styling cues continue into the interior which manages to be both futuristic and comfortable at the same time. Audi has gone all in on the TFT screens with three of them scattered throughout the cockpit starting with the main one being the 12.3-inch HD screen for the RS6’s virtual cockpit. At the top of the center stack is a 10.1-inch touch display with haptic feedback. Below that is the third, 8.6-inch screen that controls the car’s HVAC functions. When not in use, both of these screens blend seamlessly into the high-gloss black faceplate of the instrument panel.

All in all the interior has that timeless feel that Audi does so well. Modern, without being gimmicky. Classic Audi without feeling dated. Critics call it boring, but I don’t need to feel like I’m climbing into an arcade console every day. 

Speaking of arcade games—all the smart design in the world won’t make a difference if the result on the screen(s) is an unintuitive mess. This is one of my big pet peeves with a number of cars out there today. The infotainment system and digital gauge cluster look flashy, but when it comes to using it, everything falls apart. This disconnect just gets more and more glaring with every new generation of smartphones, a ubiquitous counter-example of how to do UI right. A toddler can tap their way through your phone, but using most infotainment systems requires three PhDs and an e-manual. 

The MMI system in the Audi is markedly better than that abysmal standard, as you can jump in the car and figure out most of the system in one sitting. The only drawback is that a number of the settings are buried several layers deep in the menus, and it takes a bit to remember where they are. However annoying that gets over the first few weeks, that feeling quickly goes away as most of those settings are just for initial setup and then never get used again.

Supercar Performance, SUV Practicality

But let’s be honest, the main reason you buy this car (or read this review) is because of the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8, whose prodigious power—591 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque to be exact—is what turns this wagon into a grocery-getting supercar. The V8 pushes the 5,031-pound RS6 to 60 mph in a tick over 3 seconds; Audi claims 3.5 but I’ve seen 3.2 more than once; which is definitely well into überwagon territory. What those numbers don’t give away is how tractable this engine is. Mated to the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, which always seems to be in just the right gear for the situation, the motor’s wide torque band makes driving around town feel effortless. On the highway, picking your way through left lane hogs and slow moving semis requires zero thought. Honestly its capability makes driving substantially less aggravating because you never seem to get stuck behind anyone for any length of time.  

The V8 is mated to a 48-volt lithium-ion battery, which powers a water-cooled, belt-driven generator that replaces a conventional alternator to power the start stop system and the cylinder deactivation. While the start stop function on the RS is among the best I’ve had the pleasure of being annoyed by, I was more than a little disappointed that the hybrid wasn’t used to power an electric motor to give the RS even more performance, something like the system Ferrari is using with great success in the 296 GTB. I want instant, massive torque and I want it um… instantly.

While Audi’s hybrid system does negligibly increase fuel economy performance, you don’t buy a RS6 for its fuel economy. You buy it for its ability to smite every other car on the road. The fact that you need to stop for gas every other block is completely irrelevant. 

On the subject of fuel economy, just before I sold my car I navigated over to the long term fuel economy screen to see what I averaged in the car over the past year of ownership. The screen just showed the laughing emoji. 

You know the one with the tears. 

Yeah, I guess I should just be happy that I was out of the single digits: 14.7 mpg, to be exact. But when you have that much power under the hood and the Sport Exhaust option (which should just be made standard on any Audi with a V8), you are always going to be fairly deep on the throttle pedal literally at all times. Not the best thing for fuel economy.

The big payoff of the RS6 comes in once you get into the twisty stuff. The car is a bit of a porker, but the combination of adaptive air suspension, rear steer and a narrower rear track (yes, the rear is narrower than the front) is an amazing one, allowing the RS6 to do things that two-and-a-half-ton wagons just shouldn’t be able to do. 

The adaptive suspension in particular is marvelous, allowing it to go from cushy, around-town cruiser to firm—not stiff, that’s key—canyon carver without missing a beat. That dichotomy also makes the RS6 one of the best grand touring cars on the market, capable of swallowing up mile after entertaining mile while keeping its occupants as comfortable as being on the couch at home.

Literally the first thing I did when I picked mine up last year was to take it on a 375-mile drive from Denver to Telluride. The drive is a mix of long stretches of highway cruising and twisty narrow mountain roads. It’s normally a six hour drive in the best of conditions and closer to seven in the winter. I had expected our journey to take a minimum of six hours, and for me to feel pretty beat up when we arrived. Well, we made it in five, and that included a stop for fuel and a bit of lunch. When it was over, I emerged feeling like I had just done a quick run out to the store. Seriously impressive.

Adding to the comfort of the suspension, the combination of rear steer and a narrower rear track helps the car attack corners with a neutral balance, defying the Audi tradition of understeering performance cars. And the rear steer has another, unexpected benefit: navigating tight city streets. Living with a big car in a densely populated area with narrow packed streets is difficult at best. But the Audi’s rear steer system is so effective that you’d swear you were driving an A3 sometimes, the turning radius of the RS6 feels that small (it’s actually about 20 feet).

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but besides that fact that they just look cool, wagons are also eminently practical. Giving close to SUV’s levels of hauling capacity while still delivering a better handling package than even the most sporty SUV. The RS6 does not disappoint in this area allowing for 30 ft³ with the rear seats up and around 60 ft³ with them down—almost the exact amount of space offered by the Q8, its bigger SUV sibling and platform-mate.

I managed to squeeze a Large Big Green Egg in the back (a fact that amazed the teenaged sale clerk at the local Ace Hardware. Along with the fact that I was actually using an RS6 to haul the Egg with). Over the last year, the RS6 and I made multiple Home Depot runs without ever once bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have an SUV. Practicality and performance all wrapped up in the same package. What more could you want?

The Downsides of Living With an Audi RS6 Avant

Well, different wheels, for starters. There were a few nits to pick throughout my year with the car, and the first and biggest were my 22-inch wheels. While you can spec it with 21s, the bigger-wheel package I ordered comes standard with 22s and they literally are the worst feature of the car by a long margin. Though, the issue wasn’t ride quality as you would suspect—it’s that it is impossible to not curb them. Before I even got the car in my garage for the first time, they already had light curb rash—from what, I have no idea. The tires are so low profile that it could have been anything. Pothole, rock in the road, or perhaps very large ant. Who knows. 

The anxiety of adding to that was a neverending deal. I would park five feet away from all curbs just to make sure I didn’t accidentally scuff a rim. No matter what I did, the RS6 continued to collect scuffs on Every. Single. Rim. I eventually had to spend a few bucks to professionally restore all four wheels—not your typical first-year maintenance routine.

To make matters worse, you can’t downsize your wheels to anything smaller than a 21” due to the brake ducting behind the front wheel. 20s will absolutely not fit, thereby making finding snow tires an exercise in futility as very few manufacturers make a low profile 21” snow tire and no one makes a 22. 

As chock full of cool and useful tech as the RS is, my only other real area of complaint is, ironically, in the tech department. First and foremost is that the RS6 does not have remote start capability. This is mind-blowingly inexcusable to me on a six-figure luxury car. We took the RS up into the mountains to ski on several occasions and needed to leave the car parked outside overnight in below freezing temps, shivering every morning while the car heated up. Obviously cars at a much lower price point have this feature as standard, so I dont know what Audi’s thought process on this is.

The other piece of tech I had an issue with is the speed limit recognition feature. Audi’s radar cruise control was a thing of beauty 99 percent of the time, keeping a reasonable gap between me and the traffic in front and calmly braking to a complete stop in stop and go rush hour traffic. However if you have the speed limit sign feature activated, which I often do just to keep myself in check, the RS6 will immediately and quickly decelerate to whatever it is that speed limit sign indicates, no matter the speed you’re currently traveling. So say you’ve set the cruise control to 10 over the posted speed limit (a hypothetical situation that I would never personally find myself in, no sir), and the speed limit drops 10 mph at the next sign. The Audi will apply the brakes and decelerate to that speed immediately. Suddenly, unexpectedly slowing down by 20 mph on the highway is never a good thing. 

And…that’s it. That’s my entire list of things I don’t like about the Audi. And not one of them comes close to being a dealbreaker. The rest of the car is just so damn good that nothing else really matters. There are about a half dozen cars that make it on my list of “Cars to have if you’re a performance car enthusiast but you’ve only got a two car garage and your spouse needs one of those spaces.” Basically a car that you can live with as a daily driver but still will scratch that performance itch. The Audi tops that list, head and shoulders about every other car with the perfect blend of performance and usability.

So Nice, I Bought It Thrice

It might surprise you to learn, then, that I no longer have the RS6. I had planned on keeping it for quite some time, however the car is so in-demand in this crazy market that I kept getting absolutely silly offers to buy it. And after decades of losing money on cars, I couldn’t help but try to recoup some of my losses. And so I sold it earlier this year, for a sum that was more than I paid for it.

Even more absurd, the reason I sold it at that moment was because I lucked into taking over an existing order for a new RS6 that was due to be delivered at the same time. Well, after a few months with that car, I was offered even more to sell it as well, so it too disappeared. I now have an order in for a third RS6 due to come in October. Fingers crossed I manage to keep it.

The Audi RS6. So good I bought three of them. If that’s not an indication of how special this car is, I don’t know what is. If you are in the market I highly recommend you go and buy one right now. Before I beat you to it…

Robb Holland is an American race car driver and automotive journalist. He has competed in the British Touring Car Championship, Pikes Peak, the World Touring Car Championships, and more.

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