Nothing like seeing a flared-fendered, feral station wagon lurking on the concrete expanse of an abandoned train station to snap you out of a jet lagged haze. A small group of journalists (camera and cell-phones confiscated) was ushered into this industrial-chic landscape to view what was once forbidden fruit for North America. But no more. The Audi RS 6 Avant is coming to the United States, and if its wicked countenance is indeed backed up by the promised performance, your kids are in for one wild ride.
While America’s love for the station wagon faded away about the same time Prince was singing Purple Rain, in other markets the wagon has remained cool, and high-performance versions even cooler. Audi knows there is a small but enthusiastic fan base here for the RS 6 Avant, and being an expensive halo car, exclusivity is pretty much guaranteed.
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A little history. The letters RS are to Audi what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz and M is to BMW. And while AMG cut its teeth on making large Merc sedans go vroom, and BMW’s M division concentrated on coupes, the first RS-badged Audi was the 1992 RS2 Avant, a rather unassuming, boxy wagon that sported all-wheel drive, a 310 hp, turbocharged 2.2-litre five-cylinder engine and a whole bunch of Porsche bits. Can you say instant cult status?
Since then, there has been a slow but steady progression of hero RS Avants—badged RS 4 and RS 6—emerging from the factory in Neckarsulm where all RS cars and the Audi R8 are put together. But none have made it to North America. Until now. The all new fourth-generation Audi RS 6 Avant will hit our shores in late 2020.
The Daytona Grey Matt Audi wagon crouches on its 22-inch wheels, its fenders almost cartoonishly swollen over 22-inch alloys. While the “other” German hot-rod wagon—the Mercedes-AMG E 63—is almost demure in its appearance, this RS 6 Avant shouts its badass-ness in no uncertain terms.
Chief designer Stephan Fahr-Becker hovers around the car and takes us on a visual tour. There are only three carry-over parts from the regular A6 Avant—the front doors, roof and tailgate. The grill is wider and lower, with the RS signature “split quattro nostril” slit between it and the new hood. The RS-specific rear spoiler is functional, allowing for a 189 mph top speed.
But it’s really all about that stance, and Fahr-Becker describes with great enthusiasm how they achieved it. As the RS 6 now shares the same track as the wider RS 7 four-door coupe, they had to add 1.73 inches per side to cover the available 22-inch rubber (21-inch standard). The wheel arches are larger as well, cutting higher into the body, which adds to the sense of drama. “In the front, the distance between the hood and the top of the wheel arch is much shorter, and because the car is so much wider, it is very sculptural, says Fahr-Becker. “In the front, it is easier to get a lot of the light on the wheel arches where, in the back, it is often more difficult, where we have to sometimes cheat with the light. But in this case, we had no problem because the panel was bent in that direction.”
Pushing this Avant down the road is a version of the VW/Audi twin-turbo “hot-vee” 4.0-liter V-8 that, here, churns out 600 hp and 590 ft lbs of torque. It runs through an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, and quattro all-wheel drive is standard.
The RS 6 Avant demolishes zero to 62 mph in 3.6 seconds. Reigning this in are standard steel brakes with 10-piston front calipers, although carbon-ceramic ones are available.
There are two exhaust systems available, and you’ll tell the Sport by its black tips—and sound. The Audio folks were kind enough to fire this beast up and give it a few revs—certainly enough mojo to have the folks at AMG raise an eyebrow.
Inside, we see Audi’s new dash architecture that ditches the long-serving MMI system, and most of the hard buttons and rotary controls, for a pair of haptic touch screens. Big aluminum shift paddles live behind the steering wheel, and ventilation is now available in the quilted RS seats.
In these new RS models, Audi’s single customizable, Individual drive mode gives way to a pair of them—labeled RS1 and RS2—that are instantly accessible via buttons on the steering wheel. With these you can tailor two dynamic experiences that mix desired parameters of throttle response, transmission mapping, steering, suspension setting, electronic stability control, exhaust and more. One for taking the kids to school, and one for the drive home.
The 2020 Audi RS 6 Avant will be available with two suspension setups. The basic system is a four-corner air suspension that has been tweaked with 50 percent stiffer spring rates. For those looking for more sport, a conventional steel sprung system with hydraulic dampers, dubbed Dynamic Ride Control is available. The dampers are interconnected diagonally for better control of roll and pitching.
Designer Fahr-Becker sums up his fascination for the Avant as such: “What I love about these cars is that their general appearance is not shocking, I always love extreme stuff, when boundaries are broken, when two things come together that are not meant to be together.”