For two decades, one car has been exciting worldwide fan bases and a flagship of the Audi Sport GmbH range like few others, and now it’s finally coming to the US market in its current ‘Avant’ iteration for the first time.
Setting the tone for high-performance station wagons since the C5’s inception in 2002, with impressive performance and outstanding everyday usability, the basic concept has been maintained throughout each generation to ensure that time and time again, the RS 6 is top of the class.
Racing Pedigree with Audi Practicality
The original C5 was born from the success of the Audi RS 4 and the desire to create another class-leading sporty renovation. Motorsports were in high demand during the early 2000s and Audi was having great success in the legendary 24 hr Le Mans, having won their premiere race in 1999 and going on to achieve victory again in 2000, 2001 and 2002. It was the Audi engineers at quattro GmbH who put the hard yards into making the A6 a true sports car, which required not only adapting the usual elements of suspension, transmission and the engine but also, its appearance required modification to achieve its new, sporty remit.
The car grew by four centimetres (1.6in) in both directions, with new skirts and wider sills but crucially a larger engine bay to house the fine-tuned Cosworth V8 responsible for the car’s statement 450 PS and 560 Nm of torque. A new torque converter transmission and Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension all lead to a blistering 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) of 4.7 seconds. It’s these credentials which ensure that to date, the C5 is the only RS 6 that’s a racing car from the start.
Second Generation, Better Acceleration
Six years later saw the second generation of the RS 6, the C6. The V8 was replaced with an extra two cylinders and whilst the two turboloaders were maintained, there were now 5 litres of displacement. This new package meant the C6 was capable of 580 PS and 650 Nm of torque, a power output that exceeded even the R8 of the time and was the largest RS engine available for the next 3 years.
With a substantially reworked transmission, the Audi RS6 Plus was able to achieve a top speed of 303 km/h (188 mph), and the regular RS 6 acceleration topped out at 250km/h (155mph), hardly any other car in the series could touch the C6 for straight-line speed.
These kinds of speeds need stopping power to match and the C6 was available with ceramic brakes for the first time which brought this car to a standstill with extreme efficiency. To maintain the sporty, yet comfortable ride Audi again relied on the DRC suspension, which was now a standard on the Avant and saloon models.
As with its predecessor, Audi continued with subtle stylings for the RS 6, but protruding fenders and big 19” (inch) alloys set it apart from the base models. The C6 was completed in the same manner as the C5, with production hand finished at an adjacent hall to the Audi Neckarsulm plant and a final 500, limited edition vehicles were also produced with numbered badging, special 5 spoke alloy wheels, a leathered instrument panel and floor mats styled with the RS 6 logo.
C7 Courts initial Controversy
2013 saw the return of the RS 6, the C7. Initially met with controversy, it was stated there would be a return to a double-turbocharged eight-cylinder engine with four litres of displacement, the smallest in the history of the RS 6. However, the criticism was short-lived as the new package was far ahead of the previous model in terms of driving dynamics and efficiency.
Another bonus of the smaller package was the ability to drastically reduce weight, seeing the C7 shed 120kg (265 lbs) compared to its predecessor. This lighter load allowed for a 30% lower fuel consumption and combined with ceramic brakes, extremely reliable stopping power.
With 600 PS, 700 Nm of torque and a new 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox, the C7 was capable of a 0-100 km/h (62 mph) of less than 4 seconds (3.9 to be precise) and an instrument panel showing a top speed of 305 km/h (190 mph), it was quick to silence any of its original doubters.
An Established, Firm Favourite
With the RS 6 by now an established best seller and market leader, Audi released the current iteration, three years before its 20th birthday. The fourth generation RS 6 (C8), was rolled out to dealerships in 2019. With a four-litre, Biturbo, 600 PS and now 800 Nm of torque, the C8 was staying true to its heritage but a new, modern adaption had been made to further improve overall efficiency. A 48-volt mild hybrid system had now been fitted, allowing the C8 to race from 0-100 km/h (62mph) in just 3.6 seconds and needing only 12 seconds to reach 200 km/h (124 mph), leaving little doubt of its ability on the straights.
Another target for Audi was handling and a new standard was required for both lateral acceleration and cornering. New all-wheel steering was introduced, allowing the rear wheels to turn in the same direction as the front wheels at high speeds, and the opposite direction at low speeds. This greatly improves high-speed stability but also ease of use at lower speeds by increasing the turning radius.
Audi has made sure to create a different impression for the C8, and it’s clear that this is no normal A6. The roof, front doors and tailgate are the only things the RS 6 Avant shares with the A6 Avant base model with all other components being specially altered for the RS, not least by having its body widened by a noticeable eight centimetres (3.15 in). The wheels have been jacked up too and now sit at a massive 21” diameter with a larger 22” version available as an option for the first time.
The C8 is the first RS 6 not to be manufactured in separate halls and is rolled directly off the production line ready for the showroom. Such is the success of the RS 6 and the flexibility and efficiency of the Audi production lines, what was once something of a niche car is in demand all around the world.