2008 Audi RS6 Avant

2008 Audi RS6 Avant - www.robson.m3rlin.org

Meet the most powerful wagon in the world. In fact, meet the most powerful Audi production car of all time. That’s right, the 2008 Audi RS6 Avant features a new 580-hp twin-turbocharged 5.0-liter V10, and it comfortably outguns the spectacular 2008 Audi R8 sports car with its 420-hp 4.2-liter V8.
Factor in its storming in-gear performance and you’ll find the 2008 Audi RS6 Avant is a good deal faster in a straight line than the R8, too.

2008 Audi RS6 Avant - www.robson.m3rlin.org

Born With a Hatch
It is no real surprise that Audi’s latest, most outrageous performance showcase has been born as a wagon. No other carmaker in recent times has placed such an emphasis on producing elegant load-haulers, even if they are largely ignored by American buyers. A sedan version of the RS6 is possibly headed our way in America, but for the time being the new Audi will only be sold as a wagon, and the majority of sales are expected in Europe.

But if the new second-generation RS6 is to leave any lasting impression, it must prove itself to be something more than a rapid evolution of the S6, upon which it is largely based. It also needs to prove itself more oriented toward the driver than its one-dimensional predecessor, which didn’t much appeal to real enthusiasts, despite its 480-hp twin-turbocharged 4.2-liter V8. That car was quick — darn quick — but not a great deal of fun away from a wide, multilane highway.

2008 Audi RS6 Avant - www.robson.m3rlin.org

It is hard to think of a car that has been subjected to such a long list of mechanical and cosmetic modifications as this one. Somewhere beneath all that bulging bodywork lurks an ordinary Audi S6 Avant, but not as you know it. In fact, it’s best to think of this new Audi as an all-new model, such is the change in overall character from lesser siblings.

Personality Transplant
To start with, the RS6 is assembled at Quattro GmbH, Audi’s increasingly active performance division in Neckarsulm, a company created to take on the likes of BMW’s renowned M GmbH as well as Mercedes-Benz’s AMG skunkworks operation.

Much of the attention has been devoted to the engine. This is a development of the naturally aspirated 5,204cc V10 previously seen in the S6, but while it retains an 84.5mm bore, the 89.0mm stroke is significantly shorter, resulting in an overall displacement of 4,991cc. It delivers a strapping 580 hp between 6,250 rpm and 6,700 rpm, and there’s a thumping 479 pound-feet of torque from 1,500 rpm all the way to 6,250 rpm.

2008 Audi RS6 Avant - www.robson.m3rlin.org

There are plenty of internal modifications to bring such power within reach, the most significant of which is the addition of two IHI turbochargers and a matching pair of intercoolers. Turbo boost maxes out at 10 psi, and it adds up to 116 hp/liter. This is not the highest figure Audi has ever achieved in a road car — the 2000 RS4 with its twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 put out a staggering 145 hp per liter — but it is still enough to provide the RS6 with a stonking 145 hp more than the already seriously rapid S6.

Looks to Match
Such power alone should be enough to make people sit up and take notice. But Audi has also tweaked the looks of the RS6, making it one of the most aggressive four-door cars on the road today.

The shape of the front end has been determined largely by the need to get as much cooling air as possible into the engine bay and to the front brakes. There’s a new deep front bumper with large intake ducts and a downforce-producing aero splitter. To afford as much space for intake air as possible, the foglights have been incorporated into the main headlamps.

2008 Audi RS6 Avant - www.robson.m3rlin.org

A honeycomb grille can be had either in black or satin-finish aluminum, and it further dramatizes the flared front fenders and big rocker-sill extensions. The rear features a subtle rooftop spoiler and a bumper that incorporates both a large aero diffuser and two whopping oval exhaust tips.

This test car’s optional 20-inch wheels with 275/35R20 tires perfectly fill out the flared wheel arches, and don’t be surprised if they ultimately prove more popular than the standard 19-inch wheels with 255/40R19 rubber.

The RS6 Avant has special brakes tailored to its prodigious weight of 4,464 pounds, with rotors measuring 15.4 inches in front and 14.0 inches in the rear. For those who choose the 20.0-inch wheels, there’s an optional package of carbon-ceramic brake rotors that measure a mammoth 16.5 inches in front with six-piston calipers and 14.0-inch discs at the back. The carbon-ceramic discs also help reduce unsprung weight by 26.5 pounds.

Yes, It Hauls
Forget that the RS6 is capable of carrying up to five adults and a sizable load of luggage. This is a brutally fast car by any standards. There’s no magic trick to extracting the performance in a straight line. You simply lay your right foot down against the heavily sprung accelerator pedal and hang on firmly to the lovely flat-bottom three-spoke steering wheel. The rest is taken care of by the standard six-speed automatic gearbox with remote shift paddles and Audi’s traditional four-wheel-drive system.

Given the most unsympathetic of techniques for a standing start — slotting the gearlever across into manual mode, winding the engine revs up and side-stepping the brakes — there is a sickening mechanical thud back through the driveline, followed by a momentary squeal from the tires as they scramble to contain all the torque being transferred to the bitumen before you are flung up the road.

Audi claims 100 km/h (62 mph) comes up in 4.6 seconds, with 200 km/h (124 mph) arriving in 14.9 seconds. Top speed is electronically capped at 155 mph, although Audi offers RS6 owners an opportunity to extend it to 174 mph. You’ll be glad to know that Stephan Reil, the RS6’s development boss, says he saw 205 mph during final prototype testing on a secret section of autobahn late last Audi’s RS6 Avant super wagon has been out for nearly a year but a sedan will soon join the Avant’s ranks at October’s Paris Motor Show. Audi’s entire A6 line will undergo an update for the 2009 model year, keeping the 5-Series rival fresh until the an all-new A6 arrives in 2011.

The RS6 uses a twin-turbocharged direct injection version of the S6’s 5.2 liter V10. In RS6 guise, the engine produces 580 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, capable of launching the car to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. The sprint from zero to 124 mph takes 14.9 seconds for the wagon version — a figure the sedan should be able to match or exceedyear.

The engine really steals the show. There is meaningful boost from little more than 1,000 rpm and from then on, the floodgates open. Midrange power is one maddening thrust toward the horizon, with the power laid on at a barely believable rate. It is rare for a turbocharged engine to feel as strong at the top end as it does down low, but the RS6’s V10 is still hammering hard with a deep baritone blare when the rev limiter cuts in abruptly at 6,800 rpm.

Simply Fast
Look upon the RS6 as an extremely fast car with colossal all-weather traction, with no real ambition as a lithe sports car with whip-crack response. Though it feels more at home in a straight line, it also manages to devour twisting roads with an impressive turn of speed. The tires grip well beyond what is safely achievable on the road, and the suspension boasts the sort of hardware that allows you to not only control the ride quality in three distinct levels — Comfort, Dynamic and Sport — but also ensure body movements are always well in check as you throw the car into a corner.

The four-wheel-drive system has been reworked to provide a nominal 40 percent front/60 percent rear torque split. It ensures massive purchase, yet the car handles with neutral poise even at high cornering speeds. The steering is quick at 2.2 turns lock to lock and it has more on-center feel than the S6’s steering thanks to a revised hydraulic pump. The brakes are beyond reproach, and they still feel strong even after being hammered lap after lap on a racetrack.

The last word on the new über-Audi’s handling, though, should go to Stephan Reil, who says it will turn a lap of the Nürburgring in 8:09, some 20 seconds faster than the previous-generation RS6.

Serious Seats for a Serious Wagon
With a sumptuous combination of leather, aluminum accents and carbon-fiber trim, the RS6 is no stripped-down road racer. As you’d expect, its interior offers a luxurious driving environment like that of the normally aspirated V10-powered S6.

The front seats, however, are new. They’re hulking hard-shell items that deliver loads of support. Audi also added a stop/start button between the front seats to fire the car’s twin-turbocharged 5.2-liter V10 and went to work on the wagon’s steering wheel. It’s been resized and is flat-bottomed motorsports style. At first it feels a bit odd passing through your fingers, but you get used to it.

Overall interior spaciousness is the same as that of the S6, meaning generous room for four adults. The sedan offers 19.3 cubic feet of luggage space, while the wagon has 20 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the second seat and 58.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down.

Scribbled on March 27th 2009 in Audi, Audi RS6, Audi RS6 Avant
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