What’s Hot: Glorious exhaust noise, torque-laden rush, immense road presence.
What’s Not: These are heavy beasts - but hide their heft behind mountains of torque.
X-FACTOR: If the first rifle-fire gear change doesn’t hook you, the grip-at-all-costs handling will.
Price: RS 6 - $229,500, RS 7 - $242,000 (both exclude on-roads)
Engine/trans: 412kW/700Nm 4.0 litre V8 twin-turbo | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 9.6 l/100km
When it comes to the big guns, your 400kW-plus choices usually come in two distinct flavours.
One, stuffed into a purpose-built two-door body packed with flair but low on practicality, or, two, a four-door grand touring saloon with lots of engine crammed into it.
That’s fine for some, but what if you want to think outside the box? Well, Audi might have your answer.
The Germans have opted to combine the sheer delight of a 412kW twin turbo V8, with Quattro all-wheel-drive, and surround it with the body of a station wagon for something they call the RS 6 Avant.
If that doesn’t fit your sense of style, you might like Audi’s take on the four-door coupe. The RS 7 combines the same powertrain with a sleeker five-door hatchback shape.
For 2015 the RS models also gain a light update, as seen on the rest of the A6 and A7 range. The most obvious change being new-look lighting front and rear with Audi’s Matrix all-LED headlamps and new graphics for the DRLs and rear lamps.
But, what about the performance side of things? Where better to find out than at the Phillip Island racing circuit in Victoria, where Audi launched its pair of heavy hitters.
- Eight-inch MMI screen with sat-nav, reversing camera and sensors.
- 14-speaker Bose stereo with DVD, digital TV and radio, USB input (including faster charging phone-port) Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and LTE data connection for Audi Connect online services.
- Four-zone climate control
- Heads-up display
- Sports electric memory front seats with seat heaters
- Valcona leather upholstery and black headliner.
- Gloss carbon fibre interior highlights
- Keyless entry and ignition.
- Luggage space - RS 6: 565 litres seats up, 1680 litres seats down. RS 7: 535 litres seats up, 1390 litres seats down.
Performance may be the raison d’etre for the RS range, but at this end of the market you’re handed a hefty dose of luxury as well.
Driver and front passenger are treated to deeply bolstered sports seats, trimmed in Valcona leather with honeycomb stitching and integrated head restraints featuring RS embossing. There’s also electric adjustment and seat heating.
The RS steering wheel features a three-spoke design, with a racey flat bottom and shift paddles. That’s on top of the usual multi-function controls for audio and trip computer.
In the rear the same leather and honeycomb detailing can be found on the three-person rear bench.
An optional rear sport seat package, that reduces seating capacity to two, is also available as a no cost option.
Interior highlights are furnished in high-gloss carbon fibre, with optional piano black (no cost) or aluminium and beaufort black ($3400) available.
Quad-zone climate control and a 600W Bose audio system with 14-speakers, digital TV and radio and eight-inch electrically-deployable screen are standard.
Audiophiles may still opt for the more powerful 1200W Bang & Olufsen 15-speaker audio upgrade, priced at $12,000.
Audi Connect is also standard, with LTE data connection, Siri and Svoice inputs, and free search and picture search accessed via the MMI controller and eight-inch centre screen.
ON THE TRACK
- 412kW/700Nm twin turbo petrol 8cyl with Cylinder on Demand and start-stop.
- 8 speed torque converter automatic.
- Quattro AWD with torque vectoring rear differential
- 0-100km/h: 3.9 seconds.
- Electronically limited top speed 250km/h, raised to 280km/h with Dynamic package and 305km/h with Dynamic package plus.
- 390mm wave-patterened front rotors, 6-piston calipers. 356mm rear rotors with single-piston calipers.
- Air suspension standard with optional steel-sprung Dynamic package.
- 21-inch alloy wheels.
- Fuel consumption: 9.6l/100km (RS 6) 9.5/100km (RS 7)
This wasn’t a case of dropping the kids off to school, or swinging by the office to pick up paperwork. For this launch, Audi put us to work on the racetrack.
We’ll tell you more about the mundane stuff once we’ve had these cars through the TMR test garage.
What you do need to know however is that these two cars, despite their practical seating and commodious boot space, are perfectly at home tearing around the Phillip Island MotoGP circuit.
That’s not something that every high-powered, almost two-tonne (1950kg for the RS 6 and 1930kg for the RS 7) large car naturally excels at.
Motivation comes via the same 4.0 litre twin-turbo petrol V8 as before, equipped with direct injection, engine start-stop, and inboard turbochargers for shorter flowpaths and faster response.
Also appearing on the RS 6 and RS 7 for the first time, Audi’s Cyinder On Demand technology. COD allows the engine to run on four cylinders under low-load conditions, reducing fuel consumption.
All of this results in carry-over figures of 412kw of power, developed between 5700rpm and 6600rpm, and 700Nm of torque on tap from 1750rpm all the way to 5500rpm.
Put simply, there’s no flat-spot anywhere in the huge amounts of thrust this engine is capable of.
From the starter’s flag both RS models deliver an enormous shove. There’s no wheelspin, no showy histrionics, just a seamless integration of electronic assistance and enormous mechanical grip.
Conditions at Phillip Island weren’t exactly ideal.
The sun only shone in limited bursts, and the track varied between greasy and downright sodden - normally that would be a cause for concern, but there seemed to be no end to the adhesion of these two RS models.
With Dynamic mode selected the RS goes into full attack mode, more power is sent to the rear axle by default for a more nimble feel and the stability control is loosened off just a little, but even in the slick conditions things felt planted and mostly neutral.
There’s a huge ability to alter the attitude of the RS models, just by shifting their weight.
Jump onto the throttle early when firing out of a bend and the rear will playfully pull wide.
Ultimately though, thanks to all that weight in the RS, and if you’re not delicate about how you use the throttle you can as easily find understeer.
The vehicles we tested were fully loaded with carbon ceramic brakes ($20,490) and dynamic steering and suspension (a $4900 package).
That meant that even after a set of punishing laps the brakes showed no signs of wilting. We didn’t get to experience the very first cold-stop of the day though so it’s hard to gauge how suitable this package might be on a daily commute.
What was apparent, however, is the immense force those huge brakes are capable of generating - flying down Phillip Island’s main straight at over 250km/h and hard on the picks into turn one is enough to crush the breath out of your lungs without unsettling the rear of the car.
There’s a little pitch forward, but in concert with the Dynamic Ride Control things are kept level, even when hard on the brakes or the throttle.
That entry to turn one was also where we picked the biggest difference between the RS 6 Avant and the RS 7 - for the most part the two behave identically, but even with the high winds of the day the Avant felt ever so slightly more secure.
Back into the hard charging and the glorious bellow of the V8 engine never wore thin.
The perfectly blipped down-shifts are sublime, but the echoing crack of an upchange is massivley addictive - even more so at part throttle, if only because you get to hang around a little longer to enjoy it.
Ride is expectedly firm, but the lack of roll and relentless grip make it worthwhile.
We’re keen to see what the comfort mode feels like on suburban streets, but it’s fair to say that even given a limited run during our time in the RS models, it should tackle the streets with ease.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 34.91 out of 37 possible points. Note however that this ANCAP score applied to standard A6 models, tested under the previous ANCAP regime in 2011.
Safety features: Eight airbags, including dual front, front seat side, rear rear side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS brakes with brake assist and autonomous emergency braking, electronic stability control (switchable), active lane assist, around-view camera, front and rear park sensors, and adaptive cruise control.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s not a huge array of competitors at this exclusive end of the market, but the Mercdes-AMG E 63 and BMW M5 both face off against the RS 6 Avant, the difference being it comes as a wagon while they are sedan only.
To head off the RS 7 there’s the CLS 63 and M6 Gran Coupe, again the difference is in the door-count. The RS 7 being the only hatch of the group.
In both cases the Mercedes-Benz models hold a power advantage, but the Audi’s are the only pair available with all-wheel-drive.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Both of these cars, the RS 6 Avant and the RS 7, are phenomenal feats of engineering.
Neither one is what you’d call a light-weight - yet put them onto a race circuit and their ability to put power to the ground, as well as wash off speed - makes it easy to forget just how big they are.
The toughest choice between these two will be picking which body style you’d rather live with.
For us there’s a certain appeal in a family wagon that can show a clean set of heels to more dedicated sports cars. That said, there’s a certain allure to the RS 7’s sweeping roof line.
If the Avant’s price advantage doesn’t sway you, then toss a coin for it - you won’t be disappointed either way.
As a blend of comfort, grunt, and timeless style, Audi has it nailed with this pair of incredibly impressive cars.