The swagger of a supercar and the practical proportions of a wagon – that, in a nutshell, is the appeal of the 2024 Audi RS 6 Performance.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. Much more. It’s in the very minutiae that makes up this range-topping version of an already outrageous wagon. In an incredibly small but simply spectacular segment, this Audi is out to claim the crown as king of them all.
The “regular” RS 6 is anything but ordinary. Sure, it’s a wagon; but the juxtaposition of its preposterous performance wrapped up in a package that’s synonymous with sensibility is hilariously absurd. With a twin-turbocharged V8 engine stuffed under the hood and the ability to sprint from a standing start to 100 km/h in a claimed 3.6 seconds, this despite tipping the scales at some 2,250 kg (4,960 lb), the RS 6 puts up numbers that belie its bodystyle.
This Performance version ups the ante entirely, with the same 4.0L motor that’s been fitted with bigger turbos, not to mention had the boost dial cranked to 37.7 psi (from 34.8 psi). The result is an extra 30 hp and 37 lb-ft of torque for totals of 621 and 627, respectively. In what can’t be a coincidence, the latter number is identical to the one made by the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S wagon.
Beyond the turbos, the RS 6 Performance also adds a new centre differential that has a default torque split of 40/60 front to rear, although it’s variable and can operate in a range between a front-biased 70/30 split to 15/85 in favour of the back end. The all-wheel drive system works with an eight-speed automatic transmission that’s said to shift more quickly than the last one, while the previously optional RS Dynamic package that combines a rear sport differential and four-wheel steering is now standard.
Add it all up, and this wagon is capable of conquering the zero-to-100 km/h acceleration run in 3.4 seconds, according to Audi. In another feat that surely can’t be a fluke, that’s exactly one blink of an eye quicker than its rival wagon from Affalterbach. Meanwhile, its top speed is electronically capped at 280 km/h, while the optional RS Dynamic package plus pushes the governor to a ridiculous 305 km/h.
OK, A Little Less
What that means in a practical sense is, well, very little. Since this isn’t Europe and our highways have speed limits, there’s no scenario in which it’s possible to explore those outer reaches on public roads – at least not legally. But in a segment where bragging rights matter, the RS 6 is on an island of inordinate abilities.
To get there required a little addition by subtraction, with weight reduction that seems at first blush like it’s barely worth mentioning. But then compared to a sports car like the Porsche 911, where mere grams are shaved in the name of going faster, the mass this wagon has shed is significant.
Take the 8 kg (17.6 lb) worth of sound-deadening material that’s been sent to the scrap heap; or the combined 20 kg (44 lb) of unsprung weight that disappears with the optional 22-inch wheels. Even the available carbon-ceramic brakes cut another 34 kg (75 lb) from the car. Forget fabric door pulls – this is the automotive equivalent of the Atkins diet.
In spite of the slimming down that’s gone on here, the RS 6 Performance still tips the scales at some 2,090 kg (4,608 lb), and yet feels far more slim and trim than it actually is. The rear-axle steering in particular plays the biggest role in proverbially shrinking this wagon, allowing it to drive an awful lot like the much smaller S3 on a winding road.
Looking the Part – and Playing It, Too
This Audi is an assassin in his Sunday’s best, with abilities that far surpass the expectations it establishes visually. It’s certainly capable of looking sinister, with the one tested here doing a damn fine job of it, what with its blacked-out exterior details set against the liquid molasses-like paint accentuating the width and wickedness of this wagon. Likewise, the barely-bronze wheels are ideal accents.
Inside, swathes of black leather accented in red – or blue with the optional RS Design package added – cover gently bolstered seats front and back, while the suede-wrapped steering wheel looks and feels luxurious and athletic at the same time. The inserts in the seats in particular, with their contrast-coloured perforations and dogbone accent stitching, set off the entire look in a way that few cars out there can match.
<pdata-mce-caret="after" data-mce-bogus="all" style="top: 2041px;">
Beyond the way it looks, the RS 6 Performance is a delight to drive. Any doubt about the mechanical nature of the centre differential is dispelled with the first downshift of the eight-speed automatic transmission, with a satisfying clunk as the engine speed spikes and all the engine’s torque surges through the drivetrain. While not quite as keyed up as its outrageous output might suggest, a deep stab of the throttle is all it takes to send this sleeper surging down the road with refined raucousness.
Likewise, when underpinned by the standard air suspension ride quality varies from supremely supple to properly stiff, with a setting in the middle that’s a blend of both. Ditto the different drive modes that change up the rest of the performance parameters, while the two RS modes activated via a button on the steering wheel can be customized to mix and match suspension, transmission, and other settings.
Pushing west from California’s Napa Valley toward the famed Pacific Coast Highway, gobbling up miles of twisting asphalt with ease, a thought fills the cabin that’s far more difficult to shake than any of the would-be challengers trying their best to keep up: the 2024 Audi RS 6 Performance might just be the perfect car. It’s opulent like a proper luxury offering, delivers all kinds of interior space thanks to its practical proportions, and has the otherworldly ability to blast off into the stratosphere about as quickly as any of its supercar contemporaries or carve up twisting tarmac like something much smaller. OK, it’s probably not the right Audi to take to a track event, but as far as finding the most satisfying way to fill a one-car garage, it doesn’t get much better than this.