Audi India has made a brave move. In a country that has absolutely no love for estate cars, it has released a Rs 1.35 crore station wagon that wears the updated design cues that the A6 should have got by now. Of course, it has a wider body with more flared wheel arches, has a more ground hugging design with deep skirts all around and also has the RS 6 badges and the quattro emblem on the large single piece grille to tell you that this car is different. Very different. It treads into sportscar territory with its price tag, but looks the part despite its estate form factor.
What it has got underneath are the lovely RS 7 Sportback underpinnings - a 4.0-litre biturbo V8 that puts out an identical 560PS of power and a massive 700Nm of torque. Surprisingly though, the station wagon posts the same figures as the sportback with a 0-100kmph sprint time of 3.9s and a top speed that can be electronically restricted to 250kmph, 280kmph or 305kmph, depending on how much additional money you want to spend on it and of course, how sharp your responses are.
These aren't just on-paper figures. The RS 6 Avant is crazy quick. The initial degrees of throttle input aren't very aggressive and let you get off the line calmly, but step on the throttle and the car gets to the 5,000rpm mark in a jiffy and gets ferocious past that. Because it puts the power down to the road through the quattro system, there is hardly any drama in the way the RS 6 launches itself. You can also make it more serious by opting for a launch control system. But its curt humour is evident when you notice that it has reached illegal speeds without you even realising it.
Put this power to play around twisties though, and the Avant's shortcomings are highlighted. There is the inherent understeery nature of the all-wheel-drive system. While it provides phenomenal grip and enables you to hold your line with some work, quick switchbacks become a little tricky. There is a bit of bodyroll and the car makes it two tonne weight evident. Loading up the front and getting the tail to wag a bit can be helpful, but it isn't very easy with the torque vectoring system working in full swing.
When I say bodyroll, it is relative to the sportscars that you can have in the same price bracket. The RS 6's dynamics feel on par with something like the M5, but the ride quality is so much better. The grip from the quattro makes it safer at speed and prevents the car from suddenly snapping back at you like the M5 or the E 63. The downside to that is that the RS 6 may not feel as involving to drive, but it makes up for it with impeccable grip and stability.
The onboard computers let you choose between Comfort and Dynamic modes for alternating the engine and gearbox response, the suspension stiffness and the exhaust volume. The exhaust note doesn't sound fake either. At city speeds or in Comfort mode, it is audible as a rough growl, but rev higher or shift to the Dynamic mode and the roar of the V8 comes alive. In typical sportscar fashion, crackling sounds have also been engineered into the exhaust mechanism.
All these options can be accessed through the infotainment interface and the jog dial behind the shifter stick. Save for this stick, the layout of the dashboard fascia is largely identical to the A6. But the sportier side of the RS 6 gets carbon-fibre mouldings on the dash and Alcantara upholstery for the seating. The switchgear is familiar and has that tactile feel to it. Fit and finish are typical Audi and the RS 6 specific elements add more shine to the look and feel.
The rear seats are plush but good for two adults and a kid. I prefer the individual rear buckets of the RS 7 instead. The front seats are amazing. They are nicely bolstered and hold you in place even when cornering at speed. Finding the right driving position isn't difficult either, thanks to plenty of electrical adjustments.
The ride quality of the RS 6 is surprisingly good for the kind of road manners it has and even in Dynamic mode, it can take on the undulations pretty well. Comfort mode makes it almost as good as the A6, unless you hit some really sharp bumps. It is that practical. And then there is that big boot which can easily swallow a weekend's luggage for four and a golf kit and there will still be some space left for knick-knacks.
And because we are speaking of practicality, fuel economy requires a mention. When you are paying that price for it, the fuel efficiency may not be a concern for you. But on my drive the first tankful (75 litres) ran out in a mere 240km. So visits to the fuel station are more frequent than you think and considering that the service centres insist that you fill 97 octane fuel only to keep warranty intact, it shortens the touring ability of the RS 6 Avant.
But for the weekend drives to the twisties, or as a weekly runabout, the RS 6 does it all with utter ease. If the ground clearance wasn't so low, I would even recommend this car over a Porsche Macan or any of the AMG SUVs. It is quick, practical, understated and yet, exclusive its own way.