Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

Less than a week before its formal introduction at the Frankfurt auto show, Audi AG’s quattro GmbH performance unit pulls the curtain back on its most powerful road car ever: the new RS6 Avant sports wagon.

Based on the A6 Avant and aimed at upping the high-performance ante for German luxury cars, the highly anticipated RS6 blends all the auto maker’s advanced technologies into a new flagship for the RS marque.

Although the new car’s stealthy appearance belies its dynamic abilities, beneath its wagon bodyshell beats a 580-hp, twin-turbocharged DOHC V-10 based on the 5.2L FSI (fuel stratified injection) mill in the current S8 and S6 sedans.

As with other forced-induction TFSI engines from Audi and Volkswagen AG, the combination of turbocharging and direct-injection gasoline technology produces copious amounts of thrust across a wide powerband, specifically 479 lb.-ft. (650 Nm) of torque from 1,500-6,250 rpm for the new V-10, the auto maker says.

In addition to TFSI fueling and breathing, other highlights of the new engine include dry-sump oiling for a lower center of gravity and more consistent lubrication, along with an unusually high 10.5:1 compression ratio and an overall weight of 615 lbs. (278 kg).

Backing up the new engine is a tiptronic 6-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, the latter splitting the power 40/60 between the front and rear axles for better driving dynamics.

As with most Audis, the RS6 Avant’s top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph (250 km/h). However, the auto maker says 62 mph (100 km/h) can be reached in as little as 4.6 seconds, with 124 mph (200 km/h) being dispatched in 14.9 seconds.

The speed-sensitive steering and 4-link front and trapezoidal-link rear suspensions all have been specially tuned for the RS6’s higher levels of performance. A 3-stage adjustable Dynamic Ride Control damper system, plucked from the RS4 range, also is featured and controls body movements through diagonally linking shock absorbers at each corner.

For stopping power equal to its acceleration, the RS6 will be available with gigantic 16.5-in. (42-cm) front and 14.2-in. (36-cm) rear carbon-ceramic disc brakes and 20-in. aluminum wheels. Audi says 2-piece steel discs and 19-in. alloys will be standard equipment.

Outside, the RS6 Avant’s most striking feature is its innocuous station wagon profile, which is in contrast to the traditional sports sedan configuration of most of its competitors from BMW AG and Mercedes-Benz, nearly all of which offer far less power than the Audi.

However, the auto maker says the RS6 range will “start with the Avant,” lending credence that an RS6 sedan likely will follow once the Avant is launched in April.

Other styling cues include a matte aluminum-look grille, integrated fog lights and adaptive bi-xenon headlights with a unique array of 10 light-emitting diode running lights under each lamp. The bulging fenders, along with the hood, are made of lightweight aluminum and help compensate for the added weight of the engine up front.

In back, an integrated spoiler and diffuser with dual oval exhaust outlets distinguish the RS6, which the auto maker says will introduce three new colors: Sepang Blue, Monza Silver and Monterrey Green.

Inside, the RS6 improves upon the already pleasant S6 interior with a barrage of carbon fiber, aluminum, leather and Alcantara details. A boost gauge is added, as are “RS6” embossed sport seats, aluminum-look pedals and a flat-bottomed, multifunction RS sports steering wheel.

Additional details, such as pricing and whether the carbon brakes, sport seats and other features will make it to the U.S., will be released closer to launch.

Regardless of its configuration, the new RS6 Avant epitomizes the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing mantra of Audi’s RS lineup and guarantees to be one of the fastest ways ever to run to the grocery store.

msutton@wardsauto.com