Over the course of four generations, the Audi RS 6 has established the standard for high-performance station wagons with exceptional performance and great daily usability, thrilling Audi Sport GmbH and a global following like no other vehicle has in the last 20 years.
Its all-wheel drive and double-charged engine are responsible for the 2002 concept’s popularity. Every RS 6 generation has used the same fundamental idea. It continually establishes new benchmarks in its adversarial environment as well. Other instances of technical “Vorsprung” (lead, advance) may be found, such as the Dynamic Ride Control suspension. It has long been a feature of other Audi RS models.
Table of Contents
The A6 (C5) becomes an athlete: the first Audi RS 6
Soon after the century began, the personnel at what was once Quattro GmbH (now Audi Sport GmbH) had to decide which vehicle would get a sporty upgrade following the RS 4. The Audi A6 was at the right place at the right time. In 2001, the first generation (C5) received a product improvement, and Audi also aimed to increase the higher mid-engine range’s power.
The brand was self-aware, and interest in racing was strong. When Audi made its debut in the famed 24-hour Le Mans in 1999, it managed to get to the winners’ stand on the first attempt. In 2000, 2001, and 2002, the business with the four rings created history once again. With 13 victories, it has overtaken Porsche as the second-most successful team in Le Mans history.
The A6 was heavily modified to become a sports vehicle by the Audi experts at Quattro GmbH. That required more than just changing the suspension, engine, and gearbox. Additionally, Audi increased in length and breadth by four centimeters (1.6 in), giving it a more aggressive aspect.
Its athletic intentions were highlighted by new skirts, broader sills, a spoiler for the Avant, a prominent breakaway edge for the Sedan, 18″ or 19″ wheels, and two oval tailpipes.
The most powerful Audi in 2022
The A8, series D2’s basic concept was to have an eight-cylinder added. The S6 already had an engine, which produced 340 PS without charge.
A strong engine that was later double-turbocharged and had a 4.2-liter displacement, however, initially did not fit in the body of the A6 and required a lot of technical work. Quattro GmbH, therefore, lengthened the front end and provided the V8 with an additional four centimeters (1.6 in) of installation space.
The engine that powered the original Audi RS 6 was tuned in England, not Ingolstadt or Neckarsulm. The British engine manufacturer Cosworth, which up until 2004 was a division of AUDI AG, contributed to the outstanding 450 hp power and 560 Nm of torque together with Quattro GmbH. It was positioned first in the segment as a result.
The RS 6’s V8 effectively communicated with the opposition. In contrast, the DTM Audi from the ABT team that Laurent Aello used to win the 2002 championship had 450 hp at the time.
Powerful things need to be controlled well. The manual transmission’s heyday has come to an end. An RS model’s torque-converter powertrain provided quicker gear changes for the first time. Acceleration to 100 km/h (62 mph) was possible in 4.7 seconds using five driving modes.
Audi therefore resorted to the newly developed Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension to ensure that the Audi RS 6 Avant and Sedan wowed with their optimum spread between comfort and sportiness even in daily driving.
“The DRC reduces roll and pitch movements in sporty driving, both on straightaways and in curves”, according to Stephan Reil, who oversaw the development of the whole RS 6 series and is now Head of Technical Development at the Neckarsulm facility. Concretely speaking, it tightens the car’s grip on the road and continuously provides nimble handling, especially during rapid cornering.
Steel springs with two hydraulic shock absorbers positioned diagonally across from each other makeup Dynamic Ride Control. These work without electronics and without any time lag to counterbalance motion in the vehicle’s body. The damper response is changed as the vehicle enters or travels around a curve, greatly reducing both the longitudinal (roll) and transverse motions of the car (pitch).
All C5 models of the first generation RS 6 were produced both mechanically and manually. Driveable but far from being finished. For example, they lacked the entire suspension, RS-specific parts, and unique interior design components. They moved to an adjacent hall from the Neckarsulm factory for this reason. Each automobile was painstakingly finished by Quattro GmbH personnel over the course of around 15 hours on the hydraulic lift.
The C5 is the only Audi RS 6 that was built with racing in mind from the beginning. In the 2003 SPEED GT World Challenge, Randy Pobst’s RS 6 Competition, used by Champion Racing, outperformed vehicles of comparable displacement. The V8 bi-turbo, which featured a manual shift and 475 PS, won the race on its first try.
Quattro GmbH increased the power towards the conclusion of the series from 450 to 480 hp while keeping the torque at 560 Nm and adding a “plus” to the moniker. Instead of 250 km/h, the highest speed was now 280 km/h (174 mph) (155 mph). Equipment that was previously optional becomes required.
The second generation came with a monstrous V10
Six years after the debut of the original RS 6, the second generation was released in 2008. Audi raised the number of cylinders from eight to 10, in addition to the power and displacement. There were still two turboloaders, but the displacement was now five liters. That translated to a combined 580 hp and 650 Nm of torque, accessible from 1,500 rpm.
Those figures even outperformed the R8, which had a maximum of 560 hp in the R8 GT at the time. Audi manufactured the biggest RS engine ever for three years. The V10 is a powerful machine. It was 278 kg heavy (613 lbs). Audi used dry sump lubrication, an idea from racing, to assure the oil supply while navigating bends at high speeds.
The separate oil tank enabled the V10 engine to sit in a low position, lowering the center of gravity for the whole vehicle. The system delivered up to 1.2 g of oil for longitudinal and lateral acceleration and was built for racing.
The V10 already resembles a piece of art with its two turbochargers and manifolds, according to Stephan Reil, who clearly recalls how methodical the Audi engineers were in their utilization of every square centimeter of installation space. And it’s strong. There isn’t an engine compartment that I am aware of that is more fully stocked than the one in the Audi RS 6 C6.
The ten-cylinder also required a gearbox that could manage power, as was previously the case with the C5. To fulfill that necessity, a significant overhaul was made to the six-gear automatic that it utilized. All of these factors—cooling, changing velocity, and power distribution—were enhanced.
With this engine and gearbox setup, Audi’s RS 6 plus was the first vehicle to reach a peak speed of over 300 km/h (186 mph)—303 km/h (188 mph), to be exact. The highest speed of the standard RS 6 is 250 km/h (155 mph), with a 280 km/h (174 mph) option available for an extra fee. In a straightaway, hardly any other vehicle in the series could match the C6.
The Avant required 4.6 seconds to get to 100 km/h (62 mph), whereas the Sedan needed 4.5 seconds. Braking force was also required for such a form of propulsion. The first ceramic brakes, which were offered on the RS 6, stopped this aggressive vehicle quite reliably with 420 mm (16.5 in) front and 356 mm (14 in) rear discs.
The DRC suspension, which customers now get as standard equipment in the Avant and the Sedan, was used by Audi for the second time to provide passengers with a dynamic and pleasant ride to their destinations.
For the first time, an extra adjustment unit on the shock absorbers that enabled three-stage settings could be added to the DRC suspension for an additional cost to provide greater daily comfort over the whole range of driving scenarios.
Audi kept this model’s aesthetic understated, much as with its predecessor. Large wheels and tires (19″ and 255/40; optional 20″ and 275/35) provided plenty of space, expanding the vehicle by just 3.5 centimeters (1.38 in) in total to 1.89 meters. Protruding fenders that set it different from the standard model (6.2 ft).
After leaving the assembly line, the C6 also underwent substantial tuning at the nearby Quattro GmbH hall. Workers finished the automobile there just as they had done with its prior model. The C6 was replaced by an Audi RS 6 plus Sport or a RS 6 plus Audi Exclusive for its last iteration. 500 restricted cars in total left the Neckarsulm factory.
It included leather on the instrument panel, a numbered badge on the inside, distinctive alloy wheels with a five-spoke design, and floor mats with the RS 6 insignia.
Over 600 hp for the C7
Fewer cylinders? That’s got to be wrong! That is one criticism that was voiced by people other than just consumers when Audi switched back to a double-turbocharged eight-cylinder with a four-liter displacement in 2013 after using a ten-cylinder biturbo – the smallest engine in the RS 6’s history.
Furthermore, the iconic Sedan was dropped from production without a successor, and in the US, the Audi RS 7 Sportback took its place. But the naysayers were quickly silenced. The combination that Audi had put together was so superior in terms of driving dynamics and economy that it considerably outperformed the previous RS 6 versions.
Most importantly, this made it feasible to gradually lose weight. The C7 generation’s weight was lowered by around 120 kg thanks to a number of factors, including the use of a substantially larger proportion of aluminum in all of the associated elements (265 lbs). The Avant was also 2.4 inches (six cm) wider than a typical A6 on the road.
When compared to the C6, where the front axle still carried roughly 60% of the entire mass, Audi lowered it to just over 55%, saving about 100 kg (220 lbs). The engine was also placed somewhat further back, by around 15 centimeters (5.9 in). On the road, the Audi RS 6 demonstrated that losing two cylinders and 20 PS had no negative effects on performance.
The C7 took 3.9 seconds, or half a second shorter than its predecessor, to reach 100 km/h (62 mph), thanks to 700 Nm of torque and the new 8-speed Tiptronic. The highest speed shown by its instrument panel was 305 km/h (190 mph).
The fact that it used 30% less gasoline than its predecessor was due to a combination of factors, including the lowered weight and cylinder deactivation, which converts the RS 6 to a four-cylinder engine under mild loads. Again, ceramic brakes with discs (420 mm (16.5 in) diameter, 365 mm (14.3 in) rear) were an option.
These brakes provide maximum negative acceleration and are especially useful in conditions of severe endurance stress.
Customers requested a little bit more comfort, thus air suspension was included as a standard feature for the first time in the third generation of the Audi RS 6. With a sharper tune and a 20 millimeter (0.79 in) lower ride height, adaptive air suspension improved the daily driving experience.
The ability to use a trailer hitch was a new convenience for swiftly moving possessions. The DRC suspension, however, was firmly established. It was widely acknowledged that the RS 6 C7 was superior to its predecessors in every respect, including the propulsion system, suspension, comfort, and efficiency.
Over time, Audi’s four-liter, eight-cylinder engine produced more and greater power. For the first time, the RS 6’s performance exceeded 600 hp (605, specifically). 750 Nm of torque was momentarily handled by the overboost feature.
Despite the early complaints about the C7’s lower power and fewer cylinders, it was this iteration of the RS 6 that rose to the top of the market and became the best-selling vehicle in the category of high-performance station wagons. It was a prominent post that its current holder still occupies.
The RS 6 C7 Avant made waves around the globe. The United States, a market that has always preferred sedans, pushed for it in its home market, but it would have to wait a little while longer.
The best yet: the fourth installment
The fourth version of the Audi RS 6 (C8) debuted in showrooms in 2019—three years before it turned 20—and maintained true to its roots. With a biturbo four-liter engine, 600 horsepower, and now 800 Nm of torque. This vehicle is accompanied by a 48 volt mild hybrid system for the first time in its history, considerably increasing efficiency.
The RS 6 Avant accelerates to 100 km/h (62 mph) in a snappy 3.6 seconds despite being somewhat heavier, and it takes only twelve seconds to reach 200 km/h (124 mph). Straightaways are where the C8 is most evident. In terms of cornering and lateral acceleration, it also establishes a new benchmark for itself.
Given that the rear wheels now spin in the same direction as the front wheels while traveling at high speeds, the new all-wheel steering enhances stability. They spin in the opposite direction as the front wheels to shorten the turning radius and facilitate parking while moving at moderate speeds.
Customers care about other things as well, while hassle-free parking is certainly vital. They want to be able to tow a trailer, just as in the older vehicles. According to Stephan Reil, “by now, more than half of our European clients request a trailer hitch.” That demonstrates that people desire to overcome daily obstacles in addition to having a dynamic drive.
Audi continues to provide such options in response to consumer demand, but today they now come with air and DRC suspension.
And the layout? The C8 makes a distinct impression than the C5, C6, and C7 versions of the Audi RS 6, which only stood out as power station wagons upon second glance. Even laypeople will immediately realize that this is not a typical A6. The only shared components between the RS 6 Avant and the A6 Avant basic model are the top, front doors, and tailgate.
Other parts were modified especially for the RS, and the body was noticeably wider by eight centimeters (3.15 in). Few people are aware that the A6’s quickest model also has an independent hood for the first time, and that all of these changes allow it to use the RS 7’s Matrix LED Headlights with laser beams.
Additionally noticeable are the bigger and higher wheels and tires. The series comes standard with 21″ diameters (275/35) and offers 22″ (285/30) as an option for the first time. Contrary to its predecessors, the C8 rolls off the assembly line in Neckarsulm prepared for the showroom rather than being produced in separate halls, which have subsequently been renamed Audi Sport GmbH.
That demonstrates how adaptable these manufacturing facilities are. And in response to overwhelming demand, the C8 is now for the first time offered in the US as the Audi RS 6 Avant. The RS 6 C8 is unquestionably transitioning from a niche vehicle to a success story with global demand.