First Drive: Audi RS 6 And RS 7
Boasting the most powerful internal-combustion engine the marque has given a road car, we take the RS 6 Avant Performance and RS 7 Sportback Performance for a spin.
When Audi introduced us to the latest RS 6 Avant and the mechanically identical RS 7 sedan back in 2019, we had a hard time identifying any glaring faults in the luxurious, high-powered brutes, but there were a few areas that offered room for improvement. Rakish good looks, twin-turbocharged V8 power, and intuitive technologies made these RS-tuned machines impressive daily drivers that fused practicality with performance, yet the latter aspect of their split personalities seemed a little too hushed for the sake of civility. And according to RS product line director Florian Mair, we weren’t the only ones who felt that way.
“We take customer feedback very seriously, and it was clear that we needed to address a lack of emotionality,” Mair explained just prior to setting us loose on the winding roads of Napa Valley, Calif., with the automaker’s latest hot rods.
That’s where the new Performance iterations of the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback come in. Effectively replacing the standard version of both models from 2024 on, Audi sought to ratchet up the intensity with the Performance iteration through strategic improvements rather than reinvention. With the design and tech remaining familiar, the main goal of this effort was to produce a car that offers more fireworks and outright capability without sacrificing usability.
There are a few visual tweaks, like matte finishes for the mirrors, side sills, rear diffuser, and a few other trim pieces, as well as new paint options (Grenadier Red metallic and Ascari Blue metallic). The cabin also benefits from new trim and stitching flourishes, along with new performance-focused visuals on the 12.3-inch digital-gauge cluster, but ultimately the focus is on function rather than form.
Thanks to larger turbochargers and higher boost pressures, the 4.0-litre DOHC V-8 now makes 463 kW and 850 Nm of torque (up 22 kW and 50 Nm from the outgoing RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback), figures which make this the most powerful internal-combustion engine that Audi has ever offered in a road-going production vehicle. The standard models never really felt like they were lacking for grunt, but the additional shove chops two-tenths of a second off of their official zero-to-100km/h sprint times, which now stand at a decidedly urgent 3.3 seconds. Truth be told, from behind the wheel, it feels significantly quicker than that. Aided by all-wheel-drive grip and updated transmission software that produces quicker shifts, launch control catapults the RS 6 Avant Performance off the line with a ferocity that belies the vehicle’s 2000kg curb weight, and we wouldn’t be surprised if testing reveals real-world performance in the high two-second range.
The Performance models aren’t purely about straight-line speed, though. Lateral grip was another metric where the outgoing cars felt held back by a tire that prioritised ride quality over road-holding capability, and to that end, the 2024 models—equipped with 22-inch wheels—will score a new, stickier Continental Sport Contact 7 high-performance tire. The wheels themselves are new as well: Available in titanium matte, matte black, and bi-colour black finishes, this forged five-spoke roller is said to be 5kg lighter than the 22-inch wheel it replaces. That might not seem like much in a car that weighs nearly two and a half tonnes, but it’s a significant reduction of rotational mass that noticeably improves overall responsiveness.
An enhanced air-suspension setup with adaptive dampers remains standard equipment for both vehicles, while a more traditional coil spring and adaptive damper configuration—known as Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) in Audi parlance—is optionally available. Both systems carry over from last year.
Although it doesn’t smooth out road imperfections quite as effectively as the air springs do, the DRC setup delivered an additional dose of poise that we appreciated during spirited driving, and we felt it was worth the minor compromise in ride quality. The optional carbon-ceramic-brake package—which includes massive ten-piston callipers with 17.3-inch carbon-ceramic discs up front and 14.6-inch rotors in the rear—also carries over from last year and continues to provide consistently impressive stopping power. However, the latter’s tendency toward overeager response at lower speeds makes the standard brake package better suited to everyday driving.
Regardless of which suspension and brake packages are selected, the RS 6 Avant Performance and RS 7 Sportback Performance feel more at home when hustled through a technical stretch of road than their outgoing counterparts did. While much of the credit goes to the new Continental tire, engineers also updated the cars’ centre differential to reduce understeer at the dynamic limit, which also allows the back end to step out just enough to keep things lively.
The Performance models also seek to address a common complaint that the outgoing cars were simply too quiet. We did note, while recently testing a ’23 RS 6 Avant, that the wind noise created by opening a window just a bit to let some fresh air in was enough to make the engine virtually inaudible. While it seemed unfortunate that the song of a 447 kW V8 could be overpowered by so little, the bigger issue was that it made it nearly impossible to determine when to upshift and downshift by ear when using the eight-speed automatic gearbox in manual mode.
Rather than replacing the existing active exhaust system with a less restrictive design, Audi instead decided to reduce the amount of sound insulation throughout, in order to bring more of the power plant’s soundtrack into the cabin. This approach does indeed make the V8’s growl easier to hear without actually making the car any louder, but the drawback is that it allows in more noise from the road and the outside world as well.
Still, it’s a small compromise to make for what is otherwise a tangibly improved driving experience. Through a variety of subtle, well-executed updates, the Performance treatment makes the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback feel more earnestly aimed at driving enthusiasts while also providing a few aesthetic touches that freshen up the look.
For those seeking something a bit more exclusive, Audi will also offer the Bronze Edition, a package which includes Sebring Black paint, matte neodymium gold-finished 22-inch wheels, black callipers, bronze interior stitching, and a few other odds and ends that should help these sharpened machines stand out from the crowd. Bronze Edition production is limited to just 75 examples of the RS 6 Avant Performance and 50 examples of the RS 7 Sportback Performance, with Australian allocation yet to be announced.
Pricing for the Audi RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback Performance are yet to be confirmed, but expect them to sit above that of the regular models ($232,200 before ORC and $239,200 before ORC, respectively). Both models are slated to launch in Australia later this year.
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