We tested the new 2014 Audi RS6 on the German autobahn. Is it as good as we want it to be? Our review and driving experience will tell you all about it!
Its eleven years since Audi first introduced the Audi RS6. Now in its third generation, the Audi RS6 is back with less power but better performance as its predecessor. For the first time Audi’s aim for the new RS6 was to make the RS6 lighter and more fuel efficient and still faster at the same time.
At the heart of the 2014 Audi RS6 is a new uprated twin-turbo version of the 4.0 V8 TFSI engine also found in the S6. The engineers at Quattro GmbH, the company responsible for the RS models, managed to squeeze out another 140hp, lifting its output to a more than impressive total of 560hp.
Audi has made downsizing one of the cornerstones of its strategy and with success. The 560hp is available between 5,700 and 6,700 rpm. A constant 700 Nm of torque are available between 1,750 and 5,500 rpm. Because the high-revving four-liter engine has been rigorously designed for low load-change and flow losses, it develops this power quickly and spontaneously.
The most innovative efficiency technology in the new Audi RS6 is the cylinder on demand (COD) system that can also be found in its sportback brother, the RS7. At low to medium loads and engine speeds, it deactivates cylinders 2, 3, 5 and 8 by closing their valves via electromechanical actuators. The 4.0 TFSI then runs as a four-cylinder engine until the driver accelerates more strongly again. The operating points in the active cylinders are displaced toward higher loads, increasing efficiency.
Gearbox & Drivetrain
The standard ZF eight-speed tiptronic is specially tuned to the sporty character of the Audi RS6. The lower gears of the tiptronic are closely spaced for sporty response, the eighth gear is tall like an overdrive to reduce fuel consumption. The 8-speed tiptronic moves well in auto mode, optionally you can shift manually with the flappy paddles behind the steering wheel. You can also use those paddles to temporarily override the Drive or Sport automatic mode, this will also keep you in the gear of your choice. Stay off the paddles for a while and the gearbox seamlessly switches back to automatic mode.
The 2014 Audi RS6 comes standard with quattro permanent all-wheel drive with a central differential with a high locking rate. It distributes the power as needed within a wide range between the front and rear axles. In the standard configuration, 60 percent flows to the rear and 40 percent to the front.
Besides downsizing, Audi applied another cornerstone of its strategy to the C7 RS6: Lightweight. Using a mix of high strength steel and aluminium in combination with a lighter V8 engine the weight is kept at around 2 tonnes, 2,010 kg to be exact. That’s 15kg heavier as the Audi RS7 but 15kg lighter than the previous generation RS6 (C6).
This allows for some incredible figures: The RS6 sprints from 0 to 100 km/h in under 3.9 seconds. No matter what conditions, the RS6’s sprint is brutal and effortless.
Without ticking any of the optional extras Audi limits the top speed to 250 km/h, however with the optional dynamic package this is raised to 280 km/h and even 305 km/h with the dynamic plus package. It reaches this speed near flawless, set the engine and gearbox setting to dynamic and the 8-speed gearbox will only shift up to 7th gear when you pass the 280 km/h mark.
Like the Audi RS7, the C7 Audi RS6 offers two options; the standard adaptive air suspension or the RS sport suspension with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC). DRC includes a clever hydraulic system that eliminates body roll, comparable a little bit to the system found in a McLaren 12C. Both the adaptive air suspension as the RS sport suspension offer three settings: Comfort, Auto and Dynamic.
We drove the Audi RS6 with the sport suspension with DRC. The dynamic of the car changes fundamentally with the settings you chose. The sporty DRC is so harsh in dynamic that you are really bouncing in the car, even on smooth roads or many race tracks it will be too hard and at higher speeds on the autobahn simply unsettling the car over bumps.
Instead set it back to auto and enjoy a balanced smooth ride on the straights and a flat and rather stiff RS6 through the corners. Comfort mode offers a ride that is not as smooth as the air suspension in comfort but certainly enjoyable on long journeys. Overall the air suspension (that we tested in the 2014 Audi RS7) offers far more comfort, especially in combination with the 20” inch wheels compared to the 21” fitted on our DRC test car, but lacks the sporty touch and the cornering abilities of the DRC equipped car.
The C7 RS6 interior is finished in the highest quality materials similar to the A6 and S6. New on the RS are several RS badges, floormats and RS seats, as well as carbon fibre parts used to spice up the interior.
The seats offer plenty of support and can be equipped with seat cooling and massage function as optional extra. Several entertainment options from bluetooth media player connections to DAB radio are available. Opt for the integrated rear seat entertainment and this could very well be one of the best fast family cars on the market today.
The 2014 Audi RS6 (C7) comes only as a stunning Avant. Its wagon shape gives it a completely different look as its RS7 brother, that has a slick sophisticated design. The RS6 looks more aggressive and has a stronger presence on the road.
As with the interior, the RS6 distinquishes itself from the standard A6 with a range of RS6 badges, additionally you can recognize the RS6 C7 by its two large oval exhaust tips, a rear diffuser, Quattro grill and large optional 21” wheels.
For our road test review of the 2014 Audi RS6 C7 we headed out to the Audi Headquarters in Ingolstadt. Although the Audi RS6 and its base model, the A6 are build in Neckarsulm, Ingolstadt has played a key role in the development of Auto Union, which became Audi in the 1960s. Over 33,000 people work in the Audi factory in Ingolstadt today.
Upon our arrival at the Audi Forum at the Audi HQ we were greeted by a bright red Audi RS6 Avant with 21” wheels, Dynamic Plus package, RS exhaust and the ceramic brakes. Perfect spec to explore the sporty side of the Audi RS6!
From Ingolstadt we head North into the hills and forrests of Bavaria. Not only do these forrest offer great locations for photography, some of the roads are true hidden gems with hardly any traffic and beautiful combinations of corners and plenty of height difference. A public road version of the Nurburgring as you will.
As usual in the Summer season in Germany there are plenty of road works too, but although they made us deviated from our original route more and more, some of these dead-end roads offered a lot of fun. Not only for us but also for various Audi factory drivers and other journalist that we frequently spotted testing their R8s on these deserted roads.
As with the 2014 Audi RS7 that we tested a few weeks before, the Audi RS6 comes with a vehicle setup menu where you can set a range of car essentials between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic. This includes the engine and gearbox responds, the power steering, the suspension, to the volume of the RS sport exhaust and aggressiveness of the adaptive cruise control. There are also some general pre-defined settings that set everything to Comfort or Dynamic while Individual allows you to set everything yourself.
Based on our experience with the RS7 we opt for individual and set everything to Dynamic except the Power Steering and the Dynamic Ride Control / Suspension, that we both set to Auto. Like with the RS7 the DRC suspension on Dynamic is so harsh that we do not recommend switching it on. Auto makes the ride more comfortable while maintaining the cornering capabilities that the DRC was invented for. The power steering in auto is still not ideal as it feels over-engineered and a bit indirect but in auto it at least feels better than in Dynamic (too heavy) and Comfort mode which is too soft.
With the settings done and the engine at the right temparature its time to put some heat into the exhaust. The RS Sports Exhaust offers a lot of banging and popping when hot and it certainly provides an addictive sound track under power but also when lifting your foot of the throttle. The V8 doesn’t offer the same high pitched noise of the V10 but Audi certainly created a RS-badge worthy sound with the new RS6.
Acceleration is brutal beyond believe, 0-100 km/h in less than 4 seconds in a car that weighs over 2 tonnes. The single clutch 8-speed ZF gearbox that we are very familiar with, offers the best performance you can possible expect from a single clutch gearbox in auto and sport mode. In manual mode when flipping the paddles yourself it does loose from twin-clutch gearboxes on both quick up- and downshifts.
On these country roads in Bavaria the ceramic brakes provide excellent stopping power, make sure you strap all your luggage in well before you head off in the new RS6 because the G-forces are pulling hard. In corners, with the dynamic ride control that includes a hydraulic anti-roll bar, the RS6 stays surprisingly flat and can carry more speed than you would expect from such a big and heavy car.
The all-wheel drive systems offers tremendous grip, no matter what weather conditions you might encounter. Coming out of a tight bend the 700Nm of torque is there immediately to push you forward with force. Thanks to the AWD system and despite its high torque and rear-biased differential it is not a tail happy car. Instead it just cuts through the corners without too much drama.
Inside the Audi RS6 is a very pleasant place to be. The driver and passengers have all sorts of gadgets to play with, from the car’s setup and navigation system to digital radio and rear seat entertainment. The controls might not be that intiuative as they are with BMW’s iDrive, but the infotainment system is still among the best on the market today. It is also surprisingly quiet, premium noise isolation has made its way from high-end luxury limousines to other models throughout the luxury segment.
After a short photoshoot and what felt like a zillion three point turns on a small country road with an 18% rise, we climb a mountain to a small castle with a beautiful view of the valley below. For the first time on our journey the car is surrounded by people and we receive many comments along the lines of “beautiful car”, “nice Audi” and “I like the new RS6”. Does that surprise me? Actually it does! In an area littered with more Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and especially AMG, S, RS and M models, than you can imagine it is great to see people appreciate the new RS6.
After our little social distraction we steer the RS6 down the hill and towards the German A9 autobahn. The A9 autobahn is probably my favourite highway in Germany, if not in the world. Leading from Munich to Berlin it covers roughly 540 kilometers, most of which is still unlimited (no speed limit) and at least three lanes width per direction. It features a few spectacular long straights and also some entertaining curvy and hilly stretches and if traffic is not too bad (sadly we are driving in holiday season) you can get some decent high speed driving done without risking any problems with the law.
We enter the A9 about 50 kilometes North of Ingolstadt and head further North in the direction of Nuremberg (not to be confused with the town of Nurburg, a mere 500km away). Sadly we are not the only ones using the A9 at this sunny day in July so we just cruise along with traffic. When there is a gap you put your foot down slightly, blink twice and the next car that seemed so far away is closer than you think. After ten minutes we decide to try our luck the other way and leave the autobahn.
Heading back on to the autobahn towards Munich, the onramp and road is clear, and before we know it the speedometer reads 280 km/h. Our car is equipped with the optional Dynamic Plus package that includes ceramic brakes and a higher top speed of 305 km/h. Despite the perfect road for a high speed test and the incredible and continious acceleration of the new RS6, traffic doesn’t allow us to reach its top speed. Nonetheless it is noteworthy that the RS6 reaches the three-zero-zero mark also with four people and luggage, making it one of our candidates for best all-round family cars in the world.
Back to our journey, we returned to our route to Nuremberg and soon found ourselves in a typical rain shower, the wet roads don’t unsettle the RS6 one bit, with AWD and its 2 tonnes weight you have to push hard until you will really notice any loss in traction. Even acceleration from standstill feels as fast as it did in the dry. In the city, not directly the place to associate with a 560hp car, the Audi morphs into a pleasant daily driver. Its dimensions have grown significantly since the introduction of the first RS6 in 2002, but with big mirrors and modern aids it feels more practical than its predecessors.
On the streets of Nuremberg the Audi RS6 keeps getting looks but this might have something to do with the ‘Brilliant Red’ colour of our test car of course! We stop for lunch while talking over the cars pros and cons. The sheer performance, especially the standing start and the top speed, the great sound track from the RS exhaust and its allround capabilities receive praise. The suspension works fine in auto mode but is clearly to hard in dynamic and the steering feels to indirect to please anyone looking for a sportscar feel, despite these two points, the RS6 still scores extremely high on our wishlist.
With a full belly and renewed energy we head back to Ingolstadt, again over the A9 where we make a few interesting encounters. On the outskirts of Ingolstadt we first meet a Audi RS6 C6, build between 2008 and 2010 this second generation RS6 has a 580hp strong 5.0 liter V10 under the hood. Slightly more powerful but, but is it faster? Luckily the owner of the RS6 C6 Avant was also keen to find out! At the same time we put our foot down and did a short sprint from 100-160 km/h. The difference was clearly in favor of the C7, also on the second ocassion the 2014 RS7 gained a good distance to its predecessor.
We knew the new RS6 with its turbocharged 4.0 liter V8 was quick and quicker than its predecessor, but experiencing it head-to-head makes it a lot more impressive than it looks on paper. Continueing down the road we came across another interesting reference point for the RS6; BMW’s M550d. Although this 3.0 liter six-in-line comes fairly short on the horsepower front with only 381hp, it offers 740Nm torque and weighs in a lot lighter. With its AWD it also comes a lot closer to the RS6 usability in all weather conditions as traditional competitors like the BMW M5 and Mercedes E63 AMG.
On the autobahn the M550d is able to set an impressive pace, driving and accelerating between 160 and 250 km/h at rates that will make many bite the dust. The RS6 however is able to follow easily and thanks to its higher top speed able to overtake the M550d eventually. Despite the unequal battle, both cars have in common that they can dominate the autobahn like no other, whether you take your family on Summer holiday or go skiing with your friends there are few cars that will get you there faster and safer as these two.
After our second reference encounter we head back to Ingolstadt for some final photos at what turned out to be a military training ground. Luckily the soldiers had a day off and we were able to return the RS6 without any bullet holes!
What to spec?
During our day with the Audi RS6 we also had a look at the various options and packages available for the RS6 and here are some optional extras you should definitely consider to add to your RS6 order:
- Dynamic Package: Includes the Sport Differential, RS Sport Suspension (leave it in Auto) and increased top speed of 280 km/h. If you live in Germany or drive extra sporty consider the Dynamic Plus Package which includes a further increase of the limiter to 305 km/h and the Ceramic brakes. It comes at a hefty price though and it is doubtful if the brakes and increased top speed are worth the extra 8,000 euro.
- RS Sport Exhaust: The must-have for the great RS6 tune.
- Seat cooling, our favorite feature to cool us down on hot summer days.
- Assistance & Safety Package, includes Lane Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go function among other safety systems. The RS6 and RS7 both allow the adaptive cruise control to be set up to speeds of 250km/h, compared to 180-200 km/h for many competing systems. Both systems make long journeys much more comfortable and safer.
How does it compare to the Audi S6?
Despite its character as an excellent and fast grand tourer we missed a great sense of sportiness in the S6. The RS6 definitely adds a great deal of sportiness over the S6 with its powerful engine, tremendous performance, the must-have sport exhaust, increased top speed and optional sport suspension.
A major difference is the gearbox, where the S6 comes with Audi’s own 7-speed double clutch gearbox, the RS6 has a ZF 8-Speed with a single clutch. Audi claims the 8-speed is a better fit for the RS6, but increasing desire to keep fuel economy as low as possible also plays a role. The 8th gear in the RS6 works as an overdrive and reduces average fuel economy to nearly the same level as the 140hp weaker S6.
Some issues of the S6 still exist in the RS6; steering feels quite indirect and artificial, while the handling is not as dynamic as one would like. However the RS6 packs a whole lot more punch and we would opt for the more aggressive RS6 at a heartbeat.
How does it compare to the previous generation Audi RS6?
Its lighter, faster, bigger, better..! But we will miss the monster 5.0 liter V10 from the C6 RS6. The turbocharged V8 in the new generation is a great engine but lacks a bit of emotion and sound the V10 had.
What about the competition?
In the segment of the Audi RS6 we also find the BMW M5 Touring and Mercedes E63 AMG Estate. The Audi RS6 sets the bar higher in this segment with incredible acceleration and great usability. However is it driving fun beyond just straight line acceleration you are after the Mercedes and BMW offer a more dynamic experience with their rear wheel drive setups. In all-round performance and usability the before-mentioned BMW M550d xDrive is also an interesting and cheaper alternative to the RS6.
The Audi RS6 is the fastest car in its class with stunning looks. Despite the downsizing the RS6 is still what it always was, the best and fastest Audi A6 and one of the best all-round fast family cars one can buy.
The 2014 Audi RS6 is available in Europe and Asia / Middle East now. We are sad that it won’t be coming to North America, but the RS7 offers a good alternative there.