2020 Audi RS6 Avant: It Hauls and Hauls—and It's Finally Coming to America!
It's true: We’re getting Audi’s hottest station wagon.
When Audi first outlined its plans to reorganize its Audi Sport division and revamp its RS lineup of vehicles, we were promised at the time that America would definitely get more of the RS good stuff as part of that effort. With the official announcement that the revamped, fourth-generation 2020 Audi RS6 Avant is coming North America, now we know that it wasn't just a bunch of fake news.
Over the years, the RS6 Avant has become something an enthusiast's fever dream machine here in the U.S., a hot-rod wagon that has remained tantalizingly out of reach since the launch of the first version back in 2002. What's finally within our grasp is a heavily revised, cargo-hauling menace with 591 horsepower and the latest in Audi's go-fast tech to aid and abet its high-performance mission.
Rumbling under the car's straked, power-domed hood is an updated version of Audi's mean, twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 that also generates 590 lb-ft of torque between 2,100 and 4,500 rpm. It's not a new engine, and Audi hasn't yet specified how this version might differ in terms of power-making equipment, but it's significantly more powerful than in the previous wagon. Audi is estimating the RS6 Avant can reach 60 mph in roughly 3.5 seconds and 124 mph in 12.0 flat. You have your choice of top speeds depending on spec: The base RS6 is limited to a 155 mph, and if you want to go faster, then you'll need to add the Dynamic Package (174 mph) or Dynamic Package Plus (189.5 mph) to the build sheet.
We do know that the powerplant has added tech in order to make it more efficient, starting with Audi's 48-volt mild-hybrid system. Using a belt alternator starter and a separate, 12-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, the setup is able to recover energy to help drive accessories or let the car coast for up to 40 seconds when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator at speeds from 32 to 99 mph. It also facilitates engine stop-start operation up to around 14 mph. Once you press the go pedal again, the belt alternator starter restarts the engine. The engine also features a cylinder-deactivation setup. None of this saves a ton of gas, but every drop counts when you're talking about thirsty beasts like the RS6 Avant.
The superwagon's V-8 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that isn't exactly new, either, but Audi says it shifts quicker than before and now comes with a launch-control feature. The gearbox routes the power to Audi's famous Quattro system. In the RS6 Avant, that setup funnels output to the front and rear axles via a mechanical center differential with a base 40:60 front-to-rear torque split. If things start getting slippery at either end, up to 70 percent of the power can be sent up front and 85 percent to the rear. Torque can also be routed to the inside or outside wheels in low-traction situations, and if you opt for either of the Dynamic packages, torque is also constantly shifted between the rear wheels to keep things even more stable and tractable. That's a lot of dynamism!
As for the RS6 Avant's broader ride and handling chops, they start with a baseline multilink front and rear suspension, the components of which are crafted primarily from aluminum. From there, customers can upgrade the standard RS adaptive air suspension to the RS Sport Suspension Plus with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), although we aren't sure yet if both will be available for North America. The air setup features multiple modes and is highlighted by a new air-spring module with a 50-percent higher spring rate in addition to automatic leveling. The RS6, which is already almost an inch lower than the A6 Avant—which is still staying overseas—can adapt to lower almost a half inch further at speeds above 75 mph or raise close to an inch at slow speeds, and offers multiple modes to choose from. If riding on air isn't your thing, then maybe Audi's DRC is. The mechanical setup utilizes steel springs and adjustable, three-stage oil-filled dampers that are connected to the same plumbing system. Under hard cornering or similar maneuvers, valves regulate the flow of oil to the dampers to best reduce pitch and roll and stabilize the car.
Another new trick is the addition of Audi's dynamic all-wheel steering, which is available only on Dynamic package cars. At low speeds it helps reduce the turning circle by turning the rear wheels up to five degrees opposite the fronts. When you're hustling, the rears can turn up to two degrees in the same direction as the fronts to mitigate understeer and enhance response.
As with most Audi models, the RS6 Avant comes with the Audi Drive Select system with baseline modes—Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Efficiency. But this mega-wagon also gets two RS-specific RS1 and RS2 modes, which allow you to tailor a number of different settings including the suspension, all-wheel steering, engine sound, differential, and more. Don't want to deal with the stability-control nannies? Then punch the RS2 mode and you can be gone with them.
When it comes to whoa-ing things down, the RS6 is available with either standard steel brake rotors or optional carbon-ceramic units. The steel set is no joke; it includes perforated and ventilated, 16.5-inch discs up front and 14.6-inch pieces in back, with red or optional black calipers doing the clamping. The ceramics are even larger up front, measuring an absolutely massive 17.3 inches, while the rears are the same diameter as the steel ones. In all, the carbons save some 75 pounds. Calipers for the ceramics can be sprayed in either gray, red, or blue.
The calipers hide behind either the standard 21-inch, 10-spoke wheels wrapped in 275/35 rubber or optional, RS-only, 22-inch V-design five-spokers that get 285/30 tires. The latter are available in silver or black. Housing them are beefy fender flares, part of a bulging body that's 1.6 inches wider than before. In fact, everywhere you look on the Audi RS6 you'll find an even more aggressive RS theme that starts up front with a wider and lower take on the Audi single-frame grille, one flanked by gargantuan air intakes.
Of course, it wouldn't be an Audi without some trick lighting, especially the optional, RS Matrix LED laser headlights with darkened trims. Out back, the major highlights include a roof edge spoiler, an RS-specific bumper with rear diffuser, and an exhaust system with a pair of the RS-traditional oval outlets. Want the tailpipes in black? Check the option box. There are 13 exterior colors available, including RS-specific Nardo Gray and Sebring Black.
Inside the cabin, the RS6 Avant can swallow more cargo than the previous model, and you'll also find a healthy dose of the newest in Audi infotainment tech, especially in the center stack, with its two large, haptic touchscreens that form the basis of the MMI touch-response display. RS-specific touches abound, including a special Virtual Cockpit setting; a display that monitors various engine and performance parameters; and RS logos on the seats, floor mats, and flat-bottom steering wheel. Plenty of high-end materials are available to further adorn the cabin, including carbon, wood, and matte aluminum, and an RS trim package adds more Alcantara accents and contrast stitching to the leather-swathed cabin. You can also order ventilated leather seats and an RS-themed head-up display. The RS6 Avant also comes with all the latest in Audi safety and security nannies, more than 30 systems in all.
So far, we don't have any concrete details yet about when the 2020 RS6 Avant will be headed here, but our best guess is mid- to late 2020. It's the same story with pricing, although it's a fair bet to assume it will start a fair bit north of $100,000. While it's pretty clear that Audi won't sell a ton of RS6 Avants in America whenever they do arrive, we have to give the automaker props for standing firm and keeping its promise to bring more of its beastliest cars to the U.S.