Is the 2020 Audi RS6 Avant Really Worth Freaking Out Over?

Dissecting the new performance wagon’s potential in America.

Audi currently sells no wagons in the U.S.A.—zero, zilch, not a one. Sure, there's the A4 Allroad but it carries unattractive plastic cladding and SUV-like lifted suspension. So, you can understand why I nearly fell off my chair when Audi recently announced that the batshit crazy, near-600-hp new RS6 Avant is coming to America. It's such big news that the company's press release was titled in all capital letters and ended with three exclamation points: "ALL-NEW AUDI RS6 AVANT IS COMING TO AMERICA!!!" How very un-German. But before getting too excited about an RS6 Avant heading to our shores, it's important to dissect this new go-fast wagon and see if it warrants such a headline.

It's certainly a good-looking wagon, although I'm not nuts about the silver exterior detailing, especially the swoopy tacked-on bit affixed to the rear bumper. But Audi will thankfully offer other trim color options, including black and carbon fiber. Or you could choose an RS6 Avant in matching silver paint. Moving back to the positive, the extroverted fender flares are 1.6 inches wider compared to the standard A6 wagon's sheetmetal in Europe and are particularly cool. In fact, every panel except the front doors, rear hatch and roof are unique to the RS6 Avant. Overall, it's a very aggressive yet elegant design. I like it.

Inside the RS6, as with its RS7 mechanical twin, it's pretty much your normal modern high-end Audi, which is generally a good thing. Only the dual touchscreens put me off. I much prefer intuitive hard buttons to distracting fingerprint magnets. But the interior is cohesive and appears high quality, and there looks to be plenty of space for people and stuff. That said, you can't fit quite as much shopping as you can in a Mercedes E-Class wagon. Lucky, there's much more to the RS6 Avant than just practicality.

It's no doubt a fast Audi. The zero-to-60-mph sprint should fall in the low-three-second range courtesy of standard all-wheel drive, launch control, and a powerful twin-turbo V8. The 4.0-liter engine is aided by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system and cylinder deactivation, though, strangely, the U.S. release makes no mention of the fuel-saving features. The sole transmission is a torque converter eight-speed automatic. Top speed sits at 155 mph but, at least on the other side of the Atlantic, maximum velocity can be bumped to 174 mph if you spec the optional Dynamic package, or 190 mph with the Dynamic Plus package. No word on if we'll get those two extra-cost features. We better, though, because the Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon can hit an impressive 180 mph as standard. And that Benz is a key competitive vehicle.

Late last year, we gathered an E63 S wagon and the latest Audi RS5 as part of the Automobile Magazine 2019 All-Stars competition. The Mercedes impressed while the Audi flew the decent-but-quite-there flag. The bigger and heavier AMG handled better on both the road and the track. And it rewarded the driver on a much higher level than the RS5 coupe. Audi will have to work some magic with this new RS6 Avant if it's going to match the mega dynamic character of the AMG. And remember that Mercedes offers the trick to switch the E63 to rear-wheel drive. Not so at Audi.

Still, Audi does have an opportunity to give the RS6 Avant a slightly different character compared to the Mercedes. Despite my love for the E63 wagon, I do find myself regularly reaching for the suspension button in the center console in an attempt to calm the ride. Even in the dampers' most relaxed mode, the AMG remains stiff. I tested the outgoing RS6 Avant in England some years back and it came across as a wicked fast A6 wagon with wicked-cool fender flares, being brilliant both in foul weather and when trudging along on a lengthy freeway journey. But the four-ringed wagon didn't reward when pushed. If Audi injects some of the brilliance of the E63 into the latest RS6 but keeps the ride quality and laugh-at-the-weather skills of the old car then it may end up as the Goldilocks of this niche segment.

The RS6 Avant looks to be a complicated car to order, like so many modern vehicles. And we'll see what options we actually get in America. Over in Europe, the wheels are 21 inchers with a 22-inch style available as an option. Air suspension is standard, with Dynamic Ride Control available. The latter replaces the air springs with coils and adds adjustable dampers interconnected via hydraulic lines to help control pitch and roll. Rear-wheel steering is offered on the RS6 Avant, and Audi's controversial variable-ratio steering is standard. An active rear Sport differential is also something you can pay to add. And the Audi wagon offers optional carbon-ceramic brakes, bumping the front rotor size from a huge 16.5 inches to a gigantic 17.3. You can also spec a sport exhaust, which is a must-have with any V-8 wagon. We'll have to see what chassis combination is best for the RS6 Avant and if there's a configuration available that turns the Audi wagon into a proper AMG wagon killer.

Either way, I'm over the moon that we're getting another go-fast wagon in the USA. Hopefully this segment expansion convinces BMW to get in the game. How cool would it be to have a BMW M5 Competition wagon? But I digress. There's also the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo (read: wagon), though it's less powerful and quite a bit more expensive than the E63 S Wagon and the RS6 Avant, assuming the Audi carries a similar $112,745 base price to the Benz. And the Porsche is sadly more in the realm of the last-generation RS6 Avant as far as how it rewards the driver. So, maybe we can forget about the Panamera.

Let's hope enough Americans pull the trigger on the special order RS6 Avant to justify Audi USA's bold move to send the fast wagon across the pond. Each and every time I see a so-called "sporty SUV" with a luxury badge on it, I wonder why the owner didn't buy an E63 wagon. Now I'll be able to include the Audi in that question. It's no doubt a good time to be a performance-wagon geek in the U.S. Maybe three exclamation points and all caps weren't enough, Audi.