Audi RS 6

The Audi RS 6 is at home on the racetrack, but you will have to make up your own mind if it has the credentials on the road.

The RS 6 is amazingly powerful, squeezing an outrageously aggressive 5.0-litre, 580-horsepower V10 into the deceptive confines of a stately saloon body.
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As journalists, we are beholden to give every side to each story; an unbiased view on whatever news we report on. Here at Motoring, you can be assured that we give each car a fair chance in our reviews, and we try to get everything out of our time with each vehicle. After all, you, dear reader, deserve it. But I'm in a conundrum right now. Because I'd love to tell you everything you'd like to know about Audi's latest midsized saloon, the A6, and its outrageously powerful sibling, the RS 6, but, well, I can't. I'm letting you know this right now before I go on, and you can decide if you want to find out why.

You see, Audi hosted a few journalists in Doha at the Losail International Circuit, the twisty racetrack home to the opening round of the MotoGP motorcycle series in April. It was our job to hoon around the curves in the V6-powered A6 and the earth-pounding, V10-powered RS 6; remember, I carried this burden for you. The problem, however, is this: how many of these refined and stately four doors will find their home at full bore on a closed racecourse? Will any owner use these cars at a track day? Would the cars not be more at home on some lonely, country road, briskly heading back to the estate from a day of horse riding? Or cruising past the traffic on the autobahn, all the while carrying its passengers in silent luxury? While track testing a car such as Audi's own R8 may be apropos, considering the beast it is, a race circuit isn't exactly what the A6 and RS 6 are aimed for.

Enough questions; let me tell you what I do know. First off, the RS 6 is the muscled-up version of the A6, Audi's recently refreshed saloon that falls between its smaller A4 and flagship A8. Both A6 and RS 6 have been given clean, smooth sheet metal with crisp creases running down the sides. New headlights and brake lights tie them closer with the recently redesigned A4; very refined, very modern looking. The wide-mouth grille and sloping headlights give it a mean, aggressive look, while the RS 6 gets more belligerent with revised front and rear fascia, flared fenders (made of aluminium, like the bonnet) and lower body cladding.

But that's not the most striking thing that separates the two. The tipoff should have been the fact that we were required to wear helmets only while driving the RS 6. While the A6, fitted with a supercharged, 3.0-litre, 290-horsepower V6, leaves nothing wanting for performance, the RS 6 is just stupidly powerful. I mean, it is absolute, unchained brutality. That's what 580 hp gives you. Yes, five-eight-zero; the firm domain of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and other top-end, outrageous sports cars. The 5.0L, twin- turbocharged V10, squeezed into a decidedly non-outrageous saloon body, makes the RS 6 jump from 0 to 100 kilometres per hour in 4.5 seconds. Both cars share the same six-speed automatic gearbox. It could be shifted manually or let go on its own, which it did with aplomb.

And following Audi driving instructors (all seasoned race drivers of some form or another) around the track, the fact we mere auto journalists were able to keep from flying off into the dirt in our RS 6s was due to the little flashing light on the dash - the traction control indicator. Indeed, were it not for Audi's excellent ESP (electronic stabilisation programme) system, which applies the ABS brakes and/or accelerator to different wheels when it senses wheel slip, the German company would have been left with a pile of scrap at the end of the day.

Admittedly, that's giving short shrift to the car's excellent handling. Quattro all-wheel drive is available on the A6 (fitted to the 3.0 TFSIs we tested) and standard on the RS 6, thankfully! As well, Audi engineers fitted the RS 6 with what they call Dynamic Ride Control (DRC). Basically, the shock absorbers on each wheel are linked with hydraulic lines. More fluid is pumped to the outside wheel shock in a turn, helping to maintain ride stance. Let me tell you, the whole system works. The only thing that was squirming around out there was me in the seat.

Speaking of, if you're going to make a car for the track, make the seats able to hold someone in them. Extra side bolstering would have been nice. Bringing the RS 6 to a stop was no problem - the brake rotors at the front of the car are the size of dustbin lids and squeezed by six-piston calipers each. Let's not forget the performance of the more modest A6. While it has exactly half the horsepower of its pumped-up stablemate and slightly smaller brakes, it does share the same quattro, ESP and DRC (on the models we tested). And I actually found it more fun to drive around the track, as it was much easier to handle, yet still quick and solid in the curves.

Of course, the interiors of both cars were well up to Audi's standards. Excellent leather, solid switches, real aluminium trim, perfect steering wheel feel; you know, the usual. The switches on the centre console could be a bit confusing at first, and Audi is sticking with its Multi Media Interface (MMI), its knob-and-screen approach to controlling all aspects of the vehicle. It's alright, but I've used better systems - touch screens found on such cars as Jaguars and Volkswagens are much simpler to use. The RS 6 gets different interior trim with carbon fibre, saddle-stitched leather and special badging to make you feel just a little bit more special.

So, all this has been great fun, and I've really found an appreciation for the performance aspect of Audi's mid-sized saloons. But if you asked me how they did in stop-and-go traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road, or finding parking at Marina Mall, well, I can't tell you. I couldn't tell you the real-world fuel economy of driving to work, or how quiet and comfortable the car is on a long trip to Liwa. I have my own ideas on these issues, but I can't really just guess. You, dear reader, deserve better than that, don't you?