2024 Audi RS6 Avant Performance First Drive Review: Addictingly Agile Super Wagon
Nimble, livable, beautiful, and even more powerful than before, the new RS6 Performance is a problem.
Trigger warning: This story contains content about addiction.
At the beginning of the year, I decided to kick an addiction that had plagued my life for way too long. The first few days were admittedly quite easy, but about a week in was when I started getting ... hungry. That's when the rationalizing starts. The bargaining. Not to mention the headaches and general inability to concentrate or think about anything else. Over the past few days, I have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms again. The trigger? The 2024 Audi RS6 Avant Performance.
OK, fine, is my newfound infatuation for Audis quite as intense, serious, or insidious as my actual, very real addiction? Not at all. But it does contain shades of that same relationship. I wanted more. Of course, at $126,895 to start, the revised, more powerful, and wholly magnificent RS6 isn't a realistic purchase on a journalist's salary. But I just want a taste of it. "How much S4 can I get for $30,000?" I found myself asking the internet after handing back the RS6's keys. Bargaining. Rationalizing. Willing to shell out irrational amounts of money for a small hit.
Audi's new Performance-spec super wagon is one of the great all-rounders of this era. Uncannily nimble, uncomplicated to live with, utterly gorgeous, and, of course, uncompromisingly quick, it is one of those rare machines that genuinely does everything spectacularly. And I think I might have a problem. Let's unpack.
2024 Audi RS6 Avant Performance Specs
- Base price: $126,895
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 | 8-speed automatic | all-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 621
- Torque: 627 lb-ft
- Seating capacity: 5
- Curb weight: 5,016 pounds
- Cargo volume: 30 cubic feet
- 0-60 mph: 3.3 seconds
- Top speed: 155 mph (174 mph with Bronze edition)
- EPA fuel economy: TBD
- Quick take: Problematically good.
- Score: 9.5/10
Crosstown rivals BMW and Mercedes have both made habits in recent years of putting out polarizing designs, but Audi seems to have missed the memo. Arguably, nothing the Ingolstadt brand offers can really be considered—excuse the pun—avant-garde anymore, but the flip side of that is a lineup that's quietly and consistently good-looking. And the very long and aggressively handsome RS6 might be the company's best visual work on sale today. This updated Performance model gains dark trim and new 22-inch milled-cut wheels that shave 11 pounds of unsprung weight apiece, come in four different colors, and look like something straight out of HRE's catalog.
The new and U.S.-exclusive Bronze edition that'll resemble the car you see here pairs matte neodymium gold wheels with crystal black paint to great effect. Big Centurion Amex energy. Throwing in gloss carbon trim, Valcona leather, bronze stitching, Dynamic Ride Control, Bang & Olufsen Advanced audio, a fuzzy headliner, and a black-tipped sport exhaust, just 75 Bronze edition RS6 wagons and 50 Bronze RS7 sedans will be made.
Inside, the RS6 remains an extremely pleasant place to be. It's a clean, luxurious design adorned with leather, Alcantara, expensive-looking brightwork, and contrast stitching. The brand's usual dual push-screen setup is attractive, well-placed, and relatively easy to use while the 12.3-inch digital instrument screen is very configurable and easy to parse. Apple CarPlay is wireless and there's a wireless charge pad in the armrest cubby, keeping your phone out of sight and out of mind.
Cribbing a line made infamous by that one MTV real estate program, under the RS6's skin is where the magic happens. Thanks to updated software and bigger turbos with boost pressure now measuring 2.6 bar instead of 2.4, the RS6's 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 now makes 621 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, up 30 hp and 37 lb-ft from before. This is, believe it or not, Audi's most powerful internal combustion car yet—the naturally aspirated R8 V10 Performance "only" makes 602 hp and to get a more powerful Audi, you'll have to turn to the electric RS E-Tron GT which makes 637 ponies in Boost Mode.
Almost 18 pounds of sound insulation was taken out (mostly in the firewall) to let in more engine noise. The ZF eight-speed automatic transmission now boasts quicker shifts, drive modes have been made to feel more distinct from each other, and a new, self-locking center Torsen differential is lighter and smaller than before, lending to more precision and less understeer.
By Audi’s own admission, the RS6 Performance is not a track car, it's a street car. And on the street, 621 hp is downright excessive. Zero to 60 mph happens in 3.3 seconds (0.2 seconds quicker than before) and things top out at 155 mph (174 with the Bronze edition), but the true appeal here arguably isn’t even the prodigious power, it’s the precision and poise. I suspect the lightened wheels and rear-axle steering of up to five degrees have something to do with this, but the revised RS6 dances through tight corners with eerie ease for a family-sized car that weighs 5,000 pounds. Hustling through the tight switchbacks of Napa, the long-roof Audi proved to be—and I do not use this word lightly—addictingly agile.
The deftness, the precision, the neck-snapping speed, it all tickled a part of my brain that responded with a resounding, "I WANT MORE OF THISSSSS."
Steering is quite sharp and input is met with an accessible crispness and weight—definitely on the light side for this type of car, but not disconcertingly so. Grip from the Continental Sport Contact 7s is reassuringly immense and, despite what Audi's reputation might suggest, the word "understeer" does not seem to be in this car's vocabulary. At least not outside of a closed-circuit environment, but again, that's not the point.
That eight-speed auto handles manual shifts quickly and extremely smoothly. The brakes themselves, whether you go with the carbon ceramics or not, are He-Man strong, but the pedal feels a bit longer and squishier than I'd like in a car with the word Performance in its name.
Equipped with air suspension, the ride in Comfort mode isn’t exactly a magic carpet or necessarily marshmallowy (the regular A6 is a better bet if that’s what you’re looking for) but it’s still fairly livable. Sticking it in the hardest, sportiest setting stiffens things up, of course, but remains juust on the right side of tolerable. Ditto for the road noise, which does seem a bit louder than what you'd get in, say, a regular A6, 5 Series, or E-Class, but it isn't egregious. On the subject of sound, that V8 lets out a mighty, rumbly, gargly noise with a restrained amount of burbles and pops in sportier modes.
Of course, all of that can go away at the press of a button, too. Stick it in Auto or Comfort mode and the RS6 mostly becomes a quiet, easy, docile luxury commuter. No fuss, no drama, no shouting. Just a wagon doing wagon things.
As good as the RS6 Performance is to drive in pretty much all situations, the cherry on top of the cake is simply how good it is as a thing to interact with. The seats are great—well-shaped to the body, reasonably soft-surfaced, and properly positioned in relation to the pedals and steering wheel. That flat-bottom steering wheel, too, is a highlight. The grips are perfect, the rim is thin, the buttons are intuitive, and it's covered in soft, fuzzy Alcantara. It's not often that I get to mention this in any car that isn't a Honda or Acura product, but I also appreciate how thin the A-pillars are and how much that benefits outward visibility.
I also like its entire vibe. Spec sheet nerds will note that the BMW M5 Competition hits 60 mph 0.2 seconds quicker, but the RS6 is the one I'd have because it's more relaxed and friendlier-feeling somehow. It's more fun in the corners, it's nicer to look at, and its interior and infotainment UX are easier to get to grips with.
The Early Verdict
As of this writing, I have been "sober" for 72 days. It is the longest I've gone without a relapse so far and I can indeed feel my brain rewiring, healing, and reverting to its default, healthier state. Cravings still happen, of course, and if I'm being completely honest, letting myself write about this right now is making the asshole part of my psyche reminisce about those cheap and dirty dopamine hits. But that guy can go fuck himself because I choose to obsess over somewhat less problematic things. Like fast cars.
The 2024 Audi RS6 Avant Performance is simply a car that feels great to drive. I like sitting in it, I like hustling it around backroads, I like relaxedly cruising in it. Its powerhouse of a V8 and big five-door body make it an excessively powerful daily driver for people who have things to haul and friends to ferry. It's deeply impressive at changing direction, rowdily quick, supremely stable at speed, and able to calm down to regular executive car behavior at the press of a button.
You know what the Audi RS6 Performance feels like? An Acura Integra Type S for the one percent. A gloriously hotted-up version of a relatively everyday five-door car that's as dailyable as it is enjoyable on a twisty road. And a machine that deserves to be remembered as a classic for years to come. A lot like many "real" addictions, though, it's also the sort of vice that's intoxicating enough to inspire the kind of decisions that can lead to absolute financial and mental ruin.
Like, y'know, buying a used Audi.
For substance abuse treatment and mental health referrals, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
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