Audi's 300 kmh wagon unleashed

GREG KABLE
Last updated 11:30 06/12/2012

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Audi has upped the ante in the luxury car ranks with its new RS6 Avant – a car whose towering performance is claimed to make it faster than the highly regarded Porsche 911 Carrera S in both straight line and maximum speeds.

The rapid German load hauler, set to get its public debut at the Detroit motor show in early January, runs the highest tuned version of Audi's advanced twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine – essentially the same unit found in the Bentley Continental GT.

With 412kW, the new engine actually delivers 12kW less than the non-turbocharged, Lamborghini-derived 5.2-litre V10 used by the second-generation RS6 Avant. But thanks to the characteristics of its turbocharged induction system, maximum power now arrives 550rpm earlier at 5700rpm. With 700Nm, the new RS6 Avant also packs an additional 50Nm of torque over its predecessor, albeit 250rpm higher in the rev range at 1750rpm.

The latest Audi S6 Avant, upon which the RS6 Avant is largely based, uses a less highly tuned version of the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 engine with 309kW and 550Nm of torque.

The heady reserves are channelled through an eight-speed automatic gearbox offering the driver the choice of D (drive) and S (sport) modes. As befits the RS6 Avant's performance car standing, the ZF-engineered unit receives remote steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles as well as a unique software package with faster shifts in Sport mode.

Drive is subsequently apportioned to each axle via the latest version of Audi's patented Torsen torque-sensing permanent four-wheel-drive system. An optional torque vectoring function can also be ordered as part of a so-called sport differential to constantly vary the amount of power going to each rear wheel depending on the amount of prevailing grip for better traction.

Refinements to the body and its supporting structure, which is fashioned from a combination of aluminium and high-strength steel, are said to have brought a reduction in kerb weight over the old RS6 Avant. Audi isn't going into specifics just yet but suggests a 100kg reduction has been achieved, hinting at a kerb weight for the new model of about 1875kg – a figure which indicates an improved power to weight ratio.

Audi claims the new RS6 Avant blasts from 0 to 100 kmh in just 3.9 seconds, or an impressive 0.6 seconds faster than its predecessor. By way of comparison, the Porsche 911 Carrera S is claimed to require 4.5 seconds to reach the same speed, while the S6 Avant needs 4.9 seconds. The closest of its luxury performance car rivals, the E63 AMG wagon, whose turbocharged 5.5-litre V8 develops 410kW and 800Nm in combination with an optional performance package, requires a claimed 4.3 seconds.

Top speed is nominally limited to 155mph (250 kmh), although it can be raised to 174mph (280 kmh) with an optional "dynamic" package and 190mph (305 kmh) with a further "dynamic plus" package.

As part of efforts to improve overall comfort, the third-generation RS6 comes as standard with air suspension – a first for Audi's RS models. The hi-tech underpinnings are programmed to provide differing levels of ride height depending on the drive mode selected by the driver, with so-called dynamic mode lowering the body by 20mm over the nominal setting.

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Buyers can also specify an optional dynamic ride control suspension. It dispenses with the air suspension for a more conventional arrangement using steel springs and three-way adjustable shock absorbers. The standard wheels and tyres are 20-inch in diameter, with 21-inch rims available as an option.

The RS6 Avant is differentiated from the S6 by an aggressive looking body kit. Included is a deep front bumper boasting sizeable air ducts housing vertical strakes to channel air separately into the engine bay and towards the front brakes, a high gloss black grille with a newly modelled lower section incorporating a graphic with the word “Quattro”, more heavily flared front wings, a more substantial sill element underneath the doors and an altered rear bumper featuring a larger full width diffuser and twin chromed oval tail pipes.

Audi will offer the new car with two optional styling packages: matte aluminium and carbon - the latter of which adds a further dose of visual aggression to the front bumper and rear diffuser.

-Fairfax News Australia

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