450 BHP, 0-60 4.8 seconds, five-doors. Introducing the original Audi RS6.
The first generation Audio RS6 is an increasingly familiar sight, as more second hand examples come onto the market. Despite the astonishing performance on offer, this car has all the practicality of the regular A6 Avant. But this is no ordinary Audi Estate. What we have here is a fire-breathing supercar slayer, dressed in a business suit. From its 4.2 litre twin-turbo V8 engine, to its lowered suspension and flared wheel arches – this car means business.
I drove a 2003 example, with just 26,000 miles on the clock. Visually, the car’s discreetly menacing appearance struck me – purposefully squat sat on wide 255/40 ZR 18 tyres.
Inside it’s very similar to any other A6; the exceptions being the sports dials, chunky 3-spoke steering wheel and supportive leather-alcantara recaro seats.
You would expect a luxury performance car to come with all the usual refinements and the RS6 doesn’t disappoint; being equipped with electrically adjustable sports seats, climate control and parking sensors. Satellite navigation and TV screen is a £1200 optional extra. Reassuringly, the big Audi is also packed with electronic driver’s aids, such as Electronic Stability Programme, ASR traction control,
and Electronic Diff Lock.
Inside, driver and passengers enjoy the same amount of space as in a regular A6, with plenty of headroom and legroom for rear-seat passengers. The boot remains a very useful 1591 litres.
On the road
Upon start-up, you are greeted with a satisfying burble from the twin-turbocharged Cosworth tuned V8. Manoeuvring at slow speeds, the RS6 felt quite docile and gave few clues as to the power that lay beneath the bonnet, although it did feel substantially stiffer and heavier than run-of the-mill A6s.
Once out of town, I found the first empty road I could and stamped on the loud pedal. Here the RS6 came to life. Nothing prepared me for the instantaneous surge of acceleration – I felt as though my internal organs had been left behind on the back seat. The RS6 is so fast that the best way to describe it is having instant power on tap. You go from no speed at all, to
‘that’s-quite-fast-enough-thank-you’, in a blink-of an-eye. With most cars you put your foot down and then wait expectantly for the speed to steadily increase. This car obediently responds as soon as you blip the throttle, and before you can say ‘look there’s a Gatso’– you’re breaking the speed limit.
Because there are no gears to worry about – the RS6 having five speed Tiptronic automatic as standard – the car is deceptively easy to drive. Added to that, the security of the Quattro four-wheel drive system and the plethora of electronic driving aids, which all translate to superb grip and handling on roads – even in the wet. This means that it really is all too easy to get up to highly inappropriate speeds on everyday roads.
Pioneered on this car was the “Dynamic Ride Control” (DRC) system, which uses mechanical technology in the form of a pump. It works by providing additional pressure in the shock absorbers during cornering, to counteract rolling and pitching. The system can constantly adjust the stiffness of each shock absorber to maintain both a comfortable ride and high levels of grip. The net result of this is a car that handles very well, yet without trading off too much comfort. Admittedly the lowered ride-height, 30% stiffer spring rate and 18-inch wheels result in a ride which is firmer than the rest of the A6 range, and the throaty rumble of the blown 4.2 V8 is always in the background; but despite this it never becomes a wearing companion on longer journeys.
As you would expect of a car offering this level of performance, its fuel consumption is depressingly high with a paltry combined return of 19.3 mpg – if you’re careful. Right foot antics result in a thoroughly non-green 12.5-mpg.
Second hand prices
Having now been replaced by the current C6 V10 RS6, this first generation C5 model looks a good second hand performance buy. £17,500 secures an early 2003 (52) with around 80,000 miles on the clock. Expect to pay up to £32,000 for later sub 30,000-mile examples.
The new RS6 is now on the market, but at a whooping £77,275, it remains strictly the preserve of the wealthy. For diehard petrol heads, the original RS6 offers similar amounts of on-road excitement at a fraction of the cost. Admittedly it is hard to justify a car that costs so much to run, but few cars offer genuine supercar performance, coupled with estate car practicality.
|Price when new||£59,000|
|Engine||Eight-cylinder twin turbo petrol|
|Top Speed||155 mph (limited)|