2021 Audi RS6 Avant quick drive review: Take me to the mountain

Audi's RS6 Avant isn't everyone's cup of tea, but those who can afford the brew will find it very sweet indeed.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
5 min read
2021 Audi RS6 Avant

Ready for a road trip like no other.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

I feel like I could write a doctoral thesis on how unfortunate it is that Americans can't see past 1980s preconceptions and appreciate the wonder that is the modern wagon. If you're taking the time to read this, I figure you're already among the faithful. However, if you're merely curious, I encourage you to read on and join me in this celebration of one of the most sublime cars on the road today, the Audi RS6 Avant. Specifically, I want to talk about how it is a wonderful option for all-weather exhilaration.

Audi calls it an Avant in an effort of evocative branding, but this is without a doubt a wagon. It has too many windows on the side to be a hatchback and lacks the crudely unpainted, pseudo-rugged fender flares that many manufacturers are slapping on their long-roofed options. It's a wagon, and a sporty one at that, among the best we've been blessed with here in the US of A.

2021 Audi RS6 Avant is the ultimate practical performer

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Audi's RS6 puts down 591 horsepower through all four wheels -- 22-inch wheels at that, wrapped in Continental Wintercontact tires. At least, my car was so equipped for the winter season when I did my testing, but for more seasonable driving I'd recommend sticking with the summer fitment of Pirelli P-Zero rubber.

Power comes from a 4.0-liter V8, turbocharged of course, and looking absolutely menacing nestled up front of this wagon and flanked by a tangle of exposed, race-ready pipes and fittings. I've seen supercars with less evocative engine bays than this. But then, this is a supercar. Or it's as quick as one, anyway.

The sprint to 60 mph takes a mere 3.6 seconds in the RS6. It'll go on up to a limited 155 mph should you be lucky enough to have a place where this thing can properly stretch its legs. I'd recommend a race track or an autobahn, because while the RS6 does quite well dicing its way through twisty roads, get deep in the throttle and you realize how much this thing just wants to run and run. Given its head it'll have you hurtling forward at triple-digit speeds in less time than it'll take the judge to bang the gavel at your eventual trial, should you be foolish enough to really push this thing on a public road.

Though the silhouette is not in line with typical American performance sensibilities, every detail within those lines screams aggression. Seriously, look at the intakes on that nose and all the detailing around the exhaust. This car looks mean enough to make a Wrangler with one of those squinty aftermarket grilles look pouty. But despite that, the overall shape is understated. Most on the road won't give the RS6 more than a casual glance.

2021 Audi RS6 Avant

Sophisticated, but not boring.


That aggro yet sophisticated vibe continues on the interior, where dry carbon abounds, looking and feeling far racier than the polished, resin-dipped stuff slapped around on so many modern exotics. Red contrast stitching highlights comfortable, supportive seats in a less ostentatious way than brightly colored seat belts. Audi's Virtual Cockpit likewise has some subtly sporty extensions, chock full of specific gauges to monitor everything from differential temperatures to tire pressures. It's all ideal for a track day if you're into that sort of thing, but of course this car is more about that long haul to the track.

On the way you'll enjoy a superb Bang & Olufsen sound system that's perhaps a little too bass heavy, but would you expect anything else? There's plenty of headroom, shoulder room and every other kind of room. With 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the RS6 can haul much more than ass.

And it'll be comfortable while doing so, too. My testing took place toward the end of a lackluster Northeastern winter that disappointed not only in terms of its intensity (too mild) but its longevity. Though the last of the good snow was sliding off the mountain when I made a run up to Vermont, the roads were dry but heavily broken. Despite this and the Audi's sinister 22-inch wheels, the ride quality was quite impressive. I'm sure the softer sidewalls of the winter tires helped that somewhat, but really I can't think of a reason why I wouldn't want to cover big miles in this big wagon. Well, maybe the 20 mpg I scored during my testing, but even that's not so bad considering you get almost twice the horsepower of an A6 Allroad, itself only rated for 20 mpg in the city.

Audi RS6 Avant OGI
Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The RS6 Avant was always surefooted despite that awful asphalt still coated with salt and sand and other muck, but when things did finally break loose they tended to do so in a big, eye-opening way. A lot of sports cars, even those with all-wheel drive, will give a little wiggle or hop to warn you that you're getting close to the edge. The RS6 is less progressive, making driving it hard on narrow lanes an intimidating yet thrilling experience.

My run was, predictably, up to a ski resort. I opted to slap my snowboard on the roof using a SeaSucker mount rather than have it in the cabin with me. Yes, there is plenty of room in there to haul my board and gear, but that didn't mean I wanted it sliding around through every turn. So I threw it on the roof, and the panoramic glass meant I could quickly and easily ensure that it stayed there even as I was testing the extents of the Virtual Cockpit's G-meter. 

At the mountain, I raised the suspension before pulling into the craggy lot and idled into a parking spot. I wasn't met by a gaggle of enthusiastic kids like I was when I pulled in with a yellow Porsche 911 Turbo, nor did I get the wide-eyed reaction I got when I earlier cut through the snow in a similarly hued Acura NSX. I don't think this Audi, despite its luscious coating of red, turned a single head.

And you know what? That's fine. Perfect, even. Anyone lucky enough to buy an Audi RS6 Avant isn't doing it for the looks or the comments or the approval of randos on the side of the road. They're doing it because this is an unabashed celebration of engineering, a near-perfect intersection of performance and practicality. Yes, I wish more people appreciated that sort of thing here in America, but in some ways those decades-old, wagon-shaped misconceptions just make this machine all the more special.