When Audi announced its plans to bring the fourth-generation RS 6 Avant to the U.S. market, it took a significant risk. It’s no secret that Americans don’t buy station wagons unless there’s a big engine under the hood producing an outrageous amount of power. At least, that’s what the German carmaker was betting on. However, it’s been over two years since this long-roofed performance car went on sale, and not only has it confirmed that the demand is there, folks have lined up to get one.
Following a week behind the wheel of the 2022 Audi RS 6 Avant, it has become significantly harder to recommend a sporty SUV. With the space of a family hauler and the planted handling characteristics of a sedan, this RS 6 is one of few cars that strikes a true balance between sportiness and practicality. Up a canyon road, it’ll comfortably keep up with a mid-engined supercar and is one of few Audis that doesn’t dull the experience the quicker you go. What was once a long-roofed gamble may just be the best new Audi on sale.
The 2022 Audi RS 6 Avant is one of just three high-performance wagons currently on sale in the U.S. Following the departure of the brilliant Mercedes-AMG E63 S Wagon. It only has to worry about the Porsche Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo and Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo, both of which cost significantly more than the Audi. Regardless of the small pool of competitors, the RS 6 is still easily the best-looking.
Roof length aside, there is no mistaking an RS 6 with an A6 or S6. For starters, it’s wider by 1.6 in on either side and features a massive front grille flanked by aggressive intakes. As you move down its sides, you’ll encounter its optional 22-in wheels, which contrast nicely against its Tango Red metallic exterior paint. Bringing up the rear is a slightly sloping roofline, which ends in a sporty roof spoiler. Below sits a massive diffuser with two enormous exhaust tips to match.
The RS 6 Avant walks a fine line between performance and elegance, leaning ever so slightly towards the former. However, it isn’t over-the-top in a look-at-me kind of way. Option it in a darker shade like Mythos Black or Nardo Gray, and even this nearly 600-hp wagon easily blends in. However, it is worth noting that during my week with the RS 6, more strangers came up to me, wanting to know about the car than while driving any of the other supercars I’ve tested this year. It’s a rare sight, and it seems to get people excited.
Powering the 2022 Audi RS 6 Avant is a 4.0-liter twin-turbocharged V8 and a 48-volt mild hybrid system. It develops 591 hp and 590 lb-ft, allowing it to hit 60 mph in a brisk 3.5 seconds before continuing onto a top speed of 190 mph. If this engine seems familiar, it’s because it is the same Porsche-developed unit that also powers the Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo. And like in the Porsche, it’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Like all other RS 6’s, this one also gets Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system as standard.
Around town, the RS 6 Avant wears its luxury car hat quite well. It’s quiet, comfortable, and easily blends into the background. Not even its sizable 22-in shoes ruin its ride. Thanks to its adaptive air suspension, the RS 6 easily soaks up bumps, dominating the daily commute it’ll be subjected to on most days.
Turn onto a canyon road, and that’s when the RS 6 Avant becomes most impressive. It’s not all about the raw speed, although there’s tons of that. The RS 6 is a grippy, confidence-inspiring super wagon that forgives mistakes and has limits far higher than you’d expect. This is a car that weighs nearly 5,000 lb yet can keep up with a modern supercar on a back road.
Unsurprisingly, most of this comes down to its engine, which delivers boatloads of turbocharged torque, allowing the RS 6 to claw its way out of corners. Although it’s not a high-revving V8 by any means, it responds quickly with little lag. In stock form, it’s also not particularly resonant, although a nice low-end burble permeates through the cabin. If there is one drawback of this powertrain, it’s the eight-speed automatic transmission. Although quick enough for most applications, it doesn’t offer crisp upshifts or downshifts like a comparable dual-clutch.
Through the corners, the RS 6 Avant hides its near 5,000-lb curb weight well, with very neutral handling characteristics. You have to push very hard before the RS 6 gets out of shape. It wants to grip and doesn’t immediately default to understeer. This is partly thanks to its rear-wheel steering system, which helps shrink its wheelbase. Although its steering is light and easy for around-town commuting, it’s far from the most communicative.
My tester featured optional RS carbon ceramic brakes with massive 16.5-in rotors upfront. They strike a nice balance between outright performance and daily drivability. On a back road, they have more than enough bite to keep the RS 6 Avant in check, but remain easy to modulate around town.
Inside, the RS 6 Avant benefits from Audi’s excellent interior design language. It combines a 10.1-in infotainment screen with an 8.6-in touchscreen display that controls vital features such as your climate controls. Although its dual-screen setup is quite unusual to use at first, all of the buttons are right where you’d expect them to be, making it easy to control all the settings you’d want to adjust daily.
In front of the driver sits a 12.3-in digital instrument cluster, allowing you to pick from various menus, setups, and even a large digital map. As you progress through the RS 6’s drive modes, it switches between multiple layouts, although the one with the large map and navigation instructions up ahead is easily the most useful.
My tester combined Cognac Brown leather with Granite Gray stitching to create a winning combination. It still counts on black leather for its door panels and dashboard, but the pop of brown playing off the bright red exterior makes for one of the best-looking RS 6’s I’ve ever seen. It all comes as part of the $2,500 Executive Package, which also adds heated rear seats, a heads-up display, and soft-closing doors.
The 2022 Audi RS 6 Avant starts at $116,500. However, my tester came in with an as-tested price of $145,440 thanks to notable options like its carbon-ceramic brakes ($9,000), Carbon Optic Package ($6,350), and Executive Package ($2,500), to name a few.
Even amongst its few competitors, the RS 6 Avant is cheaper than both the $190,400 Panamera Turbo S Sport Turismo and the $188,950 Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo.
In bringing the RS 6 Avant to the U.S. market, Audi proved that an SUV isn’t always the answer. Although high-riding family haulers have come a long way in terms of performance, none compare to the balance and agility that the RS 6 Avant offers. With seating up to five and an enormous trunk out back, the RS 6 makes a strong case for itself as the only car you’d really ever need.
It’s not without its flaws, like its disconnected steering and dull eight-speed automatic. Still, there’s enough grunt, grip, and handling to use any canyon road. The RS 6 isn’t unique because of the various things it can do. It impresses by how seamlessly it combines them to deliver a truly enjoyable daily driving experience from a wagon that can still bully a full-fledged supercar.