Is the Audi RS6 the ultimate station wagon?
Luxury, performance and capability are rarely found in the one package. Has Audi found a way to take the trifecta with its RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback models? We put them to the test at the Phillip Island Racing Circuit.
Invitations don't come along every day to drive at a racing track considered to be Australia's most challenging permanent circuit.
A day of unfettered access to Victoria's Phillip Island racing circuit and its fast but technical layout beckons; the rare chance to experience that sphincter-clenching split second as you crest the rise in the front straight and feel like you're about to launch directly into Bass Strait.
The missive from Audi Australia comes with an intriguing caveat – the chariots in question are a station wagon and a hatchback. Hmmm. Shall we pick up some groceries beforehand, maybe run the dog to the vet afterwards?
We needn't be concerned. The wagon is the RS6 Avant, the fastest family truckster in the world; and the hatchback is the RS7 Sportback, which is equipped with the same twin-turbocharged V8 and eight-speed auto as the RS6.
Both are blisteringly fast, dispatching the sprint to 100km/h in under four seconds. For the uninitiated, that's quicker than anything this side of a bona fide supercar.
Throwing a curve ball
But straight-line speed is only part of the story, because we're taking them onto a racetrack imbued with more curvy bits than straight ones. Things are going to get unpleasant in a hurry if these souped-up shopping trolleys can't turn corners.
Like all cars from Audi's high-performance RS line-up, our rides come equipped with a Quattro all-wheel-drive system that is a key safeguard from passing light showers that turn the manicured bitumen into an ice-skating rink.
There's also a torque vectoring system shuttling power to the wheels where it's needed during cornering, meaning you can hit up all that all prodigious pull a few nanoseconds earlier.
High-performance brakes are a standard and welcome addition for the stop into Honda Corner where a 180km/h approach drops to around 50km/h in one forceful hit. Our cars are also fitted with optional dynamic ride control, which damps pitch and roll motion to help you haul more than two tonnes of car around the high-speed track with nary a tyre put wrong.
So they're fast and capable on the track; but honestly, how many people bring a family wagon to a weekend track day? Audi has made sure the pair are weekday friendly too; the 4.0-litre V8 has a cylinder deactivation system that effectively sends half the engine to sleep when all its shove is not needed.
There are also features better suited to long cruises than sharp squirts – an upgraded 'infotainment' system, fatigue-reducing head-up display for the driver, beefed-up window glazing to reduce external noise intrusion, new 'matrix' LED headlights and continuously adaptive air suspension.
The beautifully crafted leather sports seats are a visual treat and ideal for track day use, but perhaps not as plush as you'd like for longer trips. And, of course, there's space enough for four adults to sprawl in comfort, with the added utility of either a hatchback or wagon configuration.
Performance car customers typically pay handsomely to prioritise driving ability while comfort and practicality usually take a back seat (in the rare instance you even have one).
Yes, you'll pay handsomely for this pair, too – at $229,500 (plus on-road costs) for the RS6 Avant and $242,000 for the RS7 Sportback they're far from budget motoring.
But you'll never again be caught short of seats, space or sledgehammer performance.