The Audi Experience RS 6 and RS 7 | Drive Review

The Audi Experience RS 6 and RS 7 | Drive Review

Article written by – Peter Anderson

MyDrive | Audi Australia - It’s not often you get three things to test at once. It’s not difficult to imagine why Audi put its RS 6 and RS 7 together – under the skin, they’re basically the same – but the third thing is what really made the day extra interesting – the Audi Driving Experience at Phillip Island.

First up, the cars. Audi’s A6 Avant is a big beast and goes head to head with the Five Series Touring in its home market. The Avant is a slick-looking machine, so why not restrict the hot RS 6 version to that bodystyle?

The A7 is spun off the A6′s platform and shares a lot of the internal architecture and the same chassis and running gear. But instead of a long roof and tailgate, the A7 is a big, premium hatch, a pumped up A5.

Sitting in the driver’s seat of either of them, it’s hard to tell them apart and what’s even harder to tell is what’s changed in this lightest of model refereshes.

The A6 gets a new colour information screen between the dashboard dials, upgraded stereo and information system, a few bits and pieces inside and the new A6 headlights, including the full-fat matrix LEDs.

The Audi Driving Experience isn’t new, either. There’s a range of experiences available starting with the full day Advanced course, driving A and Q models in their standard form.

At the top end there’s the full race experience, driving Le Mans-ready Audi R8 LMSes with one-on-one tuition from Steve Pizzatti’s team of racing drivers.

Audi is very proud of the program, not least the top end race experience. “These cars will lap Phillip Island four seconds faster than a V8 Supercar.” Yikes.

But you can’t just hop straight into that program, you have to work your way up the ladder, do your time.

We’re here for the Performance Experience, the second tier before the third-tier R8 Sportscar experience.

The Performance day involves driving all of the S and RS models available in Australia, from the RSQ3 to the RS 7. The morning is spent building up your skills but just as importantly showing you how the car will fill in the gaps.

Exercises include acclerating an RS 6 to 150km/h then standing on the brakes. Sounds simple but the braking performance turns out to be astonishing – the seatbelt strains against your weight and you feel like your head might come off.

“These cars will lap Phillip Island four seconds faster than a V8 Supercar”

Both RS 6 and RS 7 do this time and again, their (optional) carbon ceramic brakes performing consistently, the brake and hazard lights madly flashing to tell the person behind they’re probably about to have an accident because their brakes aren’t this good.

The second braking exercise involves driving *at* an instructor at 85km/h. It takes a moment to realise what it is you’re doing.

At what seems like the point of impact, this brave fellow (in this case, the accomplished Mark Adderton) points you left or right depending on whimsy.

You stand on the brakes and steer in the direction indicated, brake pedal to the floor.

Again, both cars do exactly as they’re told, steering away from the soft, fleshy bits and coming to a composed halt. Adderton grins if you get it right, probably as much with relief as congratulation.

Next up, you saddle up in a SQ5 and RSQ3 to do an emergency double lane change. The cones are laid out on the track to simulate somebody coming at you from a sidestreet while a B-double full of nuclear explosives (their words) is coming the other way.

The rain was bucketing down and the heavier of the two, the SQ5 was on tyres so new the stickers hadn’t worn off. Accelerate to 85-90 and sharply turn right, then left through the cone gates.

Despite the car threatening to get hugely out of shape, you hear the patter of all of the control systems working together with the brakes to pull you back into line and through the cones without fuss.

Two tons of SUV in teeming rain, deliberately driven badly got through the test safely.  Apart from learning how the safety systems work, it’s tremendous fun.

These sorts of exercises go on for the rest of the morning, including one with the systems off to show you how to get out of shape and catch it. Sadly, the track’s abrasive new surface makes this incredibly tricky so we spent a lot of time not getting out of shape.

Exercises over, you can then stuff yourself with Audi’s tremendous catering – this isn’t greasy racetrack grub – and prepare for the afternoon.

This involves guided laps around Australia’s best and one of the world’s greatest race tracks.

Pizzatti outlines the rules without being a finger-wagging nanna and we’re ready to go – helmets on, choose your weapon and follow the leader.

RS 6 Avant for AUD229,400 and RS 7 Sportback for AUD242,000

Exhausting. Exhilirating. Incredible. As journalists, get to do these sorts of things quite a bit, but tearing around a race track in a 412kW Audi – especially one as fearsome as PI – never gets old.

And you don’t have to be an Audi customer to get a go.

So, to the cars. The RS 6 and RS 7 are hardly common sights on our roads, but that might have something do with their starting prices. While cheaper than the competing M5 and E63, they still weigh in at $229,400 for the RS 6 Avant and $242,000 for the RS 7 Sportback.

Mechanically identical, they’re powered by a 4.0 litre twin turbo V8.
Developing 412kW and 700Nm of torque, the two cars sprint to 100km/h in
3.9 seconds. Power reaches all four wheels via an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission.

The sports exhaust system no doubt liberates a few horses but even better it frees some fantastic noise. Audi’s drive select controls the racket – in comfort the V8 is well-muted and behaves impeccably.

Switch to dynamic and it turns into a throaty howl with an overrun that sounds like a Lamborghini Huracan. It’s terrific, immature fun and worth the price on its own.

With aid of stop-start and cylinder-on-demand, which cuts four of the eight cylinders when they’re not needed, Audi says the RSes achieve 9.6l/100km for the 6 and 9.5l/100km for the 7. This seems a remote possibility.

The transmission has also had a bit of a going over, with shortened shift times and a general sporty feel. The quattro drivetrain has the sports differential, which includes a self-locking crown gear centre diff and an active rear diff with torque vectoring.

The brakes are gigantic carbon ceramics, with 420mm up front (30mm larger than standard) and 270mm at the rear (14mm larger). Both have six-piston front calipers for the aforementioned epic braking performance.

Visually, both are pretty tough-looking. Twenty-one inch wheels, requisite lowered suspension, RS grille and matrix LED headlights, with RS badges front and rear.

Inside is packed with gear such as digital TV and radio, RS front seats with electric everything, RS rear seats (just two, no middle seat), 600-watt fourteen speaker BOSE stereo (with a $12,000 B&O option), bluetooth streaming, standard USB interface for your phone, 8-inch screen with professional sat-nav and 10gb hard drive.

Audi is at great pains to point out that there are two USB ports in the RS 6, one of which doubles the charging power for your device, which is very handy. What’s more handy is Audi’s quiet abandonment of the hugely irritating proprietary cable.

Being an RS, the driving is important. We’ve driven an older RS 6 on the road and it was tremendous. It’s a far more useable car on the road than, say, the BMW M5. Even with the optional dynamic ride control equipped, the ride is taut but much smoother than its compatriot.

The torquey V8 is a pleasant companion and the steering is as good as any Audi we’ve drive, R8 included.

On the track, the pair of them are positively, delightfully unhinged. Sweeping out of Phillip Island’s final turn, the head-up display tells me I’m accelerating hard through the 200km/h mark.

We could have gone faster, but persistent drizzle kept the lead car from allowing us to go too quickly (previous outings in these cars at PI have yielded 240-plus speeds).

The changeable weather was a great challenge for car and driver. Turn one is terrifying at the best of times, but in the RS pair, a gentle roll off the throttle and a good line through the corner means you can hold a phenomenal amount of speed.

Despite a bit of movement at the rear end, you never feel anything but utterly secure. The rear-biased quattro system can shuffle the power around but the real thing to remember here, that it’s with cars like this that Audi’s old reputation for heavy-feeling understeer is being banished. Most of the time they feel rear wheel drive but with security by the bucketload.

The real test of a road car on the track is its ability to consistently corner and stop and keep doing it, lap after lap. While you can give a car a bit of belting on the road, the long fast corners of the Island mean you need some big stops, especially on the downhill Lukey Heights.

Around PI the M5 may well be a better track car, but the RS pair are easier to drive fast. Yes, they’ll understeer before the M cars will, but the speeds we’re talking about are so high that only a hardened track warrior will care. The all-wheel drive grip is peerless while the M5 will need more precision to keep it on the straight and narrow.

The RSes are better on the road and in daily life. The Avant bodyshell of the RS6 is more practical and arguably better-looking.

The RS 7 has rear seats you can actually fit in (the Gran Coupe is prettier, but rear accommodation is awful). The boot is huge, too and you can fit three across the back in the RS 7.

We already knew these cars were good, but on the track it shows just how good they are. Couple that with the reassuring guidance of a team of instructors, you get the most of the car and leave a better driver.

And you’ll also leave badly wanting to own the crackling, hissing pair of big RSes.

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