Car ReviewsFirst Drive

Track test: 2015 Audi RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback review

Robert Pepper’s track test 2015 Audi RS 6 Avant and RS 7 SPORTBACK review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety and verdict.

IN A NUTSHELL: Audi’s released its latest top-end models, the 2015 Audi RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback and we were able to sample them both at Phillip Island.

PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: The RS 6 and 7 are two cars in one – luxury german vehicles, and with a touch of a few buttons, track weapons that will loom large in the mirrors of more apparently sports-oriented cars.

IF YOU GO TO THE average car club track day you’ll see many an MX-5, plenty of Toyota 86s, Porsches,  Nissan Zs, species of WRX and myriad hot hatches. You are unlikely to see luxury Audis with the Rennsport (RS) badge, but that’s certainly not because they’re not up to the job.  Sure, Audi make much of the power figures with the usual rather pointless focus on the new model being 1/10th of second faster 0-100 – as if anyone would notice – but what counts is how the car feels and that’s not something any spec sheet can fully explain…

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We’re at Australia’s finest racetrack, and it’s our turn at the wheel of the RS 6 Avant, which is Audi’s name for the wagon bodied top-line RS model, with the Sportback being the coupe-esque sedan version.  Acceleration is as pleasantly savage as you’d expect from a turbo V8, with a suitable soundtrack to match the urgency as two tonnes of German engineering hurtle over the horizon to Turn 1.  Lighter, less powerful cars have equally good initial surge but fall away once aerodynamics starts to literally drag the car back, whereas heavy, powerful cars like the RSes just accelerate like a jet on takeoff, almost gathering a second wind as the speed rises.  I wonder if that’s because the torque is limited in the lower gears, but whatever the reason, it’s fun to accelerate past 200km/h like most cars go through 100.
 
Then comes a corner, and it’s all reassurance from the stoppers. Audi have options for high-performance ceramic brakes, and chief driving instructor Steve Pizzati informed us that their driver training cars are on fleet for twelve months, and in that time do not even need a pad or rotor change. This is very impressive and says a lot about the car’s brakes, but I’d venture to suggest that if you went all-out at trackdays in your own RS model for a year you would be very unlikely to see that sort of brake life, the laws of physics being what they are with heavy, fast vehicles.
 
2015 Audi RS 6 review
 
Keeping things under control is an array of electronics. Both the RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback models (and all RS models) have three stability control settings – on, sport, and off.  The ‘on’ setting intervenes relatively early when it detects things getting out of shape, although on the RS models it is set to allow a little more leeway than the less sporting Audis. The sport setting loosens the reins a little further, to the point where if the electronics step in then you are already sliding too much for a quick laptime, something we confirmed with an instructor who said there is no difference in laptime when running in sport mode compared to fully off. That means you only need the off mode for full-on oversteer and understeer playtime, not tracktime.
 
This calibration of electronics is very good news because it means you can drive flat out on a track, and yet have the ultimate safety net for when ambition exceeds talent. This was demonstrated quite graphically as we followed another car through the notorious Turn 12, the final curve before the main straight. You could see it was going to happen sooner or later – the driver had run wide on several previous corners, tightening the turn well past the missed apex, and then he paid the price for lack of forward vision by putting a rear wheel off the black stuff about three quarters of the way around the turn, sods of dirt flying up as the RS turned into a plough.
 
In motorsport terms, that’s equivalent to mincing up to a Hells Angel and asking if that’s his photo on Grindr – you don’t know exactly what will happen next but you know it will hurt. Here’s the usual script – the back end is lost, there’s about second or so to wait before the car slams into the opposite side pit wall, perhaps backwards, perhaps side on, perhaps both.
 
But this time the demons of Turn 12 were cheated by Audi technology. The stability control system did its job, ably assisted no doubt by the quattro all-wheel-drive. I could scarcely believe my eyes – it was the equivalent of seeing someone being run over by a bus and emerging from underneath unscathed.  I’m not saying these cars are foolproof, but right now humanity is going to have to build a better fool to get ahead of Audi because I absolutely not do believe any driver throughout history could have recovered that car once the wheel hit the grass.
 
2015 Audi RS 7 Sportback review
 
With the entertainment over, it was time to focus again on the drive.  The RS models we drove are too big and heavy, almost too heavy to be considered true sportscars – around two tonnes unloaded. Compared with either a Porsche 911 or an BMW M3/M4 they lack the ultimate feelsome chuckability of those two precision sports tools, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t both quick and rewarding, aided by Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension which cross-links diagonal wheels to combat body roll and nosedive.
 
While older Audi RS models have had a tendency to become lead-tipped arrows (meaning chronic understeer) when driven hard, I am happy to report both the RS6 and RS7 are quite acceptably tight on turn-in.  Traction out of turns is never a problem with the quatto system under electronic control, so while that’s easy and fast purists will be wanting some more steering control by throttle than the RSes are likely to let you enjoy.
 
Ultimately, what you want in a sporting car at a track day is having to work for your laps but in a fun way, not trying to overcome inherent deficiencies. Our sessions were follow-the-leader laps which were quick enough to get a feel for the car (2.06-2.20 range) even if it was a long way off the car’s true pace with few chances to experience full throttle. The end-of-day instructor hotlap (with stability control set to sport, not off) was a 1.52, and that was with four people on board with an instructor who admitted he was relatively new to both car and track.
 
Phillip Island always shows up poorly designed automatics with its long, long corners where you balance the car on the throttle, and often you see vehicles hunting for gears at inappropriate points mid-corner when the car should be helping you hunt for tenths. Not so the Audis, which are well sorted on the transmission front, boasting an eight-speed unit with seven close ratios and a lazy top gear for cruising.  Manual mode is easy enough to use, and because the shifts are quite pronounced you know when you’ve changed gear which is nice; with some vehicles you’re never quite sure whether your paddle command has been obeyed or the car has decided to do its own thing.
 
2015 Audi RS 7 Sportback review
 
Still, there a few niggles. The rather ostentatious blipping on downshifting is fine, but the shifts can be jerkier than is ideal. I know manufacturers sometimes deliberately build that in for a bit of extra involvement, so maybe that’s the case here. Audi claim the seats are supportive, and they’re not bad, but I’d like a bit more body grip given the cornering forces the car can generate. That said, I’m rather narrow of body compared to the norm and prefer a tight fit, so wider drivers would have less cause for complaint.
 
Overall, you could definitely have fast fun with both the RS6 and RS7 on a racetrack, and easily keep up with lots of sportscars even if you won’t get the pure driving experience of a more focused track machine. But then lapping at track days isn’t really the point of these models, and most buyers will probably never ever set tyre onto a racetrack. We can’t  report on how the car works away from the racetrack as at this sort of event you never get enough time to form an opinion by sitting in all the seats and generally living with the car, but we’ve formed a few quick impressions nevertheless.  
 
The interior is well built and classy as you’d expect from a premium German manufacturer asking well north of $200k and, equally, as you’d expect, there are lots of controls which aren’t always intuitive as manufacturers continue to move away from simple dials and switches to touchscreens and menus. In one model it took a while before my driving partner and I worked out something as simple as how to adjust the fan speed.  
 
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At this end in the market cars should have just about all the latest kit, and it seems Audi has not skimped on the technology, including a heads-up display for the speed as standard. Audi is proud of the fact that one of the USB ports pumps out 1.6 milliamps for a smart device fast charge which is nice, but you’re better off with a 2.1ma 12V socket adaptor to charge bigger devices. One name you don’t expect to see inside a car is Nividia, of computer gaming graphics fame, which has supplied some of the car’s entertainment/information system processors. An interesting feature is the ability to load geotagged (images with embedded lat/long coordinates) into the car, which will then navigate you to the photograph’s location.
 
Audi was keen to point out that more RS models are sold than BMW Ms or Mercedes AMGs, but maybe some owners would like exclusivity.  Or perhaps the more understated RS styling which hints rather than brags appeals to those who want a wolf but prefer to keep its fangs under wraps until the time is nigh.   That I can well understand!
 
2015 Audi RS 6 Avant and RS 7 Sportback key features:
  • 21-inch alloy wheels
  • Adaptive ‘sport’ air suspension
  • quattro sports differential
  • LED Matrix headlights and LED taillights
  • Quad-zone climate control
  • Eight airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, full-length curtain)
  • Front and rear parking cameras and sensors
  • Glass sunroof
  • Electric folding mirrors with auto dimming
  • Valcona leather upholstery
  • Electric front seat adjustment, driver’s side with memory settings
  • Flat-bottom sports steering wheel with paddleshifters
  • 8.0-inch MMI navigation plus with touchpad
  • Digital television and radio reception
  • Dual USB inputs
  • High resolution driver information screen
  • Electric tailgate
  • Smart key entry and push-button start
Cost Options:
Dynamic package Dyammic steering (speed and weight adjustable), dynamic ride control, top speed up from 250km/h to 280km/h, (extra cost: $4900); Dynamic package plus As above plus ceramic brakes, removes speed limiter and pushes top speed to 305km/h (extra cost: $25,840).

2015 AUDI RS 6 avant and 2015 Audi RS 7 sportback

Pricing RS 6 Avant quattro tiptronic $229,500 (+ORC); RS 7 Sportback quattro tiptronic $242,000 (+ORC) Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres; Safety Not tested; Engine 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8; Power/Torque 412kW/700Nm; Transmission eight-speed automatic; Drive quattro all-wheel drive (40:60 torque split); acceleration 0-100km/h 3.9 seconds; Thirst 9.6L/100km (RS 6); 9.5L/100km (RS 7) 

 
 


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John Shah
John Shah
5 years ago

Thanks Robert for driving these RS machines on my behalf. I’m more than a little envious. Given a bit of luck … well, a lot of luck really … the PowerBall gods will reward me with a seven or eight figure win and I’ll be able to add one of these things to my collection.

Robert Pepper
5 years ago
Reply to  John Shah

That’s ok John, we are here to serve!

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper