Audi RS6 C5: driving report, purchase advice, history

With an output of 450 hp, the Audi RS 6 in 2002 was the most powerful production Audi up to that point. In the test duel, the discreet power sedan with Cosworth V8 engine even beat the BMW M5.

Shortly before the second overall victory with the R8 racing car in the 2002 24-hour race of Le Mans, Audi ignites its most powerful production car. Based on the luxury class model A6 (C5 series), the lords of the four rings have developed a sports model that stands in the tradition of the powerful RS models.

Not least due to the successes in the Le Mans endurance race, the sporting self-confidence in Ingolstadt has grown noticeably. As a real competitive athlete for the road, the Audi RS6 outshines everything that Audi had built as a production car up to that point. The V8 engine with a displacement of 4.2 liters, which is forced-ventilated by two turbochargers, delivers 450 hp as much as the then current DTM Audi of the Abt team, with which the Frenchman Laurent Aïello became champion in the season. Of course, the RS6 also had the Quattro drive, which has been the hallmark of sporty road Audis since Ferdinand Piëch's stroke of genius in the early 1980s.

560 Nm of torque from just 1,900 rpm

The name Cosworth is part of the network of legends. The technology division of the Northampton company, which made the breakthrough in 1967 with its Ford Formula 1 engine, was a subsidiary of Audi AG from 1998 to 2004 - it built the RS-V8 in England. More impressive than the top performance is the permanent thrust of the engine. The maximum torque of 560 Newton meters is already available at 1900 tours. The 4.2-liter biturbo does not need high engine speeds to convert its power into thrust. Experts can sprint to 100 km/h with the Audi RS6 in 4.7 seconds and reach 160 km/h in 11.2 seconds.

As long as it goes straight, everything is fine with the Audi RS 6. But especially on narrow, winding roads you can clearly feel the mighty weight of 1.9 tons. Even the luxurious interior gives reason to fear that the RS6, despite its willingness to perform, is carrying too many kilos around.

No fabulous chassis despite Dynamic Ride Control

Despite the drive train with trace elements from Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship, the Audi RS 6 sedan and the Avant are not sports cars. The dimensions of a chauffeur-driven limousine are a good 4.86 meters long and 1.85 meters wide. The engineers at Quattro GmbH have made every effort to bring the lavish performance onto the road.

In addition to the specialty of the house in the form of the four permanently driven wheels, they developed a damping system for the Audi RS6 with the magic acronym DRC: The hydraulic Dynamic Ride Control connects the diagonally opposite monotube dampers and provides an additional damping effect when cornering. The DSC acts like a stabilizer.

However, the Audi RS6 chassis is not convincing in every discipline. The drive through the slalom course had to be aborted several times in the sport auto super test because the car swayed too much and the rear suddenly broke out.

Audi RS6 beats BMW M5

However, the Audi beats its direct rival BMW M5 in the slalom test. In the comparison test by auto motor und sport, the Audi RS 6 was clearly ahead in terms of driving characteristics. The Audi developers made no compromises when it came to comfort. The RS 6 is tuned to be as tough as a sports car. BMW could do that much better with the M5 and Alpina with the B10 V8 S.

Overall, however, the power sedan from Ingolstadt just won the three-way comparison. In the overall ranking, however, the Audi RS 6 ends up in last place because it fails in the cost ranking: the Audi cost 86,500 euros, which is 12,000 euros more expensive than the M5. In addition, the extremely high insurance premiums made driving the RS6 an extremely exclusive pleasure.

Just over 8,000 RS6s were built by Quattro GmbH in Neckarsulm, two and a half times fewer than the BMW M5, even though the RS6 still had a trump card up its sleeve: while the BMW of the E39 series was only available as a notchback sedan , Audi also offered its power sedan as a station wagon.

Audi RS6 Avant with lots of space

As with the civilian A6, the loading space of the Audi RS6 Avant can be increased to 1,590 liters by folding down the rear seats: This mixture of sportiness and suitability for everyday use is also particularly popular with the budding classic . The Avant was available from April 2004 in the ultimate version as the RS 6 Plus with 30 hp more and special equipment.

The special series, limited to 999 copies, could develop into a highly endowed collector's item. Of course, this applies in particular to the only sedan built in this series, which was the last Audi RS 6 to leave production in Neckarsulm - hopefully the owner appreciates what he has in this one-off.

New price over 100,000 marks

The Audi RS 6 Plus not only has increased engine power, but also only regulates the top speed at 280 km/h. In addition, Quattro GmbH equipped the performance-enhanced RS with a sports chassis, even more powerful brakes, a sports exhaust system and 19-inch wheels as standard.

The purchase price of this exclusive Audi RS6 exceeded the sound barrier of 100,000 euros and reached the level of a luxury sports car. In every respect, Audi set the bar quite high for sedans with sports car performance. Audi powerfully underlined that they could not only challenge their sporty opponents on the race track, but also in series production with sporty and particularly powerful cars.

Modest facade

But the Audi RS 6 has not yet made the breakthrough as a youngtimer, especially in its normal form: the high engine performance is hidden too much behind a rather modest facade, which differs from the sister models of the C5 series only in second view differs.

Only the front end with the air intakes for the charge air, water and oil coolers, the large alloy wheels, the small spoiler edge on the trunk lid and the rear apron are distinctive features of the Audi RS 6 - and of course the eye-catching logos on the front and rear.

The matt silver exterior mirrors and the other sills, for example, are only visible to those who love detail. The Audi RS 6 does not flaunt its character. Even the very muffled sound of the V8 does not allow any conclusions to be drawn about its character: it sounds as conservative as Heino singing a Rammstein song.

Cosworth V8 is hidden

The aluminum engine of the Audi RS6 would have what it takes for a genuine V8 soundscape that could compete with any US big banger. But his fathers prefer the then strongest production Audi of all time to an inconspicuous quiet footsteps.

This also applies to the engine compartment: Instead of two magnificent cylinder banks of the V-engine with a 90° bank angle, the first thing you see is the bright red lettering "Biturbo" and then a large plastic cover on which the simple V8 can be read is.

Catapult-like acceleration

The pleasure in the Audi RS6 arises primarily when driving, when the powerful V8 biturbo flexes its muscles: The feeling of being pushed into the seat during kickdown as if by a catapult is addictive. The attraction of feeling the natural power of the Bavarian-British power pack again and again is tempting.

This engine is awesome, and thanks to the five-speed automatic and the Quattro drive, the propulsion is seemingly limitless. That means pure Audi RS6 feeling.


I'm torn: The V8 biturbo from Audi is awesome. But I would have preferred a little less visual understatement – ​​ex works, of course. But the bottom line is that the Audi RS 6 offers a lot of power for the money at the current purchase prices.


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