[CAR ENGINE] For a while now, Audi has
owned the fast estate marketplace. Yes, Merc sold the odd E55
wagon, and BMW occasionally lobbed us an M5 Touring, but
they never sold the way RS4’s and RS6’s sold. In many ways, the success of
the RS6 perfectly describes the dichotomy between a road
test assessment of a car and what people actually
want to live with. In the magazine test, four-wheel
drive means stars deducted for understeer. In the real world, it
means safety and traction in the wet. Turbocharging means a hammering
for poor throttle response from your average
journalist– that’s me– but massive power gains
for the owner, if they bend the rules. Objectively, the last RS6 was
blunt, effective, very fast, and not really enjoyable. But the people who owned
them loved them. Audi reckons the new one is
quite different, that it actually handles. It will need to be to beat this
lump of Stuttgart heavy artillery, the Mercedes CLS63
AMG Shooting Brake. Why not an E class, you cry? Because this is just as big as
the RS6 inside, and it looks bloody wonderful. Oh, Audi, Audi, Audi, you
do confuse me so. I’ve always thought the RS6 was
the car that I shouldn’t buy from you. It was just a bit too big,
a bit too heavy. Yes, it could pulverize stuff
in a straight line. And if you gave it to the right
man, he could extract a million horsepower from it. But to drive, it was always
a bit nothing. In fact, it was the worst
car you made. Why, then, is the new RS6 one
of the best cars you make? For starters, it handles. This car is not on
air suspension. I was led to believe that
the RS6 had to be on air suspension to work. But this is on the normal
springs with the fancy, adjustable dampers. And in comfort, it’s lovely. It’s a really, really
supple car. It’s got wheel travel. It rolls a bit. It’s just pleasant to be in. Not once have I cursed any kind
of harshness in this car. For its intended role, going
flat out and fast on motorways and demolishing A roads,
it’s brilliant. Ignore the dynamic mode. If I put it in dynamic mode now,
the camera would fall off the windscreen. It’s that bad. Ignore the heavy, sporty
steering setting as well. What you want to do is put the
whole thing in comfort, long throttle, nice and slow, and
make sure that you’ve got the dampers in soft. Then you’re just
happy, really. You could make the engine a bit
noisy if you want to, but that’s kind of showing
off, isn’t it. What else do I like
about this car? The powertrain– twin turbo V8s with this ZF
8-speed gearbox are always going to be a bit handy. But this is just borderline
genius. It is lacking some personality,
though. It’s quite quiet. It seems that things have been
ramped back a bit with this generation of Audis. At times, you’re not even
aware that it’s a V8. It starts up with a
nice “woofle” as you probably heard. But otherwise, it can be mute. Under full load, it’s got a sort
of hot, planey, V8, hard blare noise, which is good fun,
but nothing that special. Now I just like the package. I love the way it looks. I think it’s brutal from
the front end. It’s got so much presence. I like the cabin. I don’t find it as intuitive
as the Mercedes. But it’s still a great
place to sit, and it feels so special. The seats are superb,
supportive, comfortable. It’s roomy. Not quite as big as the
Mercedes, strangely, but still, it’s practical. It’s just so many things to so
many potential buyers, if they have the money. 70-liter fuel tank– that’s
a bit mean in my book. It could be a little
bit bigger. And fuel economy is
not brilliant. On a fast run, I’m doing
17 to the gallon. On a quickish run– and let’s
face it, you’re never going to travel anything less than
quickish in this car– it’s about 19 to 20, whereas
the Merc can stretch it up to 25. But do you buy one of these
things for fuel economy? No, you probably don’t. The RS6 is a great, fast Audi. It is– leaving the R8 to one
side for a minute– the best car that
Audi RS makes. It’s miles better than the new
RS4 And don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. The new RS6 ditches the old V10
motor and uses a 4-liter twin turbo V8 to give 560
horsepower and 516 foot-pounds. At a cruise, it can deactivate
four of those cylinders, too. Claimed curb weight is just over
2 tons, which is lighter than before. It also uses ZF’s amazing
8-speed auto. And this car is fitted with the
dynamic pack, which gives steel springs and adjustable
dampers, and raises the top speed to 174 miles an hour. Now let’s face it, no one does
hard-as-nails wagon styling like Audi– flared arches, massive,
optional 21-inch rims, satin-finished aluminum, and
“quattro” stamped on the front grill to scare the 911
in front of you. Yes, you pay extra
for that, too. The base price of the RS6
is 75,500 pounds. But even with a light smattering
of extras, this test car cost 90,565 quid– for an estate car. You do get the fancy sport rear-differential for free, though. So that’s all right. I make no secret of the fact
that I’m living with this CLS for a year. It’s not my car, but I use
it every single day. So I’m more connected to it. I obviously find its controls
a bit more user friendly. I find everything
a bit easier. But even if I didn’t live with
it every day, I’d think the cabin was more logical than
the one in the Audi. The dynamics of these cars
are very interesting. They really are very
similar on paper. Quite how Audi managed to
squeeze so much torque from a 4-liter twin-turbo motor,
whereas Mercedes needs 5.5 liters to go a little bit
further, I don’t know. I suspect that this engine could
go quite a bit further if they wanted it to. On the road? Well, in terms of torque, this
has more of it, and feels gruntier low down. But I’ll cut to the chase. The difference between the two
cars is in the transmission. Whereas the Mercedes feels it
has to wait a little bit longer to find the next gear, or
drop one, or go up one, and find where the torque is,
the Audi just goes. The Audi just flies. It’s insane. It feels faster on the road. And this car already, to
me, feels loopy fast. But the Merc has the upper
hand in several areas on the road. It feels much more agile. The steering’s got a lot
more life to it. In fact, the whole
powertrain has. If you like music,
this makes it. Whereas the Audi in the debate,
this thing just sounds like a muscle car. It’s a monster. When you start it up,
you just giggle. When you leave it in stop-start
mode, well, that’s fantastic, because it
keeps restarting. And you get that incredible
ra-ra-ra-ra noise when it gets going. I love driving it. It has its limitations,
though, because it’s two-wheel drive. This is probably the core
problem for people who buy cars like this. Do you go for the crazy
[INAUDIBLE] two-wheel drive Mercedes, and do sideways
everywhere? Not really applicable
in normal driving. Or do you get the Audi, which is
going to be just as quick, come rain or shine? It rained for one day when
we had these two cars. And frankly, the Mercedes
couldn’t see where the Audi had gone. But the person driving the
Mercedes was smiling more. Now, I could use that argument
to, perhaps, create a situation where a sports car
might be better because it was two-wheel drive rather than
four-wheel drive. But in the world of super
estate cars, I struggle with that. I struggle. I know Mercedes are bringing
four-wheel drive cars on stream. But at the moment, I can only
judge what we’ve got. I do love driving this
thing, though. And it is more direct. It has better steering. It has better brake feel. Everything about it feels
that little bit tighter. But it doesn’t have the
transmission or that kind of eye-opening performance that
you get from the Audi. A little bit further ride, when
I’ve got it in comfort, than the Audi. But there’s two extra damper
settings here. And frankly, they’re better
judged than the Audi extra damping settings. But for me, I never
drive this car in anything other than comfort. The base price of the Shooting
Brake is even higher– over 83 grand. And this one lists
at over 97,000. There’s no power kit
option on this AMG. You get your 557 horsepower and
590 foot-pounds for free. But the locking rear
differential, it’s 2 and 1/2 grand– for a diff. But you know what? The CLS feels way more
expensive inside. Everything is covered in soft,
waxy, expensive smelling leather, where the Audi
has dark plastics. You can’t ignore the
RS6’s gorgeous quilted seats, though. And I love the way the dials
greet you on a dark morning. The AMG counters with lighting
you can change according to your mood. These are both cabins you’d
happily spend whole days roaming about a continent in. Big, comfortable, spacious,
they are all the car you should ever need. They’re not about raw
speed, are they? Well, they kind of are now,
these are super estates, aren’t they? So we need to drag race them. Here, we have over 1,100
horsepower, space for 10 adults and four Labradors. What happens next is a
little eye-opening. The Audi, quite understandably,
beats the Merc off the line, because it
has four driven wheels. But the margin, on paper, isn’t
as bad as you’d think. Just remember that the car being
left behind here hits 60 miles an hour in 4.2 seconds. The Audi does it in a scarcely
believable 3.9 seconds. Just imagine what the
transmission is going through to make a two-ton, four-wheel
drive estate do 60 in 3.9 But this is the bit that
blows my mind. The Audi keeps pulling away. From 60 to 100 miles an
hour, it pulls another 4/10 from the Merc. There’s no traction
advantage now. It’s nearly 70 foot-pounds
down on torque, and it weighs more. And you can thank the transmission for the dominance. The shifts are miles faster. The extra ratio means
even better use of the power available. And the RS6 beats the
AMG hands down. Only when they get above 100
does the CLS hold station. But by that time, the
Audi is gone. [CAR ENGINES] [SCREECHING TIRES] [ENGINES ROARING] I really don’t understand
Audi RS as a company. Their work is so variable. Last year, I had the
disappointment of the RS4. Now I kind of have the ecstasy
of this RS6 unit which I think is a fantastic motor car. Objectively, it’s better
than my beloved CLS. It puts its power on
the road better. It’s nearly as much
fun to drive. And its gearbox is the
telling component. That ZF 8-speed is a genius
transmission. And it really shows up the old
seven speeder in the Merc now. It also looks fantastic. It’s great to be in. And on these steel springs and
with these special dampers, in comfort mode, it’s nice to drive
on the road in the UK as well, unexpectedly so. The RS4 used to be the choice
of the fast Audi estates for the person that enjoys
driving. I think this car completely
reverses that. So where does that leave the
lovely CLS Shooting Brake? It’s a car of immense character,
I think more character than this vehicle. It’s like a muscle car, but
with art deco overtones. I love the style. I love the way it dries. It has a nicer steering. Many things about it
are preferable. But objectively, this Audi’s
the better car. [SCREECHING TIRES]

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