Audi RS 6 celebrates 20 years of high performance

Phenomenal Audi Sport-developed model continues to mix supercar capabilities with daily-driver practicality

Since 2002, the Audi RS 6 has thrilled a worldwide following of enthusiasts, with the Audi Sport-developed model setting the tone in supercar-level performance that is coupled with outstanding everyday usability.

The model’s success is traced back to its underlying concept from 20 years ago — a twin-turbocharged engine matched to the legendary quattro all-wheel drive system. This basic concept has remained the same across four generations of the RS 6, all of which set new standards in performance.

Here’s a look at four generations of the phenomenal RS 6:

First generation (C5): Creating the benchmark

At the turn of the new century, Audi Sport started choosing a model it would develop after the sporty renovation of the RS 4. Taking motorsports as the influence — at the time Audi had recorded a string of successes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002) — the high-performance division went on to transform the Audi A6 into a sports car. That meant giving the model a twin-turbo 4.2-liter V8 producing 450 hp and 560 Nm, which was then matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, the quattro system, the newly developed Dynamic Ride Control (DRC) suspension, and a body that was both wider and longer. The result was the first-gen RS 6, which came in both Sedan and Avant forms. In 2002, no other production Audi was more powerful. 

Second generation (C6): V10 power

The second-gen RS 6 arrived in 2008 powered by a twin-turbo 5.0-liter V10 generating 580 hp and 650 Nm — at the time, the output exceeded that of the Audi R8 supercar. The six-gear automatic was substantially reworked to meet the extra power. With this combination, the RS 6 was capable of a 300-km/h top speed. Also fitted to the model were ceramic brakes, DRC with available three-stage settings, RS models’ signature wide fenders and 20-inch wheels. All these were complemented by a more refined ride and an interior lined with more luxurious items.

Third generation (C7): Less is more

Initial apprehensions by customers over the RS 6’s return to a twin-turbo V8 in 2013 (when the C7 debuted) were discarded immediately. With a displacement of 4.0 liters, the RS 6’s new V8 was smaller than in the original model, but Audi made sure it had put together a package that left the previous RS 6 models far behind it in terms of driving dynamics and efficiency. Key to this was a significant weight loss program (enhanced by transferring mass further back), a new 8-speed tiptronic gearbox, and an increase in torque output. The C7 also came fitted with ceramic brakes and, for the first time, an air suspension system. Later models developed as much as 605 hp and 750 Nm. In this generation, the RS 6 came exclusively as an Avant.

Fourth generation (C8): The best gets better

In 2019, the fourth generation RS 6 Avant was welcomed by enthusiasts the world over —especially in the US, where most previous-gen models were not made available. The RS 6’s current form is powered by a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 delivering 600 hp and 800 Nm, which is enhanced by a 48-volt mild hybrid system that improves efficiency. Available all-wheel steering improves stability at high speeds, DRC and air suspension guarantee comfort and control all the time, and highly connected features ensure utmost compatibility in a digital world. In terms of design, the RS 6 Avant is the boldest of the line yet, with practically all its body panels differing from the A6 Avant’s. Matrix LED headlights with laser lights and 22-inch wheels further make the model stand out. In its current form, the RS 6 declares it is definitively evolving from a niche car into a success story coveted around the world.

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