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Rediff.com  » Business » Check out the Audi RS6 Avant!

Check out the Audi RS6 Avant!

August 09, 2008 15:19 IST
Not so long ago, just as one Michael Schumacher was coming into prominence in Formula One, there was another German who was good at beating Mr Long-Jaw.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen used to wallop Schumi in saloon car races and showed a lot of promise in the early days, driving Mercedes-powered Sauber F1 cars, only to fade away. That is not the point, though. When Frentzen was a kid, he used to help his dad, who was an undertaker by profession.

The legend is that young Frentzen would pull up to stationary cars at signals in a hearse, at times carrying the all important cargo, and fold the seat-back parallel and become temporarily invisible.

When the light changed, he would floor it. The sight of an unmanned hearse gunning forward had old women fainting, young ones screaming and children starting to believe in God.

Well, you don't have to go to that extreme. All you need to do is buy an Audi RS6, like the one you see here, and pull up next to your friendly neighbourhood F1 driver and his girlfriend - who, let us assume, is driving a very fast corporate car.

And as the signal changes, you can nod at Kimster, Sutil or anyone else for that matter and then floor that right pedal. The RS6, which, from a distance at least, looks like just another estate, can crack 100 kph in 4.6 seconds and 14.9 seconds is all it takes to get to 200 kph, which elevates it into genuine supercar territory.

Apart from inducing pale faces on Formula One drivers, the RS6 Avant is an exceptionally practical car which can carry a catalogue full of Swedish furniture home if you insist. And yes, it has a ten cylinder engine - which on quiet nights makes long distance calls to a wild aunt living at Sant'Agata.

As much as it was a nice line to write, Audi engineers swear that there is nothing this 90° V10 has in common with the "other" V10 that powers the Lamborghini Gallardo. Okay, make allowances for a few sensors and pumps and trust them, all right?

To begin with, the RS6 motor is a twin-turbo unit that benefits from petrol direct injection (like the Gallardo LP 560-4) to churn out 572 bhp (yes, twenty more than the "little bull") and 65 kgm of torque that can pull redwoods down when not sending Earth spinning in the wrong direction.

All that power is managed by two engine control units and is sent to all four wheels via a Quattro system that is brainy enough to decide how much torque goes where and when.

My chance to drive this super estate came along with the R8 supercar drive (look out for the September issue of BS Motoring for that). Now, it is difficult to like anything on wheels when you have spent a day getting to know the newest supercar on the block.

There were a few electric blue (Sepang blue to be precise) RS6 examples available and for most of the day these cars were used as tracking tools to photograph the sexy R8s around the track.

But it didn't take much time behind the wheel of one to start respecting it. The "mother-motor" is all polished and is at its best behaviour when puttering around. Kick the right pedal where it hurts and the gentle burble turns into distant thunder. And oh boy, the gear shifts. Each time the six-speed tiptronic gear box actuated the "lock-up" clutch and shifted gears, it sounded scary.

Instead of a soft change of tone, the engine stopped breathing, emitted a thundering explosion and then continued to an eventual crescendo. I can write another three pages on the sensory angle of things - but it still won't do justice to the RS6.

On the race track, the RS6 changed direction as if it was ticklish and hunted apexes down like an addict looking for a fix. But there had to be some compromise - where reality meets bed-wetting fiction. The four link front suspension setup just about handles the V10 mass and the trapezoidal link suspension at the back had to "give" when the load body was utilised to its potential too.

In other words, the front end washed away on induced understeer as steering inputs got unintentionally generous, but there was no way I was going to make a mess of things with this rather intelligent car. Sure, there was more body roll than the R8, but that will be like comparing one of the step sisters with Cinderella.

She is quite a step sister indeed, with unassuming, classic Audi estate lines, but those with a keen eye won't miss the critical design elements - like the rear diffuser and oval sport-exhaust tips that look mean even when it is cooling down.

Well, Audi has confirmed plans to bring the sexy R8 to India, but the RS6 Avant does not have a homologation case made for it. Not yet at least. But hey, you can hire one in Europe next time you are on holiday - and make sure that the insurance policy covers a few excursions to places like the Nurburgring.

I don't really know whose incredible idea the RS6 was, and which right minds approved it and why Ingolstadt went on to build it. But I do know that back in the woods, where gravel crushes beneath rubber, or on a winding road where sunlit mountains worship clear blue skies, someone is going to really enjoy driving this car.

And there are going to be a few unsuspecting spouses who totally admire their rather "sensible" partners. Ahem.

Bijoy Kumar Y in Mumbai
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