Audi responds to demand, will bring its fiery RS6 wagon to America

Volkswagen provided three nights in a hotel and air travel from Washington DC to Frankfurt for this story.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY—Although the station wagon is not extinct, there is no denying that it belongs on an endangered species list. People just don’t buy them anymore—especially in the US, where buyers have voted with their wallets for the higher seating position and compromised dynamic ability of the crossover.

Which makes Audi’s decision to finally bring its spicy RS6 Avant wagon to the US all the more remarkable. Truth be told, the news that one of the fastest wagons was US-bound actually slipped out of Audi HQ a little under a month ago, and since the model was on display at this year’s Frankfurt auto show, it seemed wise to go take a closer look.

The RS6 is a product of Audi Sport, the company’s racing arm. Audi Sport takes the company’s track-honed knowledge and also applies it to variants of the brand’s more mundane models. More often than not, this results in some truly sublime automobiles which defy Audi’s traditional reputation for building attractive cars that just aren’t fun to drive; compare a TT to a TT-RS, for vivid proof of this. And for 25 years, the RS6 has been the tip of Audi Sport’s spear when it comes to transporting four people and a lot of their luggage (or two people and even more stuff) as fast as possible across Europe, regardless of the weather.

Here in the US we’ve had to settle for the RS6’s closely related sibling, the RS7—if one can describe my all-time favorite Audi model as something one must “settle for.” Now, though, well-heeled Audi customers will have a dilemma on their hands: starting next year, they’re going to have the option to buy either one.

It doesn’t take much more than a glance to tell an RS6 from lesser A6 Avants. Up front is a far more aggressive facia, shared with the just-announced second-generation RS7 Sportback (a car we’ll have more info about very soon, along with a first drive report on September 25th). From the sides, there’s no mistaking the much wider track—1.6 inches/40mm wider than the base model—shrouded by wider body panels along the sides. The wheels also give the game away—huge 22s that allow for some frankly massive brakes that up front that are bigger than the actual wheels of either of my last two cars (17.3 inches/440mm, with 10-piston calipers).

But it’s under the skin where the real Audi Sport magic happens. The engine is a 4.0L twin-turbo V8, which shares an engine block and a few other bits and bobs with the one you find powering a Porsche Panamera Turbo, although much of the rest is bespoke to Audi. It puts out 591hp (441kW) and 590lb-ft (800Nm) and includes a 48V mild hybrid system. All that power and torque is sent to the wheels via an eight-speed ZF 8HP automatic transmission. The vehicle has all-wheel drive in keeping with Audi’s core principles, and the rear axle uses that clever GKN twin-clutch torque-vectoring rear differential that you can also find in such diverse places as the Ford Focus RS and Cadillac XT6.

Pricing for the RS6 should be announced closer to the car’s arrival in 2020, and don’t expect it to be cheap. But if you’re one of those people who was begging Audi to bring this little red wagon over here, soon it’ll be time to put your money where your mouth is.

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