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EVO Review

amoffat Jan 16, 2003

  1. amoffat

    amoffat Member

    The way it finally changes into fifth gear at about 150mph is particularly
    satisfying, I thought. Trouble is, the limiter means there's only another
    5mph to go. Freed of that constraint, the Audi RS6 - the company's most
    powerful production car ever at 444bhp - would reach, according to its prime
    creator Stephan Reil of quattro GmbH, '303 to 305km/h'. Approximately.
    Which, if we divide by the required 1.609, gives us 189mph. Approximately.
    Here's another statistic. Between 1950rpm and 5600rpm, the torque of the V8
    stays at a constant 413lb ft. What if the torque wasn't electronically
    limited to this rarefied plateau, if the twin turbochargers could deliver
    their maximum 0.8bar boost whenever they liked? 'Well, of course we could
    have more torque, maybe over 600Nm (443lb ft). But there's durability to
    This is truly a mighty engine, mightier even than those of the Jaguar S-type
    R and the BMW M5 which can muster just 400bhp apiece. Blip the throttle
    under load and, on its way to the virtually lag-free release of revs and
    thrust that is the kickdown, it roars like Tony the Tiger in need of another
    Frosties fix. As you accelerate to, then through, the 3000rpm mark it takes
    on a deep beat an octave below the usual V8 throb, and sounds like a
    close-quarters encounter with some helicopter blades.
    The RS6 is, as you would expect, based on the V8 S6 and shares that car's
    widened wheelarches and aluminium bonnet. The engine, wheel and cosmetic
    changes are obvious, but the RS6 also has a suspension tweak of
    heart-warming simplicity. Dr Alex Moulton, inventor of British Leyland's
    Hydrolastic and Hydragas systems as seen on the original MGF, would surely
    appreciate this entirely electronics-free approach to adaptive damping.
    That's right; the dampers displace fluid from one wheel to another via
    interconnected pipes.
    In this case, the connection is diagonal: front left to rear right, and
    vice-versa. The pipe runs into, and out of, a cylinder on the other side of
    whose piston is a pressurised, gas-filled chamber. There's also a by-pass
    valve, through which fluid passes during body roll because the extension of
    one damper can accommodate the compression of the other without moving the
    piston against gas pressure. Here, the dampers are at maximum stiffness for
    crisp cornering.
    However, if one wheel hits a bump, the fluid is forced into the cylinder and
    moves the piston against gas pressure, resulting in less of a build-up of
    damping forces and a more supple ride. Or if both wheels' suspensions
    compress simultaneously, as on an undulating road, fluid from both dampers
    in each pair pushes the gas-piston up further, depriving the dampers of the
    initial extra stiffness they normally have and giving a linear damping
    response for smooth body control without choppiness. Audi calls it, simply
    enough, Dynamic Ride Control (DRC). Invented originally by Yamaha as an
    anti-dive system for motorbikes, it's a joint venture between a Spanish
    damper company (APA) and a Japanese one (Kayaba).
    So we're on a clear autobahn in Audi's first twin-turbo V8. It's almost a
    twin-four engine, because the airflow meters, the KKK turbos with their
    ultra-light turbine wheels, the intercoolers, the plenum chambers and the
    exhaust systems are separate for each bank, a mixing of air occurring only
    at the hefty, 82mm, drive-by-wire, driving-style-adaptive throttle body.
    As an overtaker, it's extraordinary. There's no manual alternative, but the
    five-speed autobox (borrowed from the mighty A8 W12, and reprogrammed for
    much faster shifts) kicks down instantly when asked. In fact it's a little
    too eager here when in non-sport mode; an engine this torquey can happily
    hold a high gear, although kickdown is good if you want to emulate the
    forces that can bring on a 4.7-second 0-62 time. Surely no saloon can beat
    Switch to manual Tiptronic mode, and you can use Alfa-like paddles on the
    steering wheel. And here's why this is the best auto-turned-manual I've yet
    tried. The upshifts are instant yet smooth, the downshifts positive and
    rev-matched with a transmission lock-up which makes it feel like a real
    manual-based 'box. Think Ferrari F1 without the surges and clonks.
    So we're into proper driver involvement. Chassis-wise the old RS4 was sadly
    lacking here, but the RS6 is the most talkative Audi since the original
    Quattro. There's still some of the usual Audi rubberiness in the initial
    steering motion, depriving it of the mechanical precision of its Jaguar
    arch-rival, but once loaded-up in a corner the Audi proves agile,
    spectacularly grippy on its 19in wheels, and unexpectedly
    throttle-adjustable given its four-wheel-drive layout. Back off in a fast
    bend, and you can cue a drift like an Impreza Turbo's.
    And yes, it rides with decent suppleness despite the firm body control, so
    DRC is clearly working. It stops very effectively, too, as you would expect
    with eight-pot front callipers and decoupled, directional discs pinned to
    separate hubs for stress-free expansion.
    So, does RS6 trump M5 and S-type R? For pace, yes. For ultimate driver
    involvement, not quite. But it's a close thing. Hail the ultimate quattro.


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