A lot has changed at Audi over 25 years. Back in the early ’90s, it was a brand struggling to mend its image while creating a new and more memorable one. With their successes in rally nearly a decade behind them, there wasn’t an impressive car to make a firm declaration of what Audi was about. But that changed in 1994 with the arrival of the first Audi vehicle to bear the RS badge: the RS 2 Avant. This car remains relevant today, and we recently took a closer look at the 2020 iteration, the Audi RS 6 Avant.
The RS 2 was the only high-performance wagon to be built by Audi in Ingolstadt, Germany (with assistance from Porsche), and it would become an instant classic. Subsequent RS models would be built by Quattro GmbH at their facility in Neckarsulm, Germany and in 2016 the company was rebranded Audi Sport GmbH. With its signature Nogaro Blue paint and the final iteration of Audi’s legendary 2.2L turbocharged inline five-cylinder, the RS2 Avant set the tone for all future RS models: they should have eye-catching paint colors, head-spinning performance figures and Quattro. That the first RS was an Avant (the brand’s name for wagon) is telling of Audi’s mission of combining function and fun. The RS 2 Avant was equally capable of getting a family to their vacation home as it was at dusting contemporary sports cars in a sprint.
The next RS vehicle to arrive was 1999’s RS 4 Avant. Then, in 2002, Audi pushed further into production performance than ever before with the 450-hp twin-turbo V8 RS 6—the first time an RS vehicle was available as a sedan. In true Audi fashion, the RS 6 boasted a “Plus” variant that upped the horsepower figure to 473. Now, after a nearly 20-year wait, the new RS model in Avant form has arrived.
In Malibu, just after sun up on a beautiful November day, we are among the first in the US to see the 2020 Audi RS 6 Avant in person. While walking around, taking in the sculpted body panels and menacing stance of the car, we spoke with Anthony Foulk, Audi’s senior product manager, to get a better understanding of the vehicle.
It hardly comes as a surprise that the main justification for the 2020 Audi RS 6 Avant was the success of the RS 7 Sportback, which has done well for the brand since its 2013 stateside debut. Foulk and his team are betting that after seven years of chumming the waters with the RS 7, American enthusiasts looking for something fast, functional and with an air of exclusivity will feast on the RS 6 Avant.
“The people who want wagons in the US want something special and the standard ones didn’t do that well for us here,” he explains. “With the RS 6 Avant there’s more cargo room than a Q5, almost as much as a Q8 and it’s a sports car. You’ve got dynamic variable all-wheel-steering, Quattro sport differential and air-suspension standard. The only options are really for hardcore enthusiasts: ceramic brakes (which now come in grey, red or blue) and Dynamic Ride Control which is a steel suspension set-up with dampers that offer a much wider gap between comfort and sportiness.”
While regular near-200mph runs to the grocery store aren’t common, the RS 6 Avant is sure to make everyday driving infinitely more exciting on a daily basis when it arrives in the summer of 2020.
Images by Andrew Maness