The tenth edition of the famous celebration of Porsche’s air-cooled past took place at the weekend, when Los Angeles welcomed home Luftgekühlt 8.
(Feature for Porsche Newsroom)
When it comes to car culture, southern California supplies enthusiasts equally with variety and passion. From low riders and hot rods to sports cars, the region has something for everyone, and parking lots fill every weekend with purists and creatives showing off their four-wheeled treasures while admiring the tastes of friends old and new. This past weekend, Los Angeles hosted Luftgekühlt 8, a very special air-cooled gathering pulled together by Jeff Zwart, of Pikes Peak fame, the Le Mans-winning driver Patrick Long, and Howie Idelson.
With its origins rooted in LA, Sunday’s meeting at CRAFTED at the Port of Long Beach was something of a homecoming for “Luft,” as it has become known. Set in and around a pair of 1940s-era warehouses formerly used as a holding point for shipping companies, the tenth installment featured pristine examples of historic racing cars and museum-quality machines among more humble offerings driven in by local owners.
Crowds at the sell-out event mingled among highlights including a 1956 550A Spyder, a 934/5 crafted by Canepa, several 1970s Carrera RS examples, a few custom creations from California-based designers and builders, and a handful of endurance race winners covering Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona.
Hundreds more models, spanning the sports car manufacturer’s rich 74-year history, were spread out in creative arrangements that not only displayed the brand’s lineage, but ensured an Instagram-friendly feast for keen photographers.
A naked 356 chassis formed part of a display by Porsche Classic, which showcased its parts and services for owners looking to restore their cars. The new book by Type7, Type7 Volume 3, also made its US debut, with editor-in-chief Ted Gushue signing copies.
And dozens of food trucks – a staple of LA – kept the tens of thousands who attended well-nourished, with a menu as colourful and eclectic as the cars on show. After the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, and 2021 was limited in size, Luftgekühlt 8 proved that there is an appetite for more than good food in California – and that Porsche people know how to party.
The Carrera S power figures may not jump off the page, but it’s a potent Porsche. Dropping the top makes this 992 even better.
Since 1982, the 911 Cabriolet has been a staple in the Porsche lineup. An open-air version of the iconic Carrera, the Cabriolet has continually moved upmarket with price, size, and performance. In the new 992 generation, figures have gone up in all those aforementioned categories, but this new Cabriolet still maintains the distinct profile of the 911, and retains a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine tucked behind the rear axle.
Having owned and reviewed several Porsche models over the years, I am striving to take more opportunities to review more of Porsche’s 992 models. Like I felt when I reviewed the base 718 Cayman last year, the Carrera S doesn’t get enough attention from enthusiast drivers who seek bigger power figures. With an extended trip in California to cover Monterey Car Week and do a few reviews in Los Angeles, Porsche set me up with the Carrera S Cabriolet for an extensive test on some of my favorite roads.
THE IMPORTANT STATS
The Porsche 911’s all-new 992 variant has been on the road for three years, and much like previous generations, there are more 911 model offerings than you can count on all your fingers and toes combined. With coupe, targa, and cabriolet options for the rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, most with either a manual or PDK automatic gearbox available, Porsche also has several levels of power output and performance to satisfy any driver on any road or circuit.
The Carrera S Cabriolet I tested is a tick above the base drop-top model, boasting a bit more power, with the rear-wheel-drive, PDK, and sport chrono options selected, so I’ll stick to its figures. In Carrera S trim, the 992 is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter at-six that produces 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque, both of which are healthy increases over the 991.2 generation. Through a new 8-speed PDK, this Carrera S Cabriolet can sprint from 0-60 in 3.5 seconds and hit a top speed of 190 MPH, making it 0.4 seconds and 1 MPH faster than its predecessor. Porsche attributes much of the performance improvements to optimized combustion from the engine in addition to new turbochargers, the new 8-speed PDK (with better gear ratio progression), and revised engine cooling.
While proportions have increased for the 992 over the 991, Porsche has gone to great lengths to minimize weight gains, utilizing more aluminum in the Carrera Cabriolets chassis and body to keep the curb weight down to 3,537 pounds. This new platform also now sports wider fender flares all-around, with all models getting S-body curves. The 992 Cabriolet also benefits from a new soft top that is lighter with faster operation up and down, optimized rollover protection, and a new power-folding wind deflector to keep the cabin quiet when cruising with the top down.
Base price for the 992 Carrera S Cabriolet is $127,900. Interior options include Bordeaux and black leather, aluminum trim, and the premium package that adds upgraded Bose audio, ambient lighting, dynamic headlights, surround view (for parking), extra storage, and 18-way adaptive and ventilated front seats. Also fitted are the extended range fuel tank and front axle lift for greater usability, and on the performance front Porsche supplied 20″/21″ wheels, rear axle steering, and the sport chrono package that equips a sport exhaust system, lower PASM adaptive suspension, and enables quicker response and acceleration with launch control. Added up, this GT Silver tester hit a total MSRP of $157,270 after destination.
SURPRISINGLY CIVIL CONVERTIBLE
Open-air driving is exceptional in the 992 Carrera S Cabriolet, with a near-silent power soft top that tucks away in just 12 seconds, at speeds up to 31 MPH. If you’re going to drive at speeds above 45 MPH, engage the power operated rear wind deflector–which pops up in just 2 seconds–to cancel out any turbulent air. Even with the screen tucked away, the cockpit is surprisingly quiet. Spending several days cruising the streets and trac-filled freeways of Los Angeles, I got to experience how livable the 992 Cabriolet is.
Composure in the 992 Cabriolet is on-par with the sublime grand touring experience behind the wheel of a Bentley Continental or Aston Martin DB11. For being a sportscar that grew up over the past couple generations, this new Carrera Cabriolet is comfortable in any driving condition, whether you’re boulevard cruising or canyon slaying. The Porsche Active Suspension Management system is compliant yet responsive, and the adaptive dampers relieve any bumps you might feel in the cabin when gliding along in the comfort drive mode. With what I consider to be the best electric-assisted steering setup on the market, Porsche gives the 992 S Cab’s rack smooth response without feeling numb on-center and not too articially boosted when you give it some quick inputs.
Concealed beneath vertical slats of the engine cover is the turbocharged flat-six that provides plenty of response when you stab the throttle, while being composed during normal applications. I’ll admit I did more daily driving with the sport exhaust’s throatier mode engaged with a tap of the dash-mounted button, because that sound was addictive. Even while utilizing this louder exhaust setting and being a fun driver around town, I still achieved an average of 19 MPGs (compared to the EPA estimates of 18/23/20). Denitely opt for the extended range fuel tank, which bumps capacity from 16.9 to 23.7 gallons and dramatically improves fuel range on road trips.
The 992 Cabriolet’s cockpit is all-new, compared to the 991 generation, carrying over the new dash and center console design you recognize in Porsche models like the Panamera and Macan. Definitely an upgrade that makes the 992 as refined as much more expensive grand tourers, the new look still retains Porsche’s classic central analog tachometer that’s now flanked by digital screens that can host a pair of circular dials or a combination of custom displays.
Updated gear selection for the PDK is done with a tiny joystick that frees up space, but it takes a hint of adjustment if you’ve driven earlier 911 generations. Fortunately through all these improvements and updates–and dierent from other Porsche models–the 911 Cabriolet still has plenty of physical controls on the dash to adjust the audio system, drive modes, exhaust, suspension, and seat heating or ventilation.
Front seats are fantastic for long drives, and still keep you nicely planted in the bends when you want to play. On a cooler night, I loved how quickly the seat heaters cranked up to warm my buns. When I was cranking away fun miles in the canyons on a hot day, the ventilation function was ice cold and blew hard. Carrying over the frunk space of the last generation 911, the 992 still has a massive cargo space up front that can easily swallow two carry-on roller bags and a backpack, making travel easy whether you’re driving across the country or making a quick run to the airport.
PERFORMANCE YOU EXPECT FROM PORSCHE
Don’t mistake this 911’s daily driving civility for softness when it’s time to play in the canyons, as the 992 S Cabriolet has capabilities ready to pounce in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t expecting the Carrera S Cabriolet to feel as sharp and performance-oriented as the 718 GT4 I drove at the Porsche Experience Center Los Angeles, but was impressed with its dynamics. Through extensive playtime along the canyon roads of Malibu and the Angeles National Forest, the 992 S Cabriolet exhibited some serious performance traits.
Considering the torsional rigidity took a hit by losing the roof, the Carrera S Cabriolet still felt planted and condent when I gave it long days of thrashing, and not once did I feel like the open-top chassis was compromised. Credit given to Porsche for keeping this nicely-appointed convertible’s curb weight to around 3,500 pounds, allowing the 992 S Cabriolet to still feel light on its feet.
In addition to the usual comfort, sport, and sport plus drive modes, Porsche now offers an individual setup in the Carrera S Cabriolet, allowing you to dial in your happy settings. For my hardcore canyon driving, I configured the engine in sport plus, chassis in sport, made sure the exhaust was open, and told 992’s stability control to take the day off. To have the most fun and engagement, I suggest utilizing the manual shift feature of Porsche’s new lightning-fast PDK transmission, even if the steering wheel-mounted paddles are a bit on the small side.
Scoff at the 443 horsepower and 390 lb-ft figures, and you’ll quickly be silenced by the 992 S Cabriolet’s performance as it unleashes linear turbocharged acceleration out of tight bends, making any straightaway disappear as you surge toward the next set of corners. With the peak torque at your disposal from 2,300 to 5,000 RPM, the Carrera S Cabriolet allows for smooth pulls in any of the eight forward gears. I get to test all sorts of fast cars, and never was I wanting for more power in the 992 S Cab.
When a certain section of the Angeles Crest opens up a mile-long arrow-straight stretch, I pressed the 992’s sport response button–mounted within the drive mode knob–to release 20 seconds of increased engine power and transmission calibrations. This button also served as a nice push-to-pass feature when I needed to quickly get around a slow moving hiker ignoring every turnout in sight while they were driving to a campground.
Steering is magnificent in the Carrera S Cabriolet. Razor sharp response and epic connectivity to the pavement are better than I’ve felt in many performance cars. Feedback is translated through a steering wheel that boasts the perfect diameter and rim thickness, enabling wonderful feedback to your fingers. Sporting reasonably-sized 245mm wide front and 305mm rear Pirelli P Zero tires, the 992 S Cabriolet doesn’t dart around at all, and the tail end is able to slide ever so slightly while maintaining its composure. The P Zero may be a tire I often complain about, but they got the job done with this 992 Carrera S Cabriolet when I dished out some harder flogging sessions, and didn’t get too angry when their temps moved upward.
A common Porsche characteristic, braking is exceptional in the Carrera S Cabriolet. Even with the signature Porsche red calipers mounted over steel rotors, this 992 took my hard inputs and long durations of fun driving like a champ. Porsche still offers its fantastic carbon ceramic rotors paired with yellow calipers, for lower unsprung weight and less fade over harder sessions, but the steels easily kept up with my comprehensive evaluation.
THE REALLY GOOD THINGS
The design language of the 992 is lovely. The new circular headlamp housings, LED light strip across the width of the tail end that connects to the taillights, and wide, curvy rear hips make the 992 look like a modern interpretation of the iconic air-cooled 993. Overall proportions may have increased versus the 991, but this new 911 looks amazing, and the Cabriolet’s lines actually work when sitting next to a coupe model.
Cockpit noise is remarkably low. I made a few phone calls with the top down on a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, and with the windows up, the person on the other end had no idea I was driving with the top down. I also love the front axle lift system that will now prompt you to store the location and automatically raise the nose when you pull into a steep driveway any other time.
When the 992 was released, Porsche introduced a new rain driving mode that automatically detects moisture and splashing sounds in the wheel well. If the 911 senses rain conditions, it will suggest the driver makes the wet mode selection that adapts the Carrera’s traction suspension, aerodynamics, and engine responsiveness to better manage control during inclement conditions.
While retaining physical buttons rather than capacitive touch controls seen in other luxury cars, the 992 Cab has programmable steering wheel button to engage various settings and quick controls. I appreciate still having individual toggle switches for the exhaust, suspension, and axle lift, for quick adjustments on the fly.
A COUPLE TINY NEGATIVES
Because of the fixed roof and large rear window from the coupe no longer being present, rearward visibility in the 992 Carrera Cabriolet is somewhat compromised if you aren’t a taller driver. The soft top’s cool movement and storage mechanism had to go somewhere, and I think this is a fair trade.
The back seats are still laughably tiny, and are better suited to hosting a toddler’s car seat or your backpack rather than any people that need to put their legs somewhere. At least the back seats more than double cargo capacity if you end up stashing loads of gear in the front storage area.
In redesigning the center console and dash, Porsche also fitted new cupholders to the 992, with the driver one smack dab in the middle of the center console. If you opt for a manual transmission, the 992’s new fixed cupholder will be in your way. This shouldn’t be much of an issue, seeing how low Porsche manual transmission take rate is.
IT’S HARD TO FIND A BETTER ALL-AROUND 911
I had to constantly remind myself I was in a more civil variant of the 992 when I tested this Carrera S Cabriolet. Its performance was easily above expectations, and excelled during my more enthusiastic canyon driving days. The Carrera S Cabriolet is fast, agile, and still provides a driving experience you expect from the iconic Porsche 911.
At a base price of $127,000, the 911 S Cab has definitely increased over the past two generations, now out of reach for some buyers of earlier models, but what you get for that money is something special. Porsche has moved the 911 up in class against some grand touring competition, rather than against more conventional sports cars. When comparing the Carrera S Cabriolet’s worth against new rivals, it exhibits great value and performance. The Carrera S also performs about as well as earlier generation Turbo models.
Porsche offers several 911 variants with more power and torque, but if you’re upgrading from a 997 or earlier generation, this 992 Carrera S powerplant is more power than you’ll ever need. 443 horsepower is plenty of juice to get you into trouble, and more than sufficient to make any spirited canyon driving a purely joyous experience. Pair the 992’s driving experience with an open-air cockpit on a gorgeous day, and the Carrera S Cabriolet is the best way to experience a new Porsche 911.
Stunning looks, more standard equipment, and loads of power, this special edition Audi sportback rips.
I love fast luxury sedans more than a fat kid loves cake. Practical size and functionality, packed with power and good features, and usually some good looks. Audi is definitely clutch in the exterior styling game these days, but its AMG and BMW rivals are still in the mix. As a sportback option, Audi gives this RS5 seating for five and a big cargo area opening. Getting to review a handful of fast Audi models, including the RS6 Avant, I’m getting to understand the advantages and benefits of each segment.
When I tested the updated Audi S4 last summer, I thought it could use more power for the money, and this RS5 packs plenty by comparison. Naming this launch edition after racing legend–and two-time Formula One world champion–Alberto Ascari means this Audi has some expectations to live up to. To see how it all stacks up, I gave it a rigorous test in Los Angeles, in traffic, around the city, and along some twisty canyon roads.
THE KEY NUMBERS
Based on the same platform as the Audi S4 I reviewed, the RS5 sportback gets massive upgrades in the performance department. Under its hood, the RS5 packs a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that pumps out 444 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. Hooked up to an eight-speed automatic, quattro all-wheel-drive, and the optional sport rear dierential, the RS5 Ascari can haul from 0-60 in 3.8 seconds on its way to a limited 155 MPH top speed. Tick the box for optional ceramic front brakes, and Audi will raise the top speed to 174.
Audi offers the RS5 as this sportback model (with four rear doors and a big rear hatch) in addition to a two-door coupe. I wish Audi had a wagon option for the RS5 in America, like it does with the RS6 Avant I tested recently. Competing with the Mercedes-AMG C 63 sedan and BMW M3, the Audi RS5 Sportback is down on power, while costing a hint more money at its base price.
For the same money as the standard Audi RS5 Sportback, you could step up to the AMG C 63 S or M3 Competition, which both boast 503 horsepower, nearly 60 more than the RS5’s. The Audi RS5 sportback also weighs a tick more than its German rivals, with a curb weight of 4,057 pounds. Audi gives the RS5 standard all-wheel-drive, which isn’t available on the AMG C63, but is an option on BMW’s M3 Competition.
Base price for the Audi RS5 Sportback starts at $75,400, and the Ascari launch edition includes a ton of popular options into one package–including ceramic front brakes (not offered on the standard RS5) with blue calipers, 20-inch wheels with summer tires, Audi Exclusive Ascari Blue metallic paint, matte alu optic trim around the exterior, a carbon fiber engine cover, dynamic steering, at bottom steering wheel covered in Alcantara, carbon fiber interior trim, RS sport exhaust, sport suspension plus with dynamic ride control, and a few cool driver aid systems–which add $20,500 to the sticker, which jumps up to an MSRP of $96,945 after destination.
A STYLISH AND FAST DAILY DRIVER
Attractive without being too flashy, the Audi RS5 sportback gets several long stares of approval from passersby. Sharp angles, a big grille and (mostly fake) vents, a long wheelbase, a high beltline with a swept rooine, and massive wheels tucked into the wheel wells make this perfectly-sized Audi appealing in many ways. I definitely prefer the appearance of the RS5 sportback over the AMG C 63 and BMW M3, even if the matte silver trim around the windows and bumpers is a bit thicker than it should be.
The Audi RS5 sportback’s initial driving experience carries the theme that catches your eye. Without being forceful, the potent turbocharged engine waits to play without being too jumpy. The peak power figure may be smaller than its primary rivals, but the RS5 sportback will easily find its way to–and beyond–the posted speed limit. Growling without being too pronounced, the RS5’s exhaust tone emitted from huge oval tips is just racy enough in its comfort mode. Surprisingly the world outside the Audi RS5 sportback is muted perfectly, thanks to plenty of attention and materials invested into reducing cabin decibels.
The comfort drive mode allows the powerplant to maintain its composure, but also enables a smooth-riding adaptive suspension to eliminate bumps along your commute. In that comfort mode, Audi’s optional dynamic steering system is a bit over-boosted at city speeds, similar to what I mentioned in my review of the Audi SQ5. Subtle shifts from the eight-speed automatic transmission ensure a smooth ride around the city. Be mindful of your throttle application, and you’ll actually hit the EPA estimates of 18/25/21 MPGs.
Once you step into the RS5’s cockpit, the trend continues. Modern lines and materials wrap around the cabin, a space age instrument cluster sits ahead, and the whole space is covered with cool, intuitive controls. I do wish the infotainment screen was better designed into the dash, rather than appearing to be slapped on like an aftermarket installation. Thankfully the screen’s resolution is high, offering a clean look, with iconography and font selection that makes this Audi even cooler. Wireless Apple CarPlay is standard, and the Bang & Olufsen audio system is strong and clear.
Seats in the RS5 are cool while functional, with perfect support for my old back, and are styled with the same hexagonal stitching in the center inserts you see in other Audi RS models. The seats are mounted a bit tall on their rails, and I prefer them lower for a sportier feel and a lower center of gravity. Being the sportback body style, this RS5 is a functional fast four door that can seat five passengers, but truly only two adults in the back seat. The boot space is massive, with a huge power lift back setup to tuck away all your groceries and luggage. I’ll nag this Audi for the rear privacy panel rattling a bit when hitting small bumps on the road, but the cargo capacity is considerable.
MAKING CANYON RUNS
Provide an RS-badged Audi to me in Los Angeles, and you can bet your ass I’m taking it to the twisty canyon roads of Malibu and the Angeles National Forest. With a healthy dose of turbocharged power, all-wheel-drive, a sporty rear diff, and some better front brakes installed, the RS5 Sportback Ascari Launch Edition looked up to the task on some of my favorite routes. I gave the RS5’s less potent S4 sibling the same tests last summer, and while the S4 was fun, the added performance of the RS5 sportback was happily on display.
As you expect from performance cars in this segment, the Audi RS5 has a drive select system on-tap, and like the BMW M3 it sports two custom setups to allow the driver greater exibility outside of the default drive modes. Unlike the BMW M mode buttons (which look like an afterthought), Audi uses one simple button to engage the RS modes, with a quick tap of the button that’s more neatly integrated into the steering wheel controls. Like I’ve said in other Audi reviews, the default drive modes aren’t separated enough to make them feel unique, but the RS5’s dynamic mode is truly sporty.
I liked using the two RS mode feature to give myself a sporty daily driver setup in the RS1 position, but employed the RS2 option to quickly engage a more powerful setting when I wanted to storm the canyons. In that setup, I went hardcore with everything except for the suspension, which I set to comfort. I also turned the stability control to its sport mode, by tapping the button once, after learning how often the system would cut throttle mid-corner, if there was a hint of slip angle.
Settings dialed-in, this quick Audi liked to dance while trying to conceal its weight. When I hinted that the daily driving steering feel felt articial, when you increase the pace on a fun road, the RS5 feels more balanced. Steering input is heavier in the dynamic mode, with sharp response as you peg the apex. The sport rear differential does a great job of managing torque vectoring too. The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel looks the part of a sporty car, but I prefer leather that doesn’t suck all the moisture from my hands.
While the 444-horsepower twin-turbo engine isn’t as forceful from a standstill–like its 591-horsepower RS6 Avant big brother–the delivery of its power is smooth yet understated, easily sending the quick Audi’s speedometer toward triple digits. I wonder just how much more fun the RS5 would be if it possessed the same 500-horsepower gure its AMG and BMW rivals boast. The mass this Audi is carrying holds back truly fast acceleration figures, and the girth is apparent in the corners. Thankfully the sport differential and adaptive suspension do a great job at managing the RS5’s balance in faster bends.
When I was ripping around the canyons of Malibu, the RS5 sportback was given a harder test, due to the tighter, slower turns, and lots of bumps. This fast Audi was definitely enjoyable in Malibu, but the weight induced loads of stress on the chassis, tires, and brakes. The test in the Angeles National Forest was more suited to the Audi RS5 sportback, with higher speed sweepers, longer straights, and a considerably longer route on which to play. I appreciate the mid-range power from the RS5’s twin-turbo V6, that helped close gaps between bends in a somewhat surprising hurry. This demanding environment exposed two challenges I have with the RS5’s setup, if you’re really pushing the car as quickly as it craves.
Pirelli P Zero rubber is far from my favorite, as the tires have a small operating range, which quickly gets too hot when fitted to heavier cars. I had to drop a lot of pressure out of them when cold, knowing the pressures skyrocket once the rubber is given some exercise. These Pirellis also get super greasy when hot, which induces loads of the already present (in almost Audi signature fashion) understeer too easily. Pirelli must be making the fast German OEMs great deals to slap the P Zero on so many models I’ve tested over the past year, and wonder how much better the Pirelli P Zero Corsa would do on the RS5. I would love to give the RS5 sportback a go with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber tted, which seem to be the most perfect all-around performance tire on the market.
Then we get to the brakes. I appreciate that Audi opted for ceramic rotors on the outright performance-focused RS5 sportback, but don’t understand why they’re only fitted to the front, with steel rotors at the back. To reduce unsprung weight while allowing for more intense sessions, ceramic brakes are great, but when mismatched with steel rear discs, the heat tolerance is inconsistent. If I tossed the RS5 around the Angeles Crest for more than 20 minutes, the rears would get too hot, and induce a strange mix of fade. Ultimately the RS5 is still great in the canyons, but there are two big factors that are hindering its true abilities.
LOTS OF PERFORMANCE, BUT NOT QUITE PERFECT
On its own, the Audi RS5 Sportback is a great car. The looks of the RS5 can’t be touched by its rivals, with the C 63 S being more subtle, and the M3 being downright ugly up front. The trouble is that I have to objectively compare the RS5 against its competition, and those have more power. Under the hood, the RS5 has a big disadvantage versus the AMG and BMW offerings, and I’d love to see how well it would perform with that extra juice.
Audi did a good job packaging the RS5 Sportback Ascari Launch Edition as a performance four-door, but the Ascari name belongs on an R8 or some extremely potent Audi supercar instead. As a daily driver, the RS5 continues the trend I’ve experienced in Audis I’ve reviewed over the last year, with loads of comfort and plenty of performance ready to strike. When you put the RS5 to a hard test on the twisty roads, a couple small flaws are revealed, but only when a talented driver pushes the limit. If you aren’t planning on absolutely caning the RS5 regularly, it’s going to be a great addition to your garage.
Finally in America, Audi’s fast longroof is here to haul more than groceries.
Teasing the U.S. market for several years, Audi produced a few iterations of the extremely quick RS6 Avant, giving drivers in other markets a wagon that could tote plenty of people and stuff, and would destroy any twisty road it met. In 2020, Audi decided to bring this fast longroof to American shores, with some sharp angles, exed fenders, and a potent turbocharged V8 stuffed under the hood.
Having recently tested fast German saloon variants, in the form of the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S and BMW M5 Competition, I wanted to see what Audi had in the way of the speedy shooting brake department. Interestingly, the RS 6 is only offered as the Avant, and the lesser–and still fast–S6 model is the sedan option. In the case of the BMW, the M5 isn’t offered in a wagon body, but the AMG E-Class is. During a recent trip to Los Angeles, the good folks at Audi set me up with a new RS6 Avant, to let me thoroughly test it in the real world and along some fun roads.
The Big Figures
As is the case with several performance models under the VAG umbrella, the Audi RS6 Avant is stuffed with the twin-turbocharged 4.0-liter V8 that punches out 591 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque. The horsepower figure is only slightly down versus the M5 Competition and E 63 S, and has nearly 40 more lb-ft over the BMW, while having 30 fewer than the Mercedes.
Through an 8-speed automatic, quattro all-wheel-drive, and a sport rear differential, the RS6 can rip from 0-60 MPH in just 3.5 seconds on its way to a top speed of 174 MPH. Opt for ceramic brake rotors over the already massive standard 16.5-inch front and 14.6-inch rear steel ones, and Audi will bump that top speed to 190 MPH, in case you need to put any fellow unrestricted Autobahn drivers far in your rear view.
There’s seating for five (if you’re stuffing kids in the back seat) and a massive cargo area, thanks to the hatch. At 197 inches long, 59 tall, 84 wide, and boasting a 115-inch wheelbase with a 65-inch track front and rear, the RS6 Avant has a big stance, supplemented by some sexy flared fenders. That package also carries some mass, as the luxury wagon tips the scales at a hefty 4,960 pounds.
Pricing for the Audi RS6 Avant starts at $109,000, which is in the same ballpark as the BMW M5 Competition and Mercedes-AMG E 63 S. After going easy on the options sheet, the RS6 Avant I tested had Sebring Black crystal effect paint, cognac leather with gray stitching, the upgraded executive interior (adding more leather throughout the cabin, heated rear seats, a HUD, and power soft-closing doors), driver assistance package (adaptive cruise control and a handful of other aids), and the 22-inch wheel package with summer tires, to hit a total MSRP of $117,370.
Errand Running In Style
A quick look lets you know this big premium wagon means business, but the Audi design language is nicely executed. Audi nails the luxury car game with its upper-end models, and the RS6 Avant is a nice blend of performance and comfort. When you arrive at the office, you’ll probably have the best looking car among your coworkers, and other parents at the school pick-up line will give you approving second glances as the kids pop in the back seat.
Unleashing the turbocharged V8 is easily addictive, but if you’re light on the throttle, and aren’t trying to attack every corner, the RS6 Avant is a composed city cruiser. That’s not to say it won’t pounce on an opportunity to pass a slower car in traffic nor get up to obscene speeds in a blink on a freeway on-ramp, but the delivery of the RS6 Avant’s power is composed. EPA fuel estimates are 15/22/17, and I achieved 17 MPGs during my week with the RS6 Avant.
Offering a great family car for the parent who also wants to rip up the canyons on the weekend while the kids are away, the RS6 Avant is still civil in the city, thanks to its adaptive air suspension and electric-assisted steering system. I covered a bit of cross-city commuting miles during my test, and the RS6 Avant supplied the right amount of feedback and response on bumpy concrete LA freeways. Sticking with the comfort drive mode was ideal in the city, letting the big Audi wagon glide over bumps, and letting me ignore the noise in one seriously insulated cockpit.
Despite a high beltline and a sharp-edged roof, the Audi RS6 Avant’s cabin feels spacious, and bigger front passengers will enjoy a ton of hip and shoulder room. In the back, two adults have plenty of space to stretch out, while the massive cargo area will consume all the luggage or shopping bags you care to stu inside. Carrying out the sporty look, the RS6’s seats provide great support for longer days behind the wheel, with signicant lateral bolstering to keep you planted in the bends.
While futuristic in its initial appearance, Audi’s controls for the infotainment and climate control systems are intuitive yet cool. Steering wheel buttons are still used in this fast wagon, making it simple to adjust your cruise control or audio settings. I appreciate the RS6 Avant being equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and a wireless charging dock tucked into the armrest storage compartment. The standard B&O audio system is damn good, but if you feel like dropping more money as an audiophile, Audi does have an upgrade with more speakers and more wattage. I do wish the RS6 Avant got the cupholders with chilling or heating functions I enjoyed in the SQ5 I reviewed earlier this summer.
Ripping The Twisty Stuff
As you expect from an RS-badged Audi, the RS6 Avant is fast where it matters. Along canyon roads of Southern California, this quick longroof exhibited plenty of confidence through fast sweepers, and the twin-turbo V8 made gaps between those bends disappear. Having nearly 600 horsepower at your disposal, the Audi RS6 Avant will scorch any twisty road. When you smash the go pedal, the power is progressively delivered, allowing the RS6 to smoothly accelerate with little drama. Be mindful of your duration of throttle application, as this Audi will scream toward big numbers registered on the speedometer.
With a pair of custom RS drive modes engaged via a steering wheel button–similar to what BMW oers in the M5–the RS6 Avant can be dialed in for any fun driving you wish to do, whether you want to go fully hardcore or have a hint of compliance. As the dynamic or custom RS modes are engaged, the RS6 Avant’s electric steering noticeably increases its weight and feedback, which I denitely prefer in any driving condition, and the steering wheel has a perfect amount of thickness in my hands. Buzzing around sharp bends is remarkably easy in the RS6 Avant, with plenty of agility, but it’s not as precise nor engaging as the AMG E 63 S or BMW M5 Competition. By no means is the RS6 Avant disappointing in the performance department.
Grip levels are high, thanks to Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system, and the electric sport differential out back makes sure to load up the outside rear wheel with more torque as you send the RS6 Avant into a fast sweeper. Unlike the M5 and E 63, Audi does not have a drivetrain mode that allows you to disengage the front wheels, when you want to drive like a drifting hooligan. Not that I suggest reducing the quattro system’s legendary handling, but sometimes you want to kick the ass-end out around a fast sweeper.
Pirelli P-Zero rubber measures 285/30/22 all around, and offers plenty of adhesion when it counts. These tires are a bit louder than the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S setup I prefer, but they’re not lacking grip when it counts. Massive steel brakes are up to the task if you’re doing average twisty road duty, but if you’re going to toss the RS6 Avant around more demanding routes over longer durations, opt for the $8,500 carbon ceramic brakes that will better cope with the intense heat produced when slowing this 5,000-pound wagon.
As the RS6 is switched into its dynamic or RS modes, the digital gauge cluster switches into a display that looks like something out of a fighter jet, changing to more relevant performance data readings, and giving you cool shift lights as the revs climb. I’m not sure how useful the display is by displaying how much of the RS6’s horsepower and torque is being used, but it’s somewhat cool to know there’s more power on the table when you think you’re giving the Audi a proper thrashing. I found myself better using the shift paddles on the steering wheel, rather than letting the slick-shifting automatic do the work for me, as I wanted to keep revs up more often while allowing the RS6 to be more engaging.
Several Good Highlights
More impactful than the BMW and Mercedes models with which it competes, the Audi RS6 Avant has angular styling that catches plenty of positive second looks. Continuing to crush the cool headlight game, the RS6 Avant gets some cool LED housings with sharp daytime running lights. The headlights also run through a cool sequence when you unlock the car in the dark. Edgy lines evoke a speedy package, but the Audi designers still made the RS6 look like a luxury wagon. I also love the shooting brake look over a more conventional wagon profile.
The extra $1,075 is well spent on Sebring Black paint, which has loads of blue and silver metallic flakes under that deep black top coat, giving the RS6’s body a great color flop in the sunlight. Audi does a great job of making the RS6’s interior usably stylish. I also love the cognac leather seats, which are a perfectly creamy brown contrast against the rest of the black trim inside. Honeycomb stitching over the supple leather seats is a nice touch too. Audi wisely has the privacy cover in the cargo area lift up with the tailgate, which is useful when stashing away your bags after hitting up the shops.
Audi’s most updated MMI infotainment is neatly incorporated into the dash, with a high-resolution display that is clear to read, even in bright daytime conditions. Where the M5’s cockpit is a bit dated and looks the same as several other BMW models over the years, and the E-Class one may be a bit too space age for some, the RS6 Avant’s cabin is a great combination of cool and refined.
A Couple Tiny Gripes
Edgy styling and massive standard 21-inch wheels are cool on this Audi wagon, but you’re going to feel a few more bumps because of the lower profile. The 22-inch options look badass, better lling in the fender gaps, but replacing those P-Zero rubber bands is going to hurt your wallet in a couple years. The RS6’s BMW and Mercedes rivals sport more reasonable 20-inch wheels and tires, for comparison.
Mashing the accelerator releases a good burble out back from the RS6 Avant’s massive oval-shaped exhaust tips, but you’ll notice a supplemental hint of fake noises pumped through the speakers. I do wish performance car makers stopped doing this. Give us real sounds in a manner that doesn’t destroy the environment. Surely someone has come up with a way.
Similar to my complaint in the S4 sedan I drove last summer, Audi’s drive select modes need better distinction. The comfort mode is great for your daily driving needs, but the dynamic settings don’t go hardcore enough for me. If you’re slapping an RS badge on an Audi, it needs to be a screamer in the most sporty modes, with snappier throttle response and firmer damping that’s immediately noticeable.
This Wagon Still Carves Canyons And Totes Everything You Have
I love fast wagons, and am pleased Audi finally gave Americans the RS6 Avant. It’s wildly fast, carries plenty, and will likely be the best looking car in any parking lot it graces. For many drivers, it’s going to be exceptional, and will easily make you cooler than your friends who are probably driving something less attractive and nowhere near as fun.
Versus the competition from BMW and Mercedes-AMG, the RS6 Avant lands right in the middle for me. It’s definitely more enjoyable to drive and look at–both inside and out–against the BMW M5 Competition. As an overall driving experience, I prefer the AMG E 63 S that’s more engaging when you want to have fun along back roads without compromising highway comfort. Should you care more about the styling, the Audi RS6 Avant is the super wagon to stick in your garage, and it’ll still be a blast in the canyons while being obscenely comfortable during your daily commute.