South Africa is a strong-demand market for high-performance SUVs. With many venues having at least 10% journey with gravel roads or driveways, it makes sense.
But, there are opportunities cost-associated with a high-performance SUV. All that power and a raised ride height create a high roll centre. And that makes most high-performance SUVs a bit ungainly to drive to their full potential.
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Audi offers something very different and more rewarding with its RS6 Avant.
The German brand has a legacy of producing high-speed station wagon vehicles going all the back to the early 1990s with its RS2 Avant – jointly developed with Porsche.
In a world where most SUVs’ overly dramatic design details and aggressive stance make them a touch too conspicuous, the RS6 is terrifically elegant and purposeful.
It might roll on huge 22-inch wheels and feature boldly proportioned fenders, but everything looks in proportion with the station wagon silhouette.
At its core, this is a dramatically fast vehicle. The RS6 Avant is powered by a 441kW 4-litre bi-turbo V8 engine and you won’t find many vehicles with equivalent interior space and more power.
The Audi RS6 Avant is low, long, stable and superb
Compared to a luxury SUV, the RS6 Avant sits much lower but not unpractically so. It has adequate front bumper clearance to roll over any speed bump without bother and thanks to an air-suspension system, the ride quality is outstanding – even on poorly surfaced roads.
The marketing theme around high-performance SUVs projects a message of staggering speed with some all-terrain ability. In truth, it is a reality of compromise. Most SUVs with significant performance roll tyres are useless on gravel roads or sand tracks, negating their claim as all-terrain vehicles.
Attempt to drive a high-performance SUV with abandon and you will feel all the assistance systems trying their best to keep things under control. They are fast, but not fluid in the pursuit of that high-performance driving experience.
The Audi RS6 Avant has a low centre of gravity and the steering dynamics of a traditional performance vehicle. It responds immediately to any input without body roll.
And, that means the faster you go, the more confident and intuitive it becomes at interpreting and executing your input.
Capable of 0-100kph in 3.6 seconds, it is genuinely a supercar-fast family car. And the uncompromised dual-purpose nature is what makes it so unique.
Terrifically fast – and wonderfully practical, too
The load area is huge. Surfboards. Mountain bikes. Pets. A weekend’s getaway gear. The RS6 Avant offers an abundance of space for whatever you need to take along.
Its station wagon configuration is more practical to load and utilize than many luxury SUVs.
High-performance SUVs promise rewardingly rapid driving experience and all-terrain ability, but they never truly deliver on either. The RS6 Avant is true to its purpose: being an incredibly fast family vehicle with an abundance of load space.
Unique too. Especially in a market like South Africa, where the station wagon has all but gone extinct.
Downsides? The general interior design is excellent but its touchscreen ventilation and fan speed controls lack the intuitive tactility button-and-dial system.
You have to look down to make adjustments despite the screen haptics.
And, the lack of true aluminium metal finishes in the cabin, replaced with shades of grey imitation alloy plastic, is something previous-generation RS6s would never have.
Priced at R2 070 000, the RS6 Avant is unquestionably expensive but it’s also a technological tour de force. Most notable of all, the lingering experience exceeds all expectations – unlike similarly powerful SUVs.
Here is a vehicle that provides that most fleeting thing for a wealthy driving enthusiast who has a schedule with family responsibilities: supercar performance that effortlessly deputises for any domestic driving duties when required.
The RS6 Avant is the only automotive candidate that can claim to be a true family-vehicle supercar.
Featured image: Lance Branquinho