Perfect 10s : Audi R8 5.2 FSI & RS 6 Avant

Car Specifications
Engine: 
Full Specs Below

To most people, different form factors offer different levels of appeal. Of course, this seems reasonable enough until you realise these are the same people who would consider a Korean coupe with a middling 2L a 'sportscar', yet turn their noses up at one of Ingolstadt's finest just because it takes the form of a wagon (or Avant, in Audi-speak)... but have we mentioned the twin-turbo'd V10 engine at the heart of the RS 6 Avant yet?

 

Through thick times and thin, Audi has never steered away from über-wagons, a part of its performance history that can be traced back to the seminal RS2. This proverbial wolf in sheep's skin effectively created the template for tarmac-shredding stationwagons: discreet, functional and devastatingly quick. The moral of the story? Never judge a book by its cover.

It is with the aim of dispelling this prejudice and ignorance that we introduce two of Audi's finest performance vehicles in the market today: the R8 5.2 V10 FSI quattro and the RS 6 Avant.

For those who are only concerned with the newest and the shiniest, we should qualify right-here-right-now that neither of these cars are the latest models fresh off the factory line. However, we feel they best illustrate the diverse applications of a V10 engine, from seemingly sedate soccer-mom wagon to outrageous sportscar.

In fact, the mere mention of 'V10' in mixed company is typically enough to elicit the most enthusiastic of Hokkien vulgar responses, especially at the hint that a 'drive' or 'ride' is involved. To most people, 'V10' conjures up images of sleek supercar exotica rather than the notion of an engine; in fact, V-anything normally implies a sportscar of some sort to the casual enthusiast.

Lead them to the carpark and they instantly make a bee-line towards the 'sportiest' looking vehicle in the area, which increases the perverse satisfaction of remotely unlocking the RS 6 Avant, the unlikeliest V10 hero this side of Frodo from 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy.

Excitement quickly transforms to tired resignation as they somehow feel 'short-changed', but having already made the trip to the carpark, a ride is still in order.

Of course, try this experiment with the R8 V10 and they feel well-vindicated, because it's likely to be the sportiest-looking machine in most carparks, notwithstanding the occasional blinged-up Japanese or Korean coupe...

To the cognoscenti, the RS 6 Avant (trivia: the RS 6 Avant was launched ahead of its sedan counterpart; an acknowledgement of the importance of 'estates' in Audi's performance line-up) boasts subtle aesthetic touches that elevate it from zero to hero.

There's an element of latent menace about it and the lurking fear that this is a car that could inflict some serious hurt on a person were one to encounter it in a dark alleyway. This is a car that you could expect a young Sith-inclined Anakin Skywalker (before he became a wheezy Darth Vader) to pilot.

Subtle bulges about the bodywork, large rims (this could be the only RS 6 in town with the carbon ceramic brakes option), heavy tints and the body-colour help add flavour (it certainly isn't sugar and spice and all things nice) to the RS 6's brooding character.

Unlike the R8, there isn't even a 'V10' badge to clue the ignorant in on the car's true prowess, which is perfect for travelling incognito, yet have on tap a level of power and torque that is essentially akin to an intercontinental ballistic missile!

In fact, a typical reaction is disappointment (and even some resentment) that it isn't a strict two-seater nor does ingress/egress require the skills of a nubile contortionist. Even up to the point you start up the car and it whirrs to life with a quiet rumble, there's an air of weary disillusionment from the occupants, who are undoubtedly kicking themselves hard for giving up on half an hour's worth of posing for a ride in a stationwagon!

This particular example has the keyless package, which means that the key-fob can be left in the pocket; thumb the 'engine start' button and the V10 quickly grumbles to life.

On the move, it's amazing how sedate and docile everything feels as you slowly ease the RS 6 Avant out of the carpark. Despite its prodigious proportions, the Avant is a cinch to manoevure around and the car never feels unwieldy.

This RS 6 'Wagon' has carbon-ceramic brakes too!
In Comfort mode (unlike the RS 4, the DRC, or Dynamic Ride Control, on the RS 6 has 3 driver-switchable settings: Sport, Comfort, Dynamic), there's none of the crashy ride that we recalled afflicted the previous generation RS 6 (which saw the debut of the DRC system).

The front seats are comfortable yet supportive and the controls and swtichgear feel taut and responsive. In fact, there's little warning of the furious twin turbo'd V10 assault that is about to be unleashed.

To some extent, it's ironic that the R8 V10 only makes do with a 'simple' naturally-aspirated V10 (versus this twin-turbo'd terror in the RS 6 Avant), but as we shall shortly see, the charismatic NA engine has its own appeal too.

You see, at the heart of this particular wagon is caged a ballistic 5L V10 beast that has 580bhp and 650Nm on tap in stock guise. Little tweaks to this particular car have pushed these figures even further Northwards and when you're charging down the straights at the Sepang circuit, you'll be very thankful that the carbon-ceramic brake option was ticked.

Purists may pooh-pooh a 6-speed Tiptronic transmission in a car like the RS 6 Avant, but the shifts are well-slurred and the appropriate ratios help optimise the mighty engine's power-band and delivery. Besides, with such fury at the behest of your right foot, it's best to keep one's mind on the driving at hand.

Plant your foot on the gas and the accompanying thrust is nothing short of mind-bending and should startle the car's passengers into strapping-in or at the very least, reaching for the hand-grabs. Unlike naturally-aspirated cars, a turbo'd car's party-trick is the kick-in-the-kidneys it gives the occupants with the surge that comes with the turbo spooling up.

Acceleration is of the “OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD!” variety and there's precious little turbo lag since there's ample torque from the 5L power-plant. Driving this particular RS 6 around town, it's far too easy to run out of road before the engine runs out of pull. From the outside under full bore acceleration, there have been remarks that it sounds like a NASA Space Shuttle breaking orbit...!

When something that looks like the R8 launches itself, the body instinctively braces itself for the thrust, but to many people, there's something unnatural about a stationwagon that can touch the 100km/h mark from standstill in just over 4.5 seconds! (and this is in stock form; this lightly tweaked car was never timed since Motor Prime does not condone irresponsible driving on public roads. Suffice to say, it felt much faster from a standing start than the stock cars we drove around Sepang last year.)

The best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) part is, there's never any sensation of speed, apart from how slowly the other cars on the road seem to be moving in relation to this 'space-shuttle'. With its commodious cabin, the RS 6 Avant will easily accommodate up to four 'hostages' in comfort with their associated baggage and shopping bags.

On straight stretches and real road driving conditions, the RS 6 Avant easily kept pace with the R8 V10 (in fact, the sight of the RS 6 constantly filling the R8's rear-view mirror can be a rather intimidating experience), but it was only in tighter corners that the Avant's 2-tonne kerbweight kept it from catching up with the R8 (with its relatively flyweight 1,625kg kerbweight).

Of course, aurally speaking, the two cars are as different as chalk and cheese. Where the R8 has a glorious V10 bark under full throttle acceleration, the RS 6 Avant emits a bassy baritone, which is no less stirring, we hasten to add. When the mood to take control descends, steering wheel- mounted gear-paddles allow one to shift up and down the auto'box to their heart's content.

To many people, the R8 is the definitive sportscar. Built to Audi's exacting German standards, a R8 owner isn't likely to find himself using the excuse, “it's all part of the car's character!” very often.

Some people who have driven both engine variants like to think the V8 is good enough, but you don't own a car like the R8 and think in terms of it being 'good enough'. It's always about the performance envelope and nothing pushes this better than a screaming V10 behind you – Audi achieves a 44 per cent (f) / 56 per cent (r) weight distribution for better handling balance.

Although the overall shape remains the same (between the V8 and the V10) and the devil really is in the details. If the 'V10' badges weren't enough of a clue, full-LED headlamps, rims, slight enhancements to the body-kit for better cooling, oval tail-pipes and a new rear diffuser are just some of the elements that help distinguish the V10 from its smaller-engined brethren.

At start-up, the V10 awakens with a sharp bark before settling into a quiet idle. Transmission duties are handled by the R tronic sequential unit, which has both Automatic and Manual modes.

Driven daily around town, we found the R tronic to be rather clunky and the shifts didn't seem as smooth as we remembered from our last drive in the car at its local launch. As with many of these clutchless manual transmissions, it's best to time gear-shifts with quick accelerator on-offs for smooth, lurch-free progress.

Once you get around the transmission, the R8 V10 is very civilised and comfortable to drive around, even in start-stop traffic, giving a whole new meaning to the term 'usable supercar'.

When pressing hard, the chassis proves to be engaging and the car just begs to be flung into corners, which one can do with the greatest of confidence. In fact, it's almost like the Nissan GT-R (R35), in terms of the ease at which the car's performance can be so readily exploited.

Complementing the charismatic V10 engine are the agile chassis, fantastic confidence-inspiring brakes (full set of carbon-ceramic brakes!) and a satisfyingly meaty steering... and that's just in the corners.

Instead of the DRC found in the RS 6 Avant, the R8 V10 employs AMR (Audi Magnetic Ride) to control the damping. A 'Sport' button enhances throttle response and exhaust note, while the R tronic is hustled into delivering even quicker shifts.

However, it's the trundling around at lower peak-hour speeds that really shows up the flaws in the R tronic system; driven and shifted hard, it's actually pretty easy to smoothly string together a few of your favourite corners, including working your way up and down the gears.

Unleashed on a track is where the R tronic really comes into its element and starts to make a lot of sense; gear-shifts are brutally efficient and no-nonsense, leaving you to contemplate on driving the 'perfect lap'!

On the straights, the unfettered V10 is allowed to scream out its fury and any similarity with the V8 is quickly dispelled. We found the V8 to be rather muted in stock form but the V10 is an entirely different breed of beast.

Even with a stock exhaust set-up, the delicious sounds emitted by the V10 are exhilirating and addictive. a perfectly held note with no distortion throughout the entire range of the car's rev-band.

Couple this incredible soundtrack to the V10's sheer pulling power as you work your way towards the red-line and it's safe to say it's as close to motoring Nirvana one can attain at approximately 700 large ones.

If you're expecting the R8 V10 to suffer from the usual character 'traits' of a typical Italian exotic pedigree, you're likely to be disappointed... Build quality is top-notch, even revisited some 6000+km later.

Everything has been put together with a solid sense of German implacability, but then again, some of the criticism levelled against the car is the fact that it lacks the flamboyance of pedigree exotics and even driving fast has become a numbed-down affair. The R8 V10 does everything perfectly, but we can never shake the feeling that even this 'controlled' fun is restrained in some manner.

photos by mp

FAST FACTS : Audi R8 5.2 V10 FSI quattro
Engine / Electronics
Engine type: 10-cylinder V-90° spark-ignition engine with dry-sump lubrication, gasoline direct injection, four-valve technology, DOHC cylinder head, intake manifold with charge movement flaps
Valve gear: Continuous intake and exhaust camshaft adjustment
Valves per cylinder: 4
Displacement in: 5204cc
Bore x stroke: 84.5 x 92.8 mm
Compression: 12.5:1
Max. power output: 525ps at 8000rpm
Max. torque: 530Nm at 6500rpm
Engine management: Fully electronic engine management
Mixture preparation: Bosch MED 9.1 master-slave concept, drive-by-wire throttle control, sequential gasoline direct injection, adaptive knock control, comfort and quick-start system, mapped ignition with solid-state high-voltage distribution
Exhaust emission control: Two metal primary catalytic converters, two metal main catalytic converters, four heated oxygen sensors, secondary air system
Emissions class: EU 4
Alternator in A / battery in A/Ah 190 / 520 / 110

Drivetrain / transmission
Drive type: quattro permanent all-wheel drive, electronic differential lock EDL, traction control ASR
Clutch: Dual-plate clutch (diameter 215 mm)
Gearbox Type: R tronic sequential gearbox
1st/2nd: 4.373/2.709
3rd/4th: 1.925/1.502
5th/6th: 1.239/1.035
Reverse gear / final drive ratio (automatic: constant ratio): 3.713 / 3.077

Suspension
Front suspension: Double-wishbone suspension
Rear suspension: Double-wishbone suspension

Steering
Hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering
Steering ratio: 17.3
Turning circle: 11.8m

Brakes
Electronic stabilization program ESP with integrated ABS
Ventilated and perforated
Front: 365 x 34 mm
Rear: 356 x 32 mm

Wheels/Tyres
Front: 8.5Jx19 / 235/35 ZR19
Rear: 11Jx19 / 295/30 ZR19

Performance / consumption / acoustics
Top speed: 313km/h
0-100km/h: 3.9 seconds
0-198km/h: 12 seconds
Fuel type Super Plus RON 98
Fuel consumption: urban/extra urban/combined: 13.6/29.4/20.6 (mpg)
CO2 mass emissions:327 g/km
Idling / drive-past exterior noise level in dB (A): 98 / 74

Weights
Unladen weight: 1625kg
Gross vehicle weight: 1910kg

Capacities
Cooling system (incl. Heating): 24L
Engine oil (incl. Filter): 12L
Fuel tank: 90L

Body / dimensions
Body type: Aluminum body (Audi Space Frame)
Number of doors / seats: 2 / 2
Drag coefficient Cd: 0.362
L x B (excluding mirrors) x H: 4435 x 1930 x 1252 (mm)
Wheelbase: 2650mm
Track (front/rear): 1638/1595 (mm)
Luggage capacity (VDA): 100 / 90

FAST FACTS : Audi RS 6 Avant
Engine / electrics
Type of engine: Aluminium 10-cylinder V90° spark-ignition engine with FSI petrol direct injection, twin turbochargers, regulated high-pressure and low-pressure fuel system
Valve gear: DOHC cylinder head, roller cam followers with hydraulic valve-play compensation, continuous camshaft adjustment for the intake and exhaust valves, maintenance-free timing assembly via chain
Number of valves per cylinder: 4
Displacement: 4991cc
Bore x stroke: 84.5 x 89.0 (mm)
Compression 10.5 : 1
Max. power output: 580ps at 6250-6700 rpm
Max. torque: 650Nm at 1500-6250 rpm
Engine management: Fully electronic engine management, single-rod ignition coils, 2 control units as ‘master-slave’ concept, drive-by-wire throttle control, sequential petrol direct injection, cylinder-selective knock control, adaptive lambda control (per cylinder bank), mapped ignition with solid-state high-voltage distribution, comfort and quick-start system/secondary air system, Bosch ME9.1.2
Exhaust emission control: Single-pipe manifold with 4 integrated close-coupled main catalytic converters, each with pre-catalyst and post-catalyst probe
Emission category: EU4
Alternator in A / battery in A/Ah 190 / 520 / 110

Drive / transmission
Type of drive:quattro permanent four-wheel drive with self-locking centre differential with asymmetric/dynamic distribution of torque
electronic stabilisation program ESP, ASR traction control, electronic differential lock EDL
Clutch: Hydraulic torque converter with lock-up clutch
Gearbox: 6-speed tiptronic with DSP (Dynamic Shift Program) and Sport program
1st/2nd: 4.171 / 2.340
3rd/4th: 1.521 / 1.143
5th/6th: 0.867 / 0.691
Reverse gear / final drive ratio: 3.403 / 3.317

Suspension
Front suspension: Independent four-link front suspension with virtual steering axis, anti-roll bar, spring/damper unit
Rear suspension: Independent-wheel, trapezoidal-link rear suspension, anti-roll bar

Steering
Maintenance-free rack-and-pinion steering with speed-dependent power assistance (servotronic)
Steering ratio: 12.5
Turning circle: 12.2m

Brakes
Front/Rear: Dual-circuit brake system with diagonal split, anti-lock brake system ABS, brake servo, electronic brake-force distribution EBD and ESP, ventilated brake discs at front and rear, front: six-piston high-performance brakes

Wheels/Tyres
9.5J x 20 alloy wheels / 275/35 R20

Performance / consumption / acoustics
Maximum speed: 248km/h (governed)
0-100km/h: 4.6 seconds
0-190km/h: 14.9 seconds
Fuel grade:Unleaded Super, 95 RON (91 RON with slight reduction in performance)
Fuel consumption: urban/extra urban/overall: 13.8 / 27.4 / 20.1 (mpg)
CO2 mass emission: 333 g/km
Standing / drive-past exterior noise level in dB (A) 84 / 74

Weights / loads
Unladen weight in kg / gross weight limit: 2025 / 2655 (kg)
Axle load limit at front / rear: 1410 / 1380 (kg)
Roof load limit: 100kg

Capacities
Cooling system capacity (incl. Heating):14L
Engine oil capacity (incl. Filter): 11.2L
Fuel tank capacity: 80L

Body / dimensions
Body type: Unitary steel body, galvanised, aluminium wings and bonnet
Number of doors / seats: 4 doors / 5 seats
Drag coefficient Cd: 0.35
Length / width excl. mirrors / height: 4928 / 1889 / 1460 (mm)
Wheelbase: 2846mm
track (front/rear): 1614 / 1637 (mm)
Height of loading lip: 630mm
Luggage capacity (VDA): 565-1660L (rear seat folded down)

Summary
Our pick? One of each! Jokes aside, for someone in such a market, the RS 6 Avant and the R8 V10 make for a killer combination (and soundtrack too!) with no compromise on punch, practicality, performance and panache. In either of these two cars, one is never likely to be short on fun... - mp
Photos: 
This RS 6 'Wagon' has carbon-ceramic brakes too!
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