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AUDI'S SUPER-HOT WAGON: THE RS6 QUATTRO PLUS AVANT

Audi has been producing standard looking cars with a lot of power for some time, but the latest RS6 Quattro Plus Avant is a wagon with supercar performance. It is powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.2 liter V-8 engine with no less than 480 bhp at 6,000 rpm. The previous model developed 450 bhp.

The standard A6 has front-wheel drive, but obviously to transmit that much power onto the road they've given the car four-wheel drive, which is particularly important with the engine out in front of the front axle. Yes, that's the unusual layout of the Audi A4 and A6 models.

SUPERCAR PRICE, SUPERCAR PERFORMANCE

They aren't producing many of the RS6 Pluses, and the price is up in the supercar league at around $120,000 (66,675). But yo still a highly practical wagon you can use to collect builder's material, or pile high with luggage for your summer holiday. And in between you have a car that can compete with many a slick-looking superccar. For example,the Ferrari F430, a fabulous two-seater has only 10 bhp more than the RS6, and because the RS6 engine is turbocharged it will have much more power in the 2,000-5,000 rpm rantge than the Ferrari - in other words it will have more usable power.

This 40-valve engine - that's five valves per cylinder - would be just the job in a neat mid-engine coupe, and indeed Audi has one of its own on the stocks, but it's not very neat. In the RS6 it turns what looks like an ordinary wagon into a fire-eating frenzied dervish.

Audi used to split the power of its quattro system with an equal amount of torque going to the front and rear

axles. But with this model, and the latest RS4 it has adopted a center differential that sends 40 per cent of the torque - or power - to the front wheels and 60 per cent to the rear wheels. This is a better arrangement because it prevents excessive understeer - that's when the front end of the car slides outwards - which can happen with a car that is so nose-heavy.

PLENTY OF SPACE FOR THE FAMILY

This RS6 is one mighty powerful car, capable of 175 mph - that top speed is limited by a governor - with a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds. Very fast, although the Mitsubishi Evo VIII FQ330 can do 0-60 in just 4.4 seconds. Methinks the RS6 is a bit heavy... But to be fair, the Porsche Carrera can't do better than 4.6 seconds, albeit with 300 bhp.

In practice, 0.2 seconds is neither here nor there, so the difference between this RS Plus and the old one won't be noticed by anyone without a stop watch - and a might fine one at that. A mere human can't measure 0.2 seconds, and can't do much in that much time either. Still, these are all very fast cars, and once you get below 5 seconds for the 0-60 time you're hot. That's good enough for me. Without a stop watch.

About the author:

John Hartley is the editor of Fast-Autos, an online magazine devoted to fast cars and supercars. He has written for many top auto magazines, and has written 10 books about cars and the auto industry, including 'Suspension and Steering Q&A' and 'The Electronics Revolution in the Motor Industry'.

Written by: John Hartley

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