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'Bahn Razors: 2003-04 Audi RS6


Four rings to rule them all...

When building a performance car, weight is the single biggest enemy. The more there is, the more a vehicle’s acceleration, braking and cornering abilities are negatively affected. This is probably why most German sport sedans stick with rear-wheel-drive and relatively lightweight engines. However, as we’ve already seen, Audi seems to get off on throwing conventional wisdom into the trash. Witness Ingolstadt’s heavyweight hot rod, the RS6.

As the 21st century dawned, both Mercedes-Benz and BMW were offering loaded-for-bear mid-size sedans (which we’ll learn more about next week), and Audi, wanting to cement its place as the third member of the Fatherland’s luxury car company triumvirate, decided to respond in kind…and then some. Starting with the basic S6 sedan platform (The S6 Avant, i.e. wagon, was the only body style available here; conversely, an RS6 Avant was available in Europe but not here.), the boffins at Audi’s in-house tuning arm – quattro GmbH – added flared fenders to accommodate larger wheels and tires (18-inchers on North American models), lowered and stiffened suspension with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), huge brakes, and a handful of electronic driver aid systems to reduce the chances of the RS6 parting ways with the pavement. Of course, the quattro all-wheel-drive system helps maintain traction as well, so no prizes for guessing it was standard equipment. The bits sending power to that system consisted of a twin-turbocharged and intercooled version of the S6’s 4.2L DOHC 40-valve V8 – producing 450hp and 415 lb./ft of torque – coupled with a 5-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic manual shifting mode that blipped the throttle on downshifts like a skilled driver in a car with a manual transmission would. Other changes included a subtle rear spoiler, big dual exhaust tips, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, a trunk-mounted battery (resulting from the lack of room under the hood), and brushed metal sideview mirror trim. With a curb weight of just a smidge over two tons, the RS6 wasn’t quite a flyweight, but it could still move with the best of them, as evidenced by its multiple championships in the Sports Car Club of America’s SPEED World Challenge GT series.

Alas, speed, exclusivity and racing pedigree are not enough to keep RS6 values sky high; bad news for sellers, but good news for buyers. Prices start in the mid- to high-$20,000s for high-mileage examples, while lower odometer readings will go deep into the $30,000s. The DRC system is very failure prone, but as long as proper scheduled maintenance is performed and hoonage is kept to a minimum, there doesn’t seem to be many other common problem areas. Just the same, keep a few thousand in the kitty at all times. But if you want, nay, demand the automotive equivalent of a cross between Gene Kelly and a rhinoceros, look no further than the RS6.