But after you select ‘S’ on the auto box’s lever and bury the throttle, you get almost no delay, full transmission lock-up in first gear, the merest scrabble from the rear tyres, and then a savage, driveshaft-worrying rush.
That big V10 revs all the way out to 6800rpm before the ‘box snatches another gear. Audi quotes 4.6 seconds to 62mph, but that could actually be a wet-weather benchmark; the RS6 feels every bit as fast as an R8 to 62mph, and much quicker beyond there. You’ll need nothing short of a Porsche 911 Turbo to beat it over a standing quarter-mile drag race.
As is becoming a recurring theme with RS Audis, bald speed isn’t all that this car is about. For starters, it steers accurately, fluently, and with well-judged control weight; the wheel’s nicely light at town and manoeuvring speeds, but quickly loads up on the open road. Its precision is what gives you the confidence to explore the far reaches of this car’s performance on an empty road.
The RS6 has also got razor-sharp throttle response, particularly for a proper auto. As described earlier, the excellent transmission allows you to deploy all of the engine’s power, even in first gear.
In Sports mode it holds a gear right to the redline, kicks down quicker than most, and locks up fully whenever you want it to. The paddleshift mode gives the driver even better control over gearshifts. Few automatic gearboxes are this finely-tuned for high performance – AMG take note.
The car’s got enormous traction too; though you expect as much from an RS Audi, the extent to which the new RS6 assaults the tarmac is still remarkable. You can give it full throttle, in first gear, away from a wet T-junction, and get nothing – no oversteer, no understeer, little wheelspin to speak of – except stultifying forward motion.
Perhaps most remarkably of all, this car can also be refined and easy-to-drive. When you’re not in the mood to wear the pattern off the A413 you can set the adaptive dampers to ‘Comfort’, leave the transmission in ‘D’, and just float around (try that in a BMW M5). The only thing that disturbs the calm is the occasional patter of its 20in wheels.
Should I buy one?
There should be no doubt: Quattro GmbH has just put forth its best RS yet, and whether you’re a fan of hot Audis or not, the new RS6 is a must-drive for any performance car lover with £80k to spend.
It’s not a car overawed by a monstrous engine: it’s actually one of the finest new fast cars you can buy right now, 1600-litre boot-and-all. Though its performance is more than a match for its rivals, it appeals in a different way to rear-driven super-saloons and –estates from Mercedes and BMW. The best way to get to the nub of that difference is like this.
Imagine the perfect corner on a circuit. It’s long, open, medium-fast, ever-so-slightly damp, and you can see all the way around it. Now, how do you imagine driving it? Go in at about eight-and-a-half tenths commitment, get on the gas a little early, and exit with a quarter-turn of opposite lock? Or go in fast, pound the apex into submission, pick up as much traction as possible on the way out, and then see what the next bend brings?
If you’re in camp a), the BMW M5 Touring is the firebrand wagon for you. But if you’re camp b), and you simply want an any-weather performance weapon that’ll cover ground as fast as a supercar, come what may – but four-up, and with a fortnight’s worth of luggage on board – well, you know what to do.