Join Date: Nov 2004
REVIEW: Jeremy Clarkson Not The Audi RS6's Biggest Fan
Sometimes, I think life would be a lot less complicated if we were deer. Because then, all we’d need do to establish ourselves, as the superior being in a group, is to stand tall and wave our antlers around.
Unfortunately, men cannot do this, partly because we don’t have horns and partly because the human equivalent is the penis. And if you start waving that around over a game of darts in the pub, no good will come of it.
All men will claim they don’t jostle for the high ground in a group of other men, but this is nonsense. We all do. Some by using wit, some with the enormity of their wad and some by demonstrating their cleverness. And then you have those who think it’s all down to the size of the engine in their car.
I met one such chap last week.
To begin with, I thought he was genuinely interested in my new car, but it quickly became obvious that he saw it as a threat to his dominant position in the assembled herd. “How many horsepower does it produce?” he asked sweatily. I genuinely didn’t know. When you’re 6ft 5in, you tend not to worry about that sort of thing.
But he wasn’t 6ft 5in so off he scuttled, only to return the next day with information from the Mercedes website, backed, he said, by a call to the local Mercedes dealership. “Your car,” he told me loudly, so everyone could hear, “develops 507 horsepower. Whereas my AMG E-class” — there was a pause — “trumps that with 518.” The unspoken ending was clear. He was 11 better than me.
I’d like to say at this point that I’d met a weirdo, a desperately sad and lonely man, the sort of chap who buys an enormous underwater laptop despite the inconvenience simply so he can appear to have the biggest penis in the airport departure lounge.
But I fear he may not be alone. I fear there are many others just like him all over the world.
Because why else have the world’s car makers spent the past 15 years churning out cars that develop more and more horsepower? Someone must be buying all these M5s and AMG Mercs. Even though the power their engines make is only any good when worn on the head like an antler.
I mean it. In a Bugatti Veyron, a car built to smash records and boggle minds, lots of horsepower and torque are absolutely necessary. And it’s much the same story with a Ferrari and a Lamborghini too. These are speed machines.
But in a saloon car that is limited to 155mph, the only reason why you might be interested in the power output is because you are penistically challenged.
Most mainstream cars with big engines are limited to 155mph because if they went faster than that, they would need brakes like the rings of Saturn, and so many cooling ducts they’d look like the Pompidou Centre. And this would make them preposterously expensive to make. And therefore even more preposterously expensive to buy.
So why buy a car with 7m horsepower when only 200 of those horsepowers are actually needed to get it to the electronically governed top speed? It makes no sense . . . unless you are a small man, with no antlers and a tiny willy. Then it makes all the sense in the world, because now you can go down to the Harvester, and quantify your life.
“I am 518, which means I am 11 better than him and a whopping 70 better than him.
But I’m not at the top of the tree because he, that man over there who runs the Rotary club and has an orange wife, he is six better than me. Drat.”
You think I’m being silly. Well consider this. Why have sales of the supercharged Jaguar XJ languished so badly for such a long time? Because if you buy one, you are 107 worse than someone with a BMW M5. That’s like turning up at the urinals with an acorn and finding the man next to you is winching out a fireman’s hose.
Worse, you are a massive and humiliating 172 worse than someone with the subject of this morning’s missive, the £77,730 Audi RS6 Avant.
It’s easy to see what caused this car. Audi looked at the heavyweight horsepower fight between BMW and Mercedes and thought, “We can stop this once and for all because we aren’t going to pussyfoot around with the odd extra pony or foal here. We’re going for a whole flock of rampaging mustangs.” The result is an ordinary five-door estate car that produces 572bhp. That’s 122 more than Jackie Stewart had at his disposal when he won the Formula One world championship in 1973.
The effect is profound. While this car may be no faster, ultimately, than a hot Golf, it accelerates from 120mph like most cars accelerate from rest. There’s a momentary pause as the gearbox does something electronic and then you are pinned to your seat as though you’ve fallen into a wormhole. This sort of power, I have to admit, is intoxicating.
And the Audi is similarly impressive around a racetrack. There’s none of the boisterous bellowing enthusiasm you get from an AMG Mercedes as it slithers about in a cloud of its own tyre smoke. And it doesn’t feel as technical or as precise as a BMW M5 either. But ooh, it’s clever.
You turn into a corner, at speed, and lift off the power, imagining that you’ll be rewarded with the usual Pillsbury dough trough of traditional Audi understeer. But no. The back slides round until you apply a dab of throttle and feel the four-wheel-drive system gathering up the mess you’ve made.
To make a car as big and as heavy as this — it weighs more than two tonnes — fast is not hard. To make it handle so incredibly well on a track is nothing short of astonishing.
Unfortunately, I suspect that very few people who buy this car will ever actually take it round a track. Or feel that Herculean shove in the ribcage by getting up to 120 on the motorway and burying the throttle in the carpet. Which is a pity because at all other times, and in all other circumstances, the RS6 is fairly terrible.
Now I should say from the outset that the wheels on my test car were not balanced properly and reviewing a car with a permanent judder is like asking someone to review a play while being tickled. But I pressed on through the vibrations, and these are my findings.
First, we must talk about the ride. Set the suspension in “comfort” and it’s just about acceptable. But do not under any circumstances go for the “sport” setting because then you will be bounced around so much you will not be able to grab hold of the button to put it back again. The man who thought this option to be a good idea should really leave his body to medical science because, plainly, his skeleton is made from steel.
Then there’s the seat. And God Almighty, this is worse. Every time you go round a corner, the side support digs with increasing ferocity into your kidneys until you are weeping with pain. The only place where this sort of seat might work is on the I50 in America. Here, in Curly-Wurly Britain, it’s a nightmare.
Not that you want to go round corners all that much because the steering system is so bad. At parking speeds, it is super-light but as you get to a trot it suddenly becomes extremely heavy. This always comes as an unpleasant surprise, and if you are not holding onto the wheel firmly, it’ll slip through your fingers and you will bump into the car you were trying to avoid.
Things don’t get much better when you’re out of town and just trying to get home. You can sense all that power under the bonnet. You can’t use it, of course, but you can feel it as a weight, something you are having to manhandle. It’s wearing. It’s annoying. And it exists only because men don’t have antlers.
Clarkson’s Verdict: Bigger isn’t always better
Audi RS6 Avant
ENGINE 4991cc, V10
POWER 572bhp @ 6250rpm
TORQUE 479lb ft @ 1500rpm
TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic
FUEL / CO220.1mpg / 333g/km
ACCELERATION 0-62mph: 4.6sec
TOP SPEED 155mph (limited)
ROAD TAX BAND G (£400 a year)
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