Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 2016 review
Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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The La Rhin was a French merchant cargo ship, built in 1920, that for two decades quietly carried goods around the Mediterranean from its home port of Marseille. In 1940, during World War II, it was turned over to the British Royal Navy (it's a long story) and commissioned as HMS Fidelity.
In a short but tumultuous military career it served in the British Channel, presenting as an easy kill for German U-boats focused on cutting off supply lines to the UK. But Fidelity was a 'Q-ship', that under its unassuming exterior, was now armed with four fast-loading 4.0-inch guns, four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and carried two Kingfisher floatplanes, a motor torpedo boat and a pair of landing craft.
In other words, underestimating the firepower lurking behind its relatively modest façade could prove to be a big mistake. And Audi's RS 6 Avant parallels the concept, except this time we're talking about a five-seat wagon that wouldn't raise an eyebrow in the Woolies car park, packing a 445kW twin-turbo V8 capable of blasting this two-tonne beast from 0-100km/h in 3.7 seconds. That's faster than a Lexus LFA, Ferrari F50, or Pagani Zonda C12 S. Wow!
So, what's it like to live with this ultimate Q-car; a heavy-hitting grocery-getter packing supercar performance and a $250k price tag?
|Audi RS6 2018: AVANT PERFORMANCE|
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Seriously, if it wasn't for our test example's 'Vegas Yellow' paint finish (a $6250 'Audi Exclusive' option) most punters would walk straight past the RS 6.
Yes, Audi Design boss, Marc Lichte has injected greater emotion, and driven differentiation between more recent models (witness the Q2), but the mid-size A6 range sits on of Audi's older platforms, and still broadly conforms to the brand's pre-existing design language. The new-generation A6 is expected in Australia later in 2018.
On the outside that means the signature 'single frame grille', sharply raked and angular (Matrix LED) headlights, strong, unbroken character lines running down the flanks, broad rocker panels, and simple LED tail-lights emitting a familiar, T-shaped pattern, all delivered with minimal decoration.
But for sharp-eyed car-spotters the RS 6 offers up clear hints to its performance potential. Beyond the RS badges front and rear, the most obvious attribute is the car's girth. Fully 62mm wider than the A6 sedan, this wagon features pumped up guards and wider track measurements front (+32mm) and rear (+37mm). The rear three-quarter view especially highlights the car's intimidating stance.
To further dial up this understated air of menace, the RS 6 Avant Performance features a 'Titanium look' finish on the grille, front spoiler and air intakes, mirror caps, window surrounds and rear diffuser.
Our test car went a step further, with an optional 'Black Styling Package' ($2200) turning the air intake duct (with 'quattro' logo), radiator grille and its surround, mirrors, roof rails, front spoiler, and side windows an even darker shade. Plus, the (no-cost) optional 21-inch, twin spoke rims fitted to our test car were finished in gloss 'Anthracite Black'.
The drive towards Teutonic reserve and subtle symmetry continues inside, with a simple, gently sweeping dash incorporating a subtle rise over the instrument binnacle, housing conventional gauges (rather than Audi's more recent 'Virtual Cockpit' digital display) with a configurable info screen between the main dials.
The emergence of an 8.0-inch retractable 'MMI' multimedia screen adds a touch of theatre on start-up, and racy carbon-fibre trim pieces bring extra drama to the dash, broad centre console and door tops.
Our test car featured the 'Audi exclusive controls package' ($1700) which translates to genuine (black) suede leather on the flat-bottom sports steering wheel, with the same material applied to the gear knob. It looks and feels special, although it would be interesting to revisit the car in a year or two to assess the impact of a succession of sweaty palms. Maybe an option box best ticked by glove wearing track day warriors.
The 'RS' sports seats live up to their name, with elegantly sculpted bolsters on the cushion and backrest, ours being trimmed in 'Audi exclusive Valcona leather with honeycomb quilting' ($9000). And by the way, optional yellow seat belts, as fitted to our car, will set you back no less than $3400. Yee-ouch!
Searingly expensive options aside, the overwhelming impression is of attention to design detail and close to flawless execution in terms of fit and finish.
At just under five metres long, close to two metres wide, and a touch under 1.5 metres high, the RS 6 Avant Performance is a sizeable machine, and despite the fire and brimstone lurking under the bonnet, it's also a comfortable and hugely practical wagon.
No surprise there's plenty of room up front, and the electrically-adjustable front seats (plus memory) are easy to slip in and out of despite the pronounced sculpting.
Storage has been well thought through, with lots of useful space on offer, including a pair of cupholders, generous door pockets, an oddments tray in front of the gear shift (hidden under a sleek carbon cover), a lidded box between the seats (with a two-level lid), and a useful glovebox.
Connectivity runs all the way from two USB ports, to an 'aux-in' socket, a pair of SD slots, a SIM card input, and a 12-volt outlet.
Big rear doors open to reveal easy access to a broad back seat with sculpting for the two outer positions, and what's realistically an occasional position in between. Sitting behind the driver's seat set for my (183cm) position I had heaps of head and legroom.
A large fold-down armrest houses pop-out dual cupholders and lined box (with a first aid kit inside), while the standard four-zone climate control means there's dual adjustment of temp and flow for back seaters, and a 12-volt outlet and cigarette lighter (naughty) are provided. USB ports are MIA.
The cargo compartment is a masterclass in efficiency and safety. With the rear seat upright there's 565 litres of storage space on offer, enough to swallow our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) or the carsguide pram with ease.
With the 60/40 split-folding backrest down that figure increases to no less than 1680 litres (to roof height). A ski-port door opens to further enhance flexibility, but it's the post and rail retaining system that stands this wagon apart.
Metal channels running down each side of the load space accept sliding bollards at the end of solid, expanding barriers, or retaining straps, or both. There are also anchor points for the standard cargo net or additional straps.
Throw in expanding straps on the passenger side wall, well located handles to release the rear seatbacks, a pair of shopping bag hooks, a netted area behind the driver's side wheel tub, usefully bright lighting, an auto-extending load cover, plus an electric tailgate, and just about every base is covered.
Towing capacity is 2100kg for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked, plus the roof rails are rated to carry 100kg. But there isn't a spare tyre of any description on-board, a repair kit is your only puncture option.
If you want to join the Audi RS 6 Avant Performance club you're staring down the barrel of a $246,411 (before on-road costs) membership fee. And despite the quarter of a mill' price tag it's tricky to line up direct competitors.
So, that's top-shelf territory and aside from its imposing driveline and leading-edge safety tech, detailed a little later, the standard features list is impressive.
Included on the specification sheet: 'RS Adaptive air suspension', 'RS Sport exhaust system', 21-inch '5-twin spoke design' alloy wheels (in 'Matt Titanium-look') shod with Pirelli P Zero rubber, 'Parking system plus' (with park assist and 360-degree camera), adaptive cruise control (with 'Stop & Go' function), a head-up display, a huge panoramic glass sunroof, metallic or pearl effect paint, an electric tailgate, plus 'Matrix beam' LED headlights (with dynamic indicators front and rear).
Leather trim not only covers the seats, but the multi-function, flat-bottom sport steering wheel, gearshift, and door armrests. The front seats are electrically-adjustable and heated, there's copious amounts of carbon-fibre trim around the cabin, entry and start is keyless, and ambient interior lighting sets a sophisticated tone.
You can also expect four-zone climate control, the 'Audi drive select' vehicle management system, BOSE surround sound (14 speakers, 12-channel amp, 600 watts total output), and 'MMI navigation plus' managed via the retractable 8.0-inch monitor (including live traffic updates and a CD/DVD player). Amazingly, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though.
Which means this Q-car packs more than enough standard fruit to sit confidently in the upper-luxury stratosphere, and just to top that, our test example was fitted with an RS 3 Sportback Quattro's worth of options. Okay, the RS 3 is $80,611, and the options added up to $79,490, but who's going to quibble over a measly grand or so?
In order of financial magnitude, the options list ran as follows: 'Dynamic package plus' (ceramic brakes, 'Dynamic steering', 'RS sport suspension plus' with 'Dynamic Ride Control', electronic regulation of top speed at 305 km/h) - $25,840, Audi Sport titanium exhaust system - $17,000, Bang & Olufsen Advance Sound System (15 speakers, plus 15-channel, 1200 watt amp) - $12,000, 'Audi exclusive leather trim' - $9000, 'Audi exclusive exterior paint finish' - $6250, 'Audi exclusive seat belts' - $3400, 'Black styling package' - $2200, 'Audi exclusive controls package' (in black suede) - $1700, privacy glass - $1100, and 21-inch '5-twin spoke design' alloy wheels (in 'Anthracite Black') - no-cost. Phew!
It might feel like a compact nuclear reactor resides under the bonnet, but the RS 6 Avant's prodigious power is actually produced by a 4.0-litre, all-alloy, twin-turbo V8 featuring direct injection and variable cam timing on the intake side.
The turbos are located in the engine's hot vee to minimise lag by creating the shortest possible path for exiting gases from exhaust, to turbo, to inlet, and outputs are immense – 445kW (597hp) from 6100-6800rpm, and 700Nm (750Nm on overboost) from just 1750rpm all the way up to 6000rpm (ready for peak power to take over).
Drive passes through an eight-speed 'Tiptronic' auto transmission (with wheel-mounted shift paddles) to a tailored version of Audi's 'quattro' all-wheel drive system, with a 'quattro sports' self-locking centre differential continuously adjusting drive distribution across the rear axle.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 9.7L/100km, emitting 226g/km of CO2 in the process. That number is helped by the engine's Cylinder on Demand (CoD) tech that shuts down four of the eight cylinders under light loads.
Over close to 350km of city, suburban and freeway running we averaged 15.4L/100km at the bowser, which isn't as bad as it sounds given the car's performance potential and our regular exploitation of it.
Required fuel is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 75 litres of it to fill the tank.
Ever ridden a rollercoaster with your kids and caught a glimpse of them as you take the first big drop? Well, that terrified expression is identical to the one etched on the faces of our youngest two when they first experienced the RS 6 Avant under full thrust.
Acceleration from step-off is brutal, and the optional Audi Sport titanium exhaust system ($17,000) fitted to our car delivers a ferocious acoustic accompaniment.
With maximum torque available from just 1750rpm this Bavarian wolf in (bright yellow) sheep's clothing is properly fast, and you know it would have no trouble blasting up to its 305km/h (electronically-limited!) maximum velocity. Pity that's around 200km/h more than is required for this market.
Shifts from the eight-speed Tiptronic auto are sharp, especially in manual mode using the wheel-mounted paddles, and even tipping the scales at just under two tonnes the RS 6 feels taut and responsive.
The Audi 'drive select' system adjusts transmission, engine, steering, suspension and throttle calibrations to offer 'Comfort', 'Dynamic', 'Auto', 'Efficiency' and a configurable 'Individual' setting.
Suspension is double-wishbone front, trapezoidal-link axle with wishbone rear, and an air set-up normally in support. But the optional Dynamic Ride Control system replaces the latter with a hydraulic, diagonal link between the front and rear dampers.
At around town speeds the Audi pulls in its horns and assumes a perfectly civilised personality.
Resulting ride quality (particularly in the Comfort setting) is exceptional, despite the standard 21-inch rims shod with hi-performance 285/30 tyres.
The sports front seats present a perfect blend of comfort and grippy stability, and the electrically-assisted variable-rate 'Dynamic steering' delivers a light touch at parking speeds with agreeably tactile road feel and accurate response as the pace increases. The optional suede-covered steering wheel feels amazing.
This RS 6 remains composed and responsive in the corners with the quattro system seamlessly directing drive to the wheels that can use it most. The big body remains beautifully buttoned down, and when it comes to arresting this heavy hauler's progress the standard 483mm ventilated discs front and rear feature a 'wave' design to better distribute and dissipate heat.
But if you're going to lift the top speed into the 300km/h zone and head off for a maximum attack track session our car's optional, 500mm carbon ceramic rotors, with massive six-piston calipers up front make a lot of sense (even if the price doesn't).
At around town speeds the Audi pulls in its horns and assumes a perfectly civilised personality, with the exhaust pulling back to a neighbour and occupant-friendly tone and volume. A split-personality of the most welcome kind.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
With great power comes great responsibility, and the RS 6 Avant's suite of active safety tech is suitably impressive.
The expected boxes are ticked, including ABS, EBD, ESC, ASR, an Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and hydraulic Brake Assist.
On top of that there's a tyre pressure monitoring system, active lane assist & side assist, adaptive cruise control (with Stop & Go function) and 'Parking system plus' (with park assist and 360-degree camera).
Then 'Audi pre sense plus' incorporates sensors in the front, side and rear to trigger visual, physical and aural collision warnings. It moves through four phases of crash preparation; an upsurge of brake pressure, seat belt pre-tensioning, partial braking and sunroof and window preparation.
In severe cases, the system will activate Auto Emergency Braking, but if a crash in unavoidable there are airbags for the driver and front passenger, side airbags (seat-mounted) for front and rear passengers, and curtain airbags covering both rows.
There are three top tethers for child seats across the back row, with ISOFIX anchors in the two outer positions, and the entire A6 range scored a maximum five ANCAP stars when it was assessed in 2011.
Audi offers a three year/unlimited km warranty, with 24-hour roadside assistance included for the duration. There's also three-year warranty cover for the paint and 12 years for rust perforation.
Recommended service interval is 12 months/15,000km, but the 'Audi Genuine Care Service Plan' (capped price on scheduled servicing for three years/45,000km) available on most Audis is not applicable for RS models.
Driving the Audi RS 6 Avant Performance is like discovering your mild-mannered accountant is a karate black belt who likes to go base jumping... after midnight. Surprising.
It's supercar fast and capable, yet practical and comfortable enough to serve as day-to-day family transport. It's not cheap (and neither are the options), but the thrills are huge.
|AVANT PERFORMANCE||4.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO||$165,990 – 208,000||2018 AUDI RS6 2018 AVANT PERFORMANCE Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||8|