WHEN IT comes to monsters lurking under the bed, few are more ferocious than the Audi C7 RS6 Avant. There’s more than a hint of its fearsome ability in its plump arches, 21-inch dished rims and low-key stance, but nothing can really prepare you for the absolute mind-altering sensory onslaught that a hit of in-gear acceleration burns into your very soul. It is so freaking fast.
Out of the box, the RS6 comes equipped with a powerplant that would do an ocean liner proud. Audi’s 4.0-litre direct-injection V8 comes equipped with a pair of turbochargers that nestle between its cylinder banks, endowing the non-Performance edition with 412kW and 700Nm of torque that can be popped up to 750Nm on overboost. Sure, the RS6 weights 2020kg, but even in stock form it’s plenty quick enough.
It’s also set up with the fifth-generation Haldex all-wheel drive underpinnings that direct 60 per cent of the car’s drive to the rear wheels, along with adaptive air suspension and a modified version of ZF’s much-heralded eight-speed auto. The first four gears are shorter, while eighth is a bit taller, and the whole thing is a bit beefier – which it needs to be.
Being a $230,000 Audi, it’s also pretty well equipped out of the box, with niceties like LED matrix headlights and a wickedly comfortable and good looking interior. And it’s this level of savvy sophistication and speed that attracted BWA Auto’s Bob Whyms to the RS6 – that, and the fact that it was a screamingly good deal for such a quick car.
“We picked this one up with just 11,000km pretty cheap,” says Bob. “We built it for publicity, mainly. We’re an APR tuner, so if someone’s thinking about tuning their RS6 we say ‘go take this for a run!’ It’s also my daily driver.”
BWA’s staple is Volkswagen AG product, and Bob admits that the company sells far more APR tunes for cars like the VW Golf R. “We recently got a Golf R down to a 11.87 (400m) just with a tune,” he says.
BWA has had the car for about 11 months, but the list of mods is actually reasonably short. There’s the signature wrap, of course. There’s a stage two ECU tune and turbo downpipes from APR, custom MRC turbo inlet pipes and a BMC air filter. And that’s it.
Bob makes no apologies for it. “It’s not like those things you see at a drag strip going ‘brmp brmp brmp’,” he says. “It’s just like a normal car, but you can hit it and it just goes.”
Bob agrees it’s harder to find easy gains with aftermarket bits these days, but forced induction still offers some wriggle room. “If it’s a naturally aspirated Porsche, forget it. They’ve tuned it pretty well,” he says. “With turbocharged cars, though, it’s a different kettle of fish.”
The RS6 is built tough, and the stage two tune has been thoroughly tested both here and overseas – but as with all modified cars, it’s about balance.
“It’s getting near the limits of what you can do with it, although it does have titanium rods in the engine,” says Bob. “It’s a very strong gearbox, too. You can go to a stage three tune, but you’ll need to spend another $30,000 to upgrade the internals.”
The costs of the upgrades totals a hair under $11,000, with the ECU tune costing $4320, the downpipe set $3500, MRC carbon turbo inlet set at $1200, the BMC air filter set $240 and labour coming to $847.
“If you look at the car, it’s $200K plus on-roads as a brand-new car, and for 5 per cent of the value of the car, you can get an extra 25 per cent performance improvement out of it in terms of power and torque,” says Bob’s son Craig Whyms, who also works at BWA Auto. “That’s the sweet spot for the car. Whereas if you then take that from 10 grand to 40 grand, it’s such a huge jump to get to that next stage of performance.”
The work that BWA Auto has executed has heralded some pretty heroic numbers: 550kW at the flywheel and 1012Nm on 98RON, and there’s a race fuel map in the ECU that’ll bump those already stratospheric numbers up by 30kW and 50Nm.
“It’s pretty quick,” says Bob. “We’ve gotten an 11.05sec (400m) out of it with pretty worn tyres. It’s capable of mid 10s.” At an off-street drags event at Western Sydney International Dragway, it even blasted to 201.59km/h by the end of the quarter mile. Given MOTOR recorded 3.93sec to 100km/h and 11.89sec over 400m (192.75km/h) in the equivalent standard RS6, that’s a meaningful jump in pace.
Craig agrees. “Once we’ve gotten it to where we think is a good time on just normal pump gas, we’ll throw 104 octane in it and then it turns the wick up even more on the standard turbos. It should run mid-10s pretty easily.”
That’s a key advantage in offering a proven tune from a large company, according to Craig.
“All our tunes are from APR, which is probably one of the biggest Audi/Volkswagen tuners on the planet,” he says. “Before they release a calibration and a tune for a new vehicle, they put it through the paces and try to find the breaking points, and then come back from there to make sure that everything is still within the safety limits and within the ceiling of what the car is capable of.”
I’ve sampled the carnal delights of the RS6 before, and it’s an astonishing thing in stock form, with loads more power than is necessary in a four-door wagon. And this one has another 100kW and 300Nm? Gulp.
Early RS6s are getting (relatively) cheap
SITTING still, the Audi RS6 looks a million bucks, but it’s proving to be one of the performance buys of the decade.
Released in late 2013, the RS6 C7 retailed for around $230,000, before being superseded by the upgraded RS6 Performance in 2016, which added $16,000 to the ticket (as well as more power and torque).
Factor in on-roads, and Whyms’ 2013 car would have cost more than $300,000.
“I paid around $170,000,” reckons Whyms, “with around 11,000km on it.” Add $10K of mods, and Whyms’ RS6 now has more grunt than a $760,000 Lamborghini Aventador. Perusing the classifieds, there’s even cheaper RS6s around, with a couple for $140,000.
Press the starter button, and it barks into life, but not in a way that makes it stand out from the stock RS6. Pulling away in Normal drive mode, it sure feels like a normal RS6 on light throttle – if an RS6 can ever be considered normal – and it’s obvious that even though all the suspension and brakes are stock, the RS6 is still a potent car.
Creep up onto three grand, though, and that’s where the magic happens. “There’s a good straight bit here,” says Bob. “Give her a go.” And I do. And oh my freaking lord... a tumultuous, relentless tornado of torque wells up as you depress the throttle, accompanied by that distinctively Audi V8 staccato bark that’s been turned up to 11. The RS6 simply rockets forward, with corners coming up almost as fast as you can blink. Christ on a cracker. This thing has serious, serious pace. And then there’s Dynamic mode, where throttle and shift maps are sharpened, the suspension firms up and things get even nuttier.
BWA’s work hasn’t changed the fundamental character of the car, though – it delivers its prodigious output right across the rev range, but it feels a hell of a lot stronger than factory. On light throttle, though, it’s completely normal. The twin-turbo motor doesn’t rev as high as, say, Audi’s old 4.2-litre atmo V8, but boy, does it hit its 5700rpm redline quickly. There’s not a hint of lag, just relentless waves of power and torque that demands gear shifts as quickly as you can muster.
In fact, it’s easier just to leave the factory-modified ZF eight-speeder in Sport mode and let it figure things out. It changes down under braking with an automatic blip of throttle to smooth out the change and to minimise torque disruption, allowing me to pay close attention to the imminently shrinking horizon line.
“I know APR had a developmental stage three car and even at that point, and they were talking getting close to 1000 horsepower, the transmission was just eating it up,” says Craig. “That ZF eight-speed gearbox just amazing. It’s an amazing bit of kit.”
The RS6 tugs at the steering wheel as the grunt filters from flywheel to driveshaft until the Haldex gets it together, but it’s not an unexpected trait from something with this much herbage. “It does have more than seven hundred horsepower,” laughs Bob. Punctuating the whole show is an exhaust soundtrack that should be bottled as a tonic... and it’s largely stock! Inside the car it’s just as giggle-inducing as it is in tower-buzzing mode, too, with more pops and crackles than a Kelloggs factory explosion punctuating every throttle lift and every cog swap.
The lads reckon that the RS6 will stay as it is for the interim as BWA concentrates on its primary business model of tuning more everyday performance machines. “I mean, it’s an animal now,” laughs Craig. “There is not a gap or a hole it can’t find on the street. It’s pretty crazy, so I think for that car that will be the limit of what we do.”
I reckon he’s right. The BWA Auto crew have enhanced one of this generation’s most potent performance sleepers with a balanced tune that adds to the excitement without spoiling the RS6’s inherent balance and civility. It’ll tear your head off if you want it to, but you can also tow a two-tonne boat with it if you needed. Try doing that with a 911 Turbo.