Tough Love

DSC_5950_4a040a625fe26-lightboxThe C5 (2002-2004) Audi RS6 is a piece of flawed German genius – part family q-car tourer and part child of the 3-way BHP arms race between Mercedes, BMW and Audi.  450bhp twin turbo with just enough V8 burble to turn heads and rattle the garage doors on tickover.  Contemporary reviews commented on brutish power rather than delicate handling balance, with EVO’s long termer being accused of “wooden ride quality”.  Ominous.  The internet is full of even darker stories of suspension replacement and automatic gearbox problems.

So why choose such a car? Well, maybe it’s a little bit of history – I loved my RS2, and some of that spirit (if not Porsche DNA) lives on in the RS6.  I have always liked the idea of performance motoring with enough space to bring along the dog.  Not that I have a dog.  But there’s space enough for the family to enjoy the trip and blurred vision from Audi’s idea of sports suspension and handling dynamics.

So given my 5 door requirement, and limited budget, I didn’t look at BMW’s M5 – no touring model available … though a brief moment of clarity made me think about a 535d.  Probably the balanced and economical option, I said to myself, and look at the torque figures.  Sensible option, declared the magazines.  Never going to happen, cried my heart – get the RS, make sure it’s low mileage, that’ll make it all OK.

So how’s it been?  Well, it’s been hard work. For specialists and Audi dealers in the SE.  I’ve been copious in my generosity and visited many in Bucks, Berks and beyond, bringing tales of mysterious and unexpected problems.  Also, hands up, I didn’t do quite enough research; the wild cost estimates that I made in my head proved, in fact, to be wildy conservative.  My car has not been immune to the DRC suspension problems afflicting many of Audi’s RS models.  Franchise dealer’s hourly rates are just plain scarey.  The forums were right.  We should all do well to believe what we read, it seems.

I bought my car in July, before the car prices and sales took their tumble.  I didn’t buy from a main dealer.  I think I saved some money by going to a small independent dealer rather than a specialist or franchise, but this was easily expended in servicing costs and other issues the car has had.

The sleepless night I had when I put down the deposit, and waited for the engineer’s report, was not to be the last one the car has given me.

But who expects such drama from a large, 5 door family vehicle made in Germany?  Well … I did.  It was what I wanted.  Every penny spent feels like an investment, every mile covered is a return on that investment.  The flaws and foibles are both frustrating, but give character.  It’s what makes the RS6 Really Special.




Nick Balch