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Car News:  Oversteer

Yes, America Did Once Get an Audi RS6

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

Whenever the subject of Audi comes up among car enthusiasts, the discussion almost always switches to the cars Audi doesn't sell here. The RS4, for instance, hasn't been sold in the United States in nearly a decade. There was also the famous Porsche-built RS2, and its spiritual successor, the modern S4 Avant. And, of course, someone always brings up the Audi RS6.

And it's true: Audi has long neglected the U.S. market by not offering a true high-performance version of its A6 -- which makes little sense considering the popularity of its chief rivals, the Mercedes E63 AMG and the BMW M5. Indeed, today's Audi S6 comes off as a halfhearted attempt to compete with those cars, offering just 450 horsepower -- weak compared to the BMW's 575 hp and the E63's 577.

Indeed, what Audi needs is more power, and they have it -- just not in America. The foreign-market Audi RS6 makes the 560 horsepower we all want -- and it boasts flared fenders, mean acceleration and raucous performance, just like the BMW and Mercedes rivals we can buy today. There's even a cool wagon version, the RS6 Avant, which might just be the most exciting high-performance wagon on the market. However, sadly, none of this comes to the U.S.

But that wasn't always true.

Believe it or not, the U.S. market did get an RS6 -- once, for one model year (2003), in one body style (sedan). And it was every single bit as breathtaking as you'd expect. Despite the highly subtle styling characteristic of performance cars back then, it had 450 hp, a twin-turbocharged V8 and all-wheel drive. When it went on sale, it was the most powerful sedan ever sold here -- until it was quickly supplanted by the supercharged 469-hp Mercedes E55 AMG later that year.

Unfortunately, the RS6 that came to the States had an Achilles heel: The dull torque-converter automatic transmission wasn't quite strong enough to take all that power, and 2003 RS6 transmission failure is a virtual inevitability. But once the torque converter is replaced with a stronger unit -- or, in some rare cases, a manual swap -- the RS6 can become a pretty cool used car. It's also a relic of that time Audi once tried to be really daring.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Yes, America Did Once Get an Audi RS6 - Autotrader