In the early 2000s, Germany’s Big Three automakers were gearing up to launch an onslaught of super sedans on the world. It started with the BMW M5, then Mercedes-Benz experimented with the idea of AMG versions of its sedans in the 90s, resulting in the C36, C43 and E55 AMG. Their main competitors caught wind of this experimentation, and as Mercedes prepared to kick this project into high gear, the others were quick to react.
During this period, there was the W210 and the iconic W211 Mercedes E55 AMG, and the E39 BMW M5, which we believe is among the best. They were both very similar in execution, using V8 power and exclusively RWD. Audi the response was a bit different, which is evident in the C5 RS6 generation.
- V8 biturbo
- AWD handle
- Engine/Motor: 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8
- Power : 444 hp
- Couple : 428 lb-ft
- Transmission: all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 5-speed automatic
- Good performance
- Grippy and tight handling
- sleeper look
- Infamous reliability issues
- Obsolete technology
- Hard to find
Presentation of the C5 RS6
The C5-generation Audi RS6 was, until recently, the only Audi RS model the automaker officially offered in North America. They sold it exclusively in the sedan body style, and only for the 2003 and 2004 model years. At the time, the RS6 was Audi’s answer to the super sedan boom of the time, which eventually caught on automakers around the world. These cars now have a massive cult following, which has caused their prices to skyrocket.
The RS6 is the super saloon of this era that nobody talks about, which is a shame, because every gearhead should drive one. The twin-turbo 4.2-liter V8 under the hood made more power than the M5, and the RS6 could also boast the added peace of mind of all-wheel drive thanks to Audi’s quattro system. Of course, in typical Audi fashion, you really you have to know what you are looking at from the outside to realize that this is not a standard A6 repmobile. The RS6 featured noticeably flared arches, more aggressive front and rear fascias, bespoke alloy wheels and the silver Audi RS mirror caps.
C5 RS6 powertrain and powertrain
Under the hood of the C5 RS6 hides a 4.2-liter twin-turbo V8, developing 444 hp and 428 lb-ft. That’s more than the BMW M5 E39, and even the W210 E55 AMG was overtaken, until the 469bhp W211 model arrived a few years later. The RS6 could do 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155mph, although various owners have reported that the limiter is quite generous, leaving the RS6 to stretch to around 167mph. The twin turbos also allow the RS6 to have an incredibly wide power band, so you never feel like you’re losing power when you turn the engine off.
Every C5 RS6 uses Audi’s Quattro AWD system, along with an active center differential. A five-speed automatic transmission takes care of the gear duties. This is where most of the C5 RS6’s reliability issues come from. Assuming everything is in working order, the RS6 looks a lot like Audi’s other RS models; good to drive, safe, adult, but it lets you have a little fun, especially if you turn off the stability control.
C5 RS6 Comfort And Quality
Inside, the RS6 is nearly identical to any regular C5 A6. Again, in typical Audi fashion, you can’t really tell you’re sitting in anything special. The only freebies are the steering wheel and its RS badge, and the unique bucket seats. Being the most expensive car in the A6 family at the time, the RS6 is fully equipped; a navigation system, dual-zone climate control, heated seats, cruise control, HID headlights, front and rear parking sensors, and more.
In terms of quality, it’s the only potential thing that can tempt you away from this otherwise excellent performance sedan. The C5 RS6 is notorious for its unreliability, and assuming the one you’re looking to buy falls victim to delayed maintenance, you could be in serious trouble. The main problems with the C5 RS6 relate to its transmission and the Dynamic Ride Control suspension system, a technology Audi uses to this day along with a few others. These can fail catastrophically, making the car a paperweight. If you’re shopping for one of these, make sure the previous owner replaced both of these as recently as possible. Timing belt changes can also be very expensive, as the engine barely fits under the hood, requiring removal. The RS6 seats five passengers and has nearly 15 cubic feet of trunk space.
C5 RS6 price
Unlike the BMW M5 E39, whose values soared into the stratosphere, the market for the C5 RS6 has remained fairly stable over the years. According to Classic.com, the average market value of the C5 RS6 is around $18,000, with the highest sale on record being $36,000. It’s not a bad price, but it’s worth spending a bit more to get a well-maintained example with the gearbox and DRC replaced. If the previous owner did all that, the C5 RS6 is a fantastic old-school performance sedan that’s sure to turn heads, while still offering an impressive driving experience and a bit of luxury.
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