I’m behind on my writing, although that makes it sound more like dreadful homework than something fun. And it is fun, especially with cars that evoke some emotion. In the case of the 2023 Audi RS6 Avant, it’s some loud-snarly-one-hundred-percent-that-bitch emotion. (Thanks, Lizzo) I spent a week with the big bad Audi, a week that happened to coincide with Capital Pride in Washington, D.C. Plenty of our members and my friends were able to experience the RS6 Avant, and even those who didn’t especially want one for themselves were pretty into it.
Some 2023 Audi RS6 Avant Basics
The 2023 Audi RS6 Avant doesn’t need a ton of introduction. It’s the wagon version of the Audi A6 midsize sedan, able to carry more things than an A6 sedan while retaining similar driving dynamics. Audi will sell you a regular-ol’ A6 Avant in barely-lifted Allroad guise, but where’s the fun in that? The Audi RS6 Avant takes the basic notion of “station wagon” and turns it up as much as Audi’s engineers could reasonably get turnt.
Five hundred and ninety one horsepower and 590 lb-ft come from a twin-turbocharged four-liter V8, sent through an eight-speed automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive. Tires are wide 285s stretched around 22-inch wheels. All four of those wheels can turn thanks to standard all-wheel steering. Suspension on my test car was a mix of standard four-corner airbags and optional adaptive dampers.
Another $33,000 in options were added to my specific 2023 Audi RS6 Avant; ceramic brakes, the Carbon Optics and Executive packages, Bang & Olufsen sound, a black Dinamica headliner, night vision, driver assistance, and sport exhaust were among them. The window sticker totaled a high $158,105, and I didn’t really find it that outrageous.
The price, that is. The car is entirely outrageous. I opined to one friend that I’d order mine in bright red; he thought the metallic Mythos Black was more appropriate given its “stealth factor.” I found this slightly amusing given we were having the conversation with the exhaust valves open at the top of second gear.
So… Why Wagons?
Talk to most ‘car gays’ and some enthusiasm for wagons will come up in conversation. The body style has long since faded from popularity as most consumers moved from wagon to minivan to SUV to crossover. Nobody wants to drive what their parents drove, which prompted much of the mass exodus over the decades. That’s not especially new news. Nor is the idea that Americans love to project a sense of rugged individualism to the world. It’s what sold millions of XJ Cherokees and early Ford Explorers, vehicles that were objectively worse to drive than minivans or wagons, worse on fuel than either, and generally less spacious inside.
But dammit, they looked tough. Everyone loves a strong jaw line.
I fired up the ol’ Discord and polled our members to get their take. Several of them own wagons, most of which are not in the same outrageous-performance league as the Audi RS6 Avant. BMW 328s in gas and diesel form, Volvo 240s, Mercedes-Benz E350s, those sorts of things.
Informal polling produced the answers you’d expect. “The space of a small truck with the handling of a sedan,” said Dana, with others echoing. Marc, owner of an F30-generation BMW wagon, just loves the uniqueness. “It’s also nice to feel my car is a tiny bit special over the sedans, crossovers, and SUVs.” Nate’s use embodies wagon life: “In order to fit 2 kids and a very large dog, you need a disproportionally large crossover to do the job. Wagons have longer load floors than a comparable crossover and can do that very specific job much better.”
Lexie may have put it best, though, “they’re the espadrilles of the car world: timelessly fashionable and still practical.”
I’m Going a Level Deeper
I initially dismissed this take as a silly shower thought, then I noodled on it some more and figured it was pretty valid. See, car enthusiasts in general tend to like wagons. They think they’re neat, they want to build or buy a cool wagon and have something a little different. The focus is generally on European models, at least lately.
Meanwhile, gay car enthusiasts (really, every letter of “LGBTQ car enthusiasts” but we have to play the SEO game sometimes and bam, now I got both phrases in here) are just as excited about a 1994 Ford Taurus wagon as they are this ridiculous hot-rod Audi. Chevy Cavalier wagon with peeling white paint? Come here, I can save you. Honda Accord wagon with slamomatic two-pedal transmission? Sub-zero level of cool.
Adam L. Penenberg’s excellent book Blood Highways gets deep into the creation of and psychology behind Ford’s smash-hit 1990 Explorer. He takes a deeper dive into the notion of rugged appearances being an American tradition, and Ford (and others) using that idea to their advantage to sell more “light trucks” that could meet more lax safety standards while carrying higher profits. Everyone loves to look and feel kinda macho, and there is precisely nothing macho about a Dodge Caravan or Mercury Sable wagon.
Meanwhile, societal norms dictate that we suppress quite a bit in favor of keeping up appearances. Yet when you come out and live your live authentically, unabashedly, you ultimately suppress nothing. There are no appearances to keep or norms to follow because it’s all made up anyway.
So thinking back to this 2023 Audi RS6 Avant and the enthusiasm around it – to say nothing of my friends’ enthusiasm for any longroof – I think wagons appeal to the queer population because they represent such a pure, honest version of one’s self. In the words of the delightful Brett Berk: all cars are drag. Buying a wagon emphasizes the fact that you in fact are not worried about suddenly crossing the Mojave on the way to Whole Foods. You’re secure in your needs, your realistic uses for a vehicle, and your own sense of self.
Okay, That Was a Lot
I’ll undoubtedly get some nastygrams from people who love their crossovers. This isn’t meant to be a put-down to the segment; I can count the number of new wagons available on one hand, maybe two. And there are some truly excellent crossovers that will do it all, despite being just a bit… mainstream.
Being queer has never been very mainstream, though. Why start now?