Audi RS5 review – Audi’s most entertaining coupe yet?
The Audi RS5 Review!
The original Audi RS5 debuted in 2010 and was arguably the brand’s best attempt yet to recapture the magic of its legendary Quattro. Featuring a similar four-seat coupe body, flared wheel arches and four-wheel drive, it ticked all the right boxes. And while it lacked the original’s five-cylinder soundtrack, it compensated with its howling V8.
In fact, this naturally aspirated 4.2 litre 8-cylinder unit was the dynamic highlight. The rest of the car just failed to live up to the promise of its raw ingredients. It was fast and composed, but it lacked the driver involvement that marked out the best, such as the BMW M4.It matches the competition for kit, too, with sat-nav, LED headlamps, and Nappa leather seat trim. Yet it’s still possible to go overboard with options and splash out on items such as 20-speaker Bang and Olufsen hi-fi, a carbonfibre exterior styling pack and a driver pack that raises the top speed to 280kmph.
The latest RS5 is no more powerful than before with 444bhp, but weight savings of 60kg mean it’s faster than its predecessor. For instance, the firm claims the 0-100kmph sprint is covered in an electrifying 3.9 seconds, while we recorded our own 0-60mph time of 3.6 seconds – neither the M4 nor C63 can duck under the four second barrier. What’s more, the combination of launch control and four-wheel drive mean that this figure can be achieved come rain or shine.
However, it’s fair to say the RS5 never feels as dramatic as the figures suggest. Make no mistake; the Audi is a seriously quick car that can cover ground with truly indecent haste. Yet the extremely linear power delivery (peak torque of 600Nm is delivered at 1,900rpm) means you’re treated to a smooth and relentless increase in pace, rather than the more exciting top end frenzy of, say, the M4. Like all fast German machines, the RS5 is limited to a top speed of 250kmph.
Yet perhaps the biggest change is to be found under the heavily creased bonnet, where the current trend for downsizing means you’ll now find a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6. It delivers the same 444bhp as the old car, but torque has swelled by 170Nm to a heady 600Nm. There’s a new eight-speed auto that replaces the seven speed S tronic, which is claimed to shift gears as quickly as the old twin-clutch unit. On the move, drivers can choose between Drive, Sport and manual changes via the steering wheel mounted paddles.
As before, the quattro four-wheel drive system splits the engine’s torque 40/60 front to rear, but the system now reacts faster and can send up to 70 percent of the engine’s output to the rear axle in extreme situations. There’s no doubting the V6’s effectiveness when it comes to outright performance, but it can’t match the old V8 for visceral appeal. This is partly down to the engine’s delivery, and partly the drama-dulling effects of four-wheel drive and a slick, seamless gear change. Also playing its part is the muted soundtrack, which lacks the spine-tingling, 8,000rpm-chasing excitement of the old naturally aspirated V8.
There’s a muted growl when you really start to work it, but it’s not a noise that has you deliberately holding onto each gear just to hear it again. You are further discouraged from doing this by the small, cheap-feeling plastic paddles on the wheel, which are a far cry from the gorgeous aluminium items on the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrafoglio. The transmission slurs unobtrusively up the gears as quickly as possible. Yet with so much torque available at such low revs, the Audi still accelerates strongly. As a car to use every day on everything from scarred city streets to smooth motorways, the cultured Audi is unrivalled.
Selecting the car’s Dynamic model sharpens the gear changes, plus it adds some bass to the engine note, as well as more obvious exhaust rasp on upshifts. It also initiates a strange noise on the overrun that sounds like there’s someone trapped in the boot and they’re playing the drums to attract your attention. Audi has left no stone unturned in its quest to make the Audi RS5 a more engaging drivers’ car than its predecessor. A key aim of the development process was weight reduction, with the result that the car is up to 60kg lighter than before, tipping the scales at 1,655kg – the Mercedes-AMG C63 weighs in at 1,710kg, but the BMW M4 is just 1,585kg.
The use of aluminium and high-strength steel in the structure means that the body is 15kg lighter. The front and rear axle assemblies are 6kg and 5kg lighter respectively, while the electro mechanical steering gear shaves a further 3.5kg. The biggest reduction, however, is reserved for the engine. With fewer cylinders than before, the 2.9-litre unit is an impressive 31kg lighter than the old V8. That’s a big saving, and one that aims to boost performance and, crucially, improve the handling. And if that’s not enough for you, then the optional carbon fibre roof panel cuts a further 3kg, while the milled and forged alloys are 8kg lighter than the standard rims. Unsprung mass is further reduced by the ceramic brakes, which chop a further 8kg from the total.
Elsewhere, the Audi RS5 features a specially developed version of the brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system. It’s permanently engaged with a standard torque split of 40/60 front to rear – a set-up that’s claimed to deliver more agile handling. Yet it has the ability to vary the torque channeled to either axle depending on the conditions, with front able to take up to 85 percent of the engine’s effort and the rear 70 percent. More importantly, this process now happens more quickly, helping to promote more natural handling characteristics.
Leave the car to its own devices in Auto mode (there’s also Comfort, Dynamic and Individual, where you can pick ‘n’ mix your favourite engine, steering, suspension and transmission settings) and the RS5 is impressively easy going. The optional adaptive dampers soak up bumps that would send a shudder through the M4 and C63. Turn into a corner with and it’s immediately clear the Audi RS5 feels lighter on its feet than the old car. With less weight over the nose and quicker steering the RS5 turns in more eagerly, while the firmed-up dampers help keep it on an even keel during harder cornering. And with the benefit of four-wheel drive traction, the Audi fires out of corners with the sort of rocket-propelled energy that its rear-drive rivals can’t match. If you want to travel from point-to-point as quickly as possible, the Audi RS5 has few equals in this class.
It’s more organic in feel than before, flowing down roads that the old car often felt like it was taking in scrappy chunks. This is largely down to the improved quattro four-wheel drive, which seems more natural than before. Power hard out of a tight corner and there’s a sense the rear axle is helping rotate the tail a little, reducing understeer and helping you carry more speed down the next straight. Be more aggressive and in slippery conditions the car will start to slide – although the system quickly sends torque to the front wheels to counter this. The steering is quick, accurate and naturally weighted, it lacks any real feedback. The Audi RS5 isn’t as throttle adjustable as its rivals either, meaning you have fewer options into and out of corners. Carry a little too much speed into a bend and you get mild understeer, which can be cancelled out by lifting off. However, try and tighten the car’s line with a little more throttle, and the Audi washes even further wide.
To really appreciate the Audi’s deep reserves of talent you’ve got to put the dampers into their sportiest settings and really drive it hard. It’s at this point that you can appreciate the cast iron body control, limpit-like grip and impressive balance. No it’s not as exciting as its rear-wheel drive rivals, but as way to cover ground quickly, effortlessly and with a modicum of engagement it’s in a class of its own. Downsizing to the smaller turbo-unit has improved fuel consumption by 24 per cent over the old model. Standing in a petrol station forecourt is one place you certainly won’t miss the free-breathing V8. In our long term Audi RS5 we’ve managed to exceed the claimed 7.14kmpl on a combined cycle, achieving 7.47kmpl on a cruise up to Scotland.
You’d hope the tyres would wear more evenly compared to its rear-driven competitors, but when a new set of boots is required you should budget about Rs 91,700 (UK) for Hankook Ventus S1 evo2s fitted to our long termer. Inside, the RS5 builds on the foundations of the standard A5, which means few rivals come close for quality or upmarket appeal. The slick design is enhanced by some carefully chosen upgrades, including alcantara coverings for the steering wheel and gear selector, a smattering of Audi RS5 badges and some supremely supportive high-backed seats.
Tech fans can revel in the now familiar Virtual Cockpit, which is standard. Featuring a 12.3-inch configurable TFT screen, it features a host of useful functions, plus a barrage of performance data, such as turbo boost pressure and a G-meter. It’s a quiet and comfortable place to be, too. With the driver modes set to Comfort there’s very little wind and road noise, while the engine settles to a barely audible background hum. The ride is far more supple than that of the Mercedes-AMG C63 S and BMW M4, too.
The new RS5 certainly looks the part, thanks to muscular styling that’s said to be influenced by the firm’s monstrous 90 quattro IMSA GTO race car, which dominated American sportscar racing in late eighties. Based on the standard A5 Coupe, the RS gets subtly pumped wheelarches, a larger grille and a deeper front bumper that’s crammed with intakes and sharply defined creases. Neat touches include the small vents either side of the headlamps and tail lights, plus the familiar silver door mirror caps. You get 19-inch alloys as standard, with larger 20-inch items available as an optional extra. Other upgrades include the Carbon, Carbon Black and Carbon Matt Aluminium styling packs that add different coloured spoilers, sill extensions and door mirror caps. For the full lightweight look you can add the £3,250 for the carbon fibre roof panel.
Audi RS5 in detail
Performance and 0-100 time – The RS5 edges out the competition in a launch style start covering 0-100kmph in 3.9sec and is capable of de-limited 174mph top speed.
Engine and gearbox – The 2.9-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 develops 444bhp, but the gains have been made in the mid-range courtesy of 442lb ft of torque available from 1900rpm.
Ride and handling – The new RS5 has progressed significantly over the old model, lighter, more focused and hugely capable, although it still feels a bit inert alongside rivals.
MPG and running costs – The smaller blown engine makes the RS5 more efficient than its predecessor, with Audi claiming 32.5mpg on a combined cycle.
Interior and tech – The RS5 does justice to Audi’s reputation of producing class-leading interiors crammed with an endless list of tech functions.
Design – A collection of tasteful exterior tweaks imbue the RS5 with the necessary aggression to wear the RS badge.