Audi RS5 Coupe Feels Like Heaven

Can I make a confession? It’s been five days since I drove the new RS5, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve made my mind up about it. It’s like leaving the cinema unsure if what you’ve just watched is a misunderstood future classic or just plain… plain, really. It lingers in your head for a few days, threatening to become an opinion. Is this just another one-dimensional fast Audi with its personality muzzle clamped on tight, or in fact a really clever, relevant super-coupe? Awards ceremony envelopes at the ready… Tell you what, though, the new RS5 is definitely a superior sequel.

So much better in every department (except soundtrack) from the last car, which was heavy, revvy, made a noise like the four horsemen of the apocalypse playing Guitar Hero but rode like their stagecoach. This one is supple. Stick the adaptive dampers in Comfort, and it’s languid and pleasantly cushioned but still fairly controlled over ropey roads, even on the optional 20in rims, which are 8kg lighter than the standard 19s, and necessary for squeezing £6k of carbon-ceramic brakes underneath.

Though I wouldn’t bother with that as on a particularly brisk run down the Andorran Pyrenees they slightly caught fire. Yes, it’s quite quick, the RS5. It’s quick in a very efficient, very Audi way, in spite of the fact that your £63k, ultimate A5 has not one more horsepower squeezed behind its headlights than the old car.

And it’s also despite losing two cylinders (it’s now a bi-turbo V6, not an atmospheric V8), and actually having a smaller engine that the £15,000 cheaper S5. Only by 100cc, but yes, it’s a 2.9, good for 444bhp. Again. It’s the torque that dropkicks the RS5 from standstill and first- and second-gear corners in a near-CGI blur: 442lb ft over a massive rev band – 1,900rpm to 5,000rpm.

The old RS5’s V8 teased you until 4,000rpm for its ultimate overtaking punch, which, when it eventually arrived, was 37lb ft weaker. More twist, more of the time sacrifices a raucous top end to the power delivery, so this V6 is actually less characterful than even an M4’s flat, flatulent barker, and there’s a mite more lag too, but shorter gears than the S5 with which the RS shares its 8spd automatic (not twin-clutch) gearbox an I make a confession?

It’s been five days since I drove the new RS5, and I’m still not entirely sure I’ve made my mind up about it. It’s like leaving the cinema unsure if what you’ve just watched is a misunderstood future classic or just plain… plain, really. It lingers in your head for a few days, threatening to become an opinion.

Is this just another one-dimensional fast Audi with its personality muzzle clamped on tight, or in fact a really clever, relevant super-coupe? Awards ceremony envelopes at the ready… Tell you what, though, the new RS5 is definitely a superior sequel.

So much better in every department (except soundtrack) from the last car, which was heavy, revvy, made a noise like the four horsemen of the apocalypse playing Guitar Hero but rode like their stagecoach. This one is supple. Stick the adaptive dampers in Comfort, and it’s languid and pleasantly cushioned but still fairly controlled over ropey roads, even on the optional 20in rims, which are 8kg lighter than the standard 19s, and necessary for squeezing £6k of carbon-ceramic brakes underneath.

Though I wouldn’t bother with that as on a particularly brisk run down the Andorran Pyrenees they slightly caught fire. Yes, it’s quite quick, the RS5. It’s quick in a very efficient, very Audi way, in spite of the fact that your £63k, ultimate A5 has not one more horsepower squeezed behind its headlights than the old car.

And it’s also despite losing two cylinders (it’s now a bi-turbo V6, not an atmospheric V8), and actually having a smaller engine that the £15,000 cheaper S5. Only by 100cc, but yes, it’s a 2.9, good for 444bhp. Again. It’s the torque that drop kicks the RS5 from standstill and first- and second-gear corners in a near-CGI blur: 442lb ft over a massive rev band – 1,900rpm to 5,000rpm.

The old RS5’s V8 teased you until 4,000rpm for its ultimate overtaking punch, which, when it eventually arrived, was 37lb ft weaker. More twist, more of the time sacrifices a raucous top end to the power delivery, so this V6 is actually less characterful than even an M4’s flat, flatulent barker, and there’s a mite more lag too, but shorter gears than the S5 with which the RS shares its 8spd automatic (not twin-clutch) gearbox means it chomps through the first three more hungrily – it’ll be good for 0–100mph in eight point something, not that it ever sounds or feels that rapid.

Audi made such a play of making the new A4 and A5 hyper-refined, library-quiet capsules that when it’s come to creating the über version, the engine is muffled along with the wind noise. Good cruiser, unenthusiastic schporting dopamine pump.

In fact, the more you drive the RS5, the more you struggle to spot where Audi Sport adds the “Rrrrr” to an S5. Yes, it’s 60kg lighter than the old RS5, thanks mostly to a 31kg engine diet, and you can splurge £3,250 on a carbon roof that BMW and Alfa throw in for free on their more powerful rivals to shed another 3kg.

But it doesn’t feel as agile, because the variable-speed (and mercifully optional) dynamic steering upsets the car’s balance on the way into a corner, amplifying an uncertain ponderousness as you pile into the bend with the brakes trailing flames.

The trick is to trailbrake to the apex so the thing turns in and – even earlier than you dare it possible – straighten the wheel and bury the throttle. This wakes up the rear differential, summons huge torque to the rear wheels and sets the RS5 up for an up-on-its-toes, neutral-stance teleport to the next corner. Just like the current S5, actually.

And that’s what the RS5 has looming over it: the shadow of its demure sister. That’s been nagging me since I heard the RS5 was dropping its V8. Look at the spec: S5 and RS5 are now both turbocharged V6-powered, four-wheel-drive, auto-shifting coupes.

OK, the RS5 has double the turbos, but if you actually understand how much that differentiates the two cars, you’re in a fraction of a per cent of the population. I’d suspected the S5 had been deliberately neutered, and shifted into a mini-GT role, so the similar-on-paper RS5 could grow devil horns and be much more aggressive.

M4-evil, but with traction. But it’s so, so much less firm than the Alfa/AMG/BMW opposition. And quieter. And less aggressive. And it doesn’t feel quite as quick, given it’s 50bhp down on the first two of those three.

I think Audi Sport has spent a long time studying rivals and concluded that the power and aggression of the RS5’s contemporaries doesn’t square with how Audi folks use their fast cars.

They bathe in the comforting security of quattro, and prioritise point-to-point speed over white-knuckle thrills. Question is, do you want an action thriller, or a slow-burn B-movie?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *