Car reviews - Audi - A5 - RS5 Coupe
Torquey engine, smooth-shifting transmission, noticeably different driving modes, uber-capable suspension, dominating road presence, snug-fitting and supportive seats
Room for improvement
Performance exhaust can be too droney, initial turn in can feel a little numb, cheap steering wheel paddle shifters, ultra-firm ride on Dynamic mode
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14 Dec 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
INTRODUCED in 2010 to take the fight to the iconic BMW M3 and beastly Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG of the time, the original Audi RS5 made use of a ballistic 4.2-litre V8 engine producing 331kW of power and 430Nm of torque.
For its new-generation debut, however, Audi has teamed with sister-company Porsche to produce a 2.9-litre biturbo V6 powerplant – the same engine that propels the Panamera 4S.
Those worried that the downsized engine will mean downsized power can rest easy as the new RS5 equals its predecessors with 331kW, but significantly raises the torque bar by 170Nm for a 600Nm total.
Updated driver aid systems, less overall weight and a bigger body are also part of the changes, but does Audi do enough with its most potent A5 yet to keep pace with its contemporary competitors?
Imagine if you were at Audi Sport and it was your job to produce the new-generation RS5 Coupe. On one hand, you have to stack up against the razor-sharp BMW M4 with 30 years of history behind it and, on the other, there is a fire-breathing, tail-happy Mercedes-AMG C63 S to contend with.
What do you do?Ditching the 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 and tapping sportscar-specialist Porsche to co-develop a new twin-turbo 2.9-litre V6 engine is a pretty good start.
Matching the outgoing RS5 at 331kW of power, albeit produced earlier at 5700rpm, the new flagship Audi A5 also develops 600Nm (up 170Nm from before) of torque available from as earlier as 1900rpm.
The result is a deliciously torquey and potent V6 engine with more than enough shove to propel the RS5 out of a corner in nearly any gear.
Although it doesn’t quite encourage short shifting or lifting off of the throttle, the new engine is certainly doesn’t punish the driver for being a little too cautious with the go pedal.
Paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system with sports differential and torque vectoring, the RS5 can ruthlessly accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds – matching the Mercedes and besting the BWM by 0.1s.
While we had no chance to test Audi’s claims during the RS5’s national launch in Tasmania, from the driver’s seat there is no doubt the latest Audi Sport model is phenomenally fast and supremely capable.
The engine and transmission can even be adjusted between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic which varies the shifting speed and engine response to your preference, while the steering wheel-mounted paddles allow for manual shifting.
Even though we appreciated the option, do-it-yourself shifting in the RS5 did not feel natural.
The paddles on the steering wheel are a little too small and plasticy for our tastes and, in all honesty, the Sports mode transmission setting can do a much quicker job switching cogs than we could while trying to tame the 1655kg RS5.
Naturally, the V6 does not sound as good as the V8, but Audi Australia has been kind enough to fit local RS5 with a sports exhaust as standard for maximum aural pleasure.
There are plenty of braps, burbles and splutters from the rear end too, especially when downshifting for a corner, and the audio feedback just makes the act of wringing out the V6 all the more sweeter.
However, we found the exhaust and engine noise to be too boomy in Dynamic mode, and preferred the system in Comfort, which will even produce the addicting pops and crackles on overrun.
Testing the car through some spectacular roads around the Tasmanian countryside also highlighted another fantastic element of the new RS5 – its competent suspension.
Measuring longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, the new RS5 turns flat and smooth with very little bodyroll to upset its planted stance – even with mid-corner bumps and road imperfections.
The all-wheel-drive system gifts the RS5 with outrageous amounts of grip too – even with a bit of rain on the road – that encourages drivers to get on the throttle earlier and brake later when attacking the bends.
Unlike some of its competitors, the rear-end feels balanced with the front thanks to the usual 60:40 torque split (that can increase to as much as 85) with the RS5 preferring to attack corners with poise and race rather than smoke and showmanship.
Like the engine, transmission and exhaust, the suspension settings can be adjusted too, but in Dynamic mode the ride is almost unforgivably hard. Our advice is to keep the suspension settings in Comfort or Auto, which still allowed for plenty of feedback and control to translate from the road to the seat and hands.
However, we would have appreciated more communication through the steering.
Initial turn-in feels light and a little vague – a by-product of the all-wheel drive system we suspect – but still quick and accurate.
Inside, the RS5 is well kitted out with supremely supportive seats that feature heating and massaging, flat-bottomed steering wheel and the latest safety systems including autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
Audi is calling its new RS5 a “grand tourer” instead of an outright sportscar and we suspect if it were to see a racetrack, it might not be as sharp and scintillating as some of its peers. But the RS5 doesn’t need to be a hardcore track car.
The new-generation RS5 is a superb all-rounder – delivering on sportscar thrills thanks to its peppy V6 engine and grippy quattro system, while also functioning exceptionally well as an eye-catching and (relatively) comfortable cruiser – which is a sweet spot that should appeal to most buyers.
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