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Car reviews - Audi - A5 - RS5 Limited Edition coupe

Our Opinion

We like
Brutal power, fuss-free handling, comfortable interior, practicality
Room for improvement
Could be more involving, artificial-sounding exhaust note, still expensive

12 Dec 2011

PLAYING second-fiddle to the stunning R8 Carbon Edition in Audi’s litany of performance-oriented special editions, the RS5 Limited Edition nevertheless packs in some useful and desirable extras as well as some exterior decoration.

Said decoration results in a slightly more menacing look, thanks to the titanium-finish 20-inch five-spoke alloy wheels (the standard car rides on 19s) and a gloss black radiator grille complemented by matte-black window surrounds.

Audi says the Limited Edition commemorates the arrival of a suspension system for the RS5 it calls dynamic ride control, even though it does not make it onto the list of included standard features.

Now available on any RS5 – including the special edition – for $4750, the system is simple in theory but effective in practice.

We drove a dynamic ride control-equipped RS5 special edition back-to-back with the R8 Carbon Edition on a private track, which served to show just how capable this four-seater is.

Our car was fitted with the race-style RS bucket seats that special edition customers can specify for the discounted rate of $3700 – a $2800 saving.

While undoubtedly supportive, well-bolstered and ideal for track work, these seats encroach further on the RS5’s already limited rear legroom and need to be adjusted manually.

Though finding a decent driving position was quick and fuss-free, as our fingers failed to find an electric adjuster for the seat in this circa-$190,000 car (with options) we considered that, despite the extra kit and discounted sports seats of the Limited Edition, Audi asks a hell of a lot more money for the RS5 than its most obvious rivals.

And that’s ironic considering how it has priced the R8 well below equivalent supercars.

We were led by a professionally piloted pace car and a brisk warm-up lap did little to trouble the RS5’s rock-solid stability while demonstrating the sports exhaust’s meaty V8 soundtrack, which we would have enjoyed more were it not so deliberately theatrical. AMG does a far classier job.

The big twin tailpipes make a bizarre fart-like sound during quick gearchanges from the seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission and the automatic throttle-blip on downchanges sounds as electronically artificial as the latest manufactured teen-pop sensation.

But all was temporarily forgiven when a long uphill straight enabled us to enjoy the full spectrum of the RS5’s bellowing as it streaked towards the 8500rpm redline in second and third gears, pinning us to the seat with its seemingly endless reserves of thrust.

We were not watching the speedo but the brilliant standard brakes – carbon-ceramics are a $15,000 option – hauled the 1725kg RS5 back down without fuss from what must have been almost 170km/h to double-digits ready for a 90-degree left-hander.

As the pace car turned up the heat on this damp track, the RS5’s terrific balance and physics-conquering Quattro grip became vividly apparent but we noticed a vagueness about the initial turn-in, especially where grip was limited.

Nevertheless, the RS5’s clever diff setup rewards a committed driving style and the car will almost always go where the driver points it when on the power, breaking into gentle, predictable mid-corner understeer if pushed too hard.

Despite all the latest Quattro technology, over-enthusiastic drivers are on their own – other than for the de rigueur electronic safety net – when lifting off or braking mid-turn, but even in this scenario the RS5 remains commendably neutral.

Although there was no opportunity on a billiard table-smooth circuit to sample the ride quality benefits of dynamic ride control, the RS5’s utterly unflustered, business-like approach to track work is impressive for a car that will spend most of its life driving around the city.

Body control is admirable and the RS5 is clearly a highly competent machine but, unless being pinned into the seat by its brutal acceleration, we feel its effortless style only becomes truly exciting when approaching its limits – which only the most death-defying (or least police-fearing) owners would explore on a public road.

If Audi could engineer in more involvement, it would probably be at the expense of insulation, which could be defeating the point of what is primarily a luxury coupe – something perhaps borne out by the RS5’s subtle styling that does relatively little to differentiate it from lesser models in the A5 range.

Buyers wanting more drama can always opt for the more flamboyant, rear-drive Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, BMW M3 or even Lexus IS-F alternatives – and save themselves at least $20,000 in the process.

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