The original Audi RS5 was a muscular and handsome looking coupé, but it didn’t really posses the dynamics and driver involvement of its rivals from the likes of BMW and Mercedes. However, this was possibly a moot point as what it certainly did posses was a fantastically brutish V8 lump magically shoehorned into its engine bay. This is why people bought it. This is what made it go so very, very fast. This is what made it sound so good. This is what defined the character of the RS5. So it is safe to assume then that they have kept the naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8, restyled the body work a bit and fixed some of the chassis shortcomings for this all-new RS5. Hurrah! Au contraire mon ami…
There is nothing shouty or ostentatious here and no visual gimmicks. No big wing or unnecessary bling.
We will get to the mechanical gubbins in a bit, but let’s kick off with an appreciation of the subtleties of Audi aesthetics on this latest RennSport model from Winkelmann & Co. at Neckarsulm. Audi design evolution through the generations is based on percentages of increments of change, but there is a mild deviation from the norm on this new RS5. Accompanying the wider arches, larger honeycomb grille and beefed-up front bumper are a few design details lifted from the Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO racecar. Expect this visual nod to motorsports nostalgia to soon be applied to other RS models as Audi Sport (formerly quattro GmbH) begins to redefine itself with helpful hints from its heritage.
Our test car has also been nicely fitted with the optional carbon package including complete carbon roof. The roof certainly isn’t a cheap option but visually it looks fantastic — because bare carbon always looks fantastic! — and it is also claimed to reduce weight by 3kg over the standard roof and a lot more over one fitted with a sunroof. If you have the beans to buy a new RS5, then you have the means to tick that box. Plus a 3kg weight saving means more fast, sharper handling and better braking. Did I mention it also looks good?
The overall appearance then is that unique combination of muscularity and maturity that Audi seems to project with its sports models. There is nothing shouty or ostentatious here and no visual gimmicks. No big wing or unnecessary bling. And yet, on our test route on the mountain roads around Andorra, we are regularly greeted by waving bystanders, people in cars (Audi) pointing at us and we are also subjected to numerous iPhone shots, no doubt destined for immediate Instagram upload with #Audi #RS5 attached. It would appear that the peoples of the Pyrenees have a penchant for Audi and, judging by the amount we witnessed on the roads, a love of quattro. Wonder why Audi chose here for the international launch of the RS5?
The interior is, well, it’s an Audi interior and that is synonymous with excellent build quality, fine materials and comfy chairs. The steering wheel, shift selector and even the door cards have matching Alcantara on our test car and, yes, everything is lovely to look at and lovely to touch. I could go on a mild rant about wanting the driver seat to drop a bit lower but apparently I am in the minority and “that’s not what an Audi customer wants” as they value comfort on long distance drives over being right. I could also go on a major rant about Audi sat-nav which I find a bit clunky and time consuming to enter a destination. But all I am doing here is nitpicking and postponing the inevitable. Let’s tackle the meat and potatoes head on and talk about the drivetrain and handling.
The new Audi RS5 features a… wait for it… 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6. And yes, the Audi acolytes amongst you will immediately recognise that means the RS5 has a slightly smaller V6 than its not-so-sporty S5 sibling. The naturally aspirated V8 in the previous generation RS5 was indeed a bit special. But downsizing, lopping off cylinders and then adding forced induction to bolster up some performance is just a reality that us petrol heads are going to have to deal with until we all completely die out and are replaced by voltage heads. Or whatever the electric powered generation of car enthusiasts decide to call themselves.
But before you crumple up your copy of wheels magazine and throw it in disgust, hear me out. Naturally Audi isn’t going to serve up inferior performance for this latest generation RS5. This newly developed V6 — which is the same engine as in the Porsche Panamera 4S — equals the old V8 in horsepower (444bhp) and produces stacks more torque available from a lowly 1,900rpm. And “stacks more torque” is now an official measurement which equals 170Nm which takes this new RS5 to 600Nm. To say this thing can hustle is an understatement. But this was never in doubt.
Outright speed and performance has never been in question for a RennSport Audi. It’s a given that it is going to rapidly devour every mile of Autobahn you can feed it. However, with the exception of the R8, every Audi Sport product has been based on the front-wheel drive architecture of a ’numbers car’ and dropping a big lump up front has always had the same effect. Fish & chips, Laurel & Hardy and Audi RS & understeer are all inseparable duos ingrained on our psyche. But new legislation, indiscriminately forced on all automotive manufacturers concerning downsizing of engines, might see Audi having the last laugh.
It still maintains a more front heavy bias than its traditional Germanic rivals but it has dropped 60kg in all the right places.
With two less cylinders hanging over the front axle and a 31kg weight saving from engine alone over its predecessor, a few crucial percentages of front to rear weight ratio have been clawed back for positive gain. It still maintains a more front heavy bias than its traditional Germanic rivals but it has dropped 60kg in all the right places — or 63kg if you count that carbon roof — on the previous generation and it also offers something that is trusted and the competition can’t match.
The new Audi RS5 is a much more rounded car than its predecessor or its rivals. It still loses out on driver involvement, slightly numb steering feedback and the new V6 can’t compete with the aural ecstasy of the previous generation’s howling V8. It’s still a bit front heavy, but you can’t argue with its performance when it hits 0-100kph in 3.9-seconds. And that thing which is trusted and the competition can’t match? When the rain came down in Andorra — which it inevitably did — you are still going to be hustling your quattro RS5 like a boss when you would be backing off in something else.
I wonder why Audi is so popular here?