CAPE TOWN – The previous iteration of the RS5 was known and loved for its high-revving 4,2-litre, naturally aspirated V8. This placed the vehicle on another level compared to the V6 supercharged S5 of the time. But the new RS5 employs a 2,9-litre, twin-turbo V6 ... and the question is, does it still deserve the RS badge?
The RS5 is based on the new A5 launched earlier this year on the MLB (longitudinal engine layout) platform. The subsequent weight saving and the 331 kW power output (matching that of the previous version) means that it is no slouch in a straight line. In fact, the claimed zero to 100 km/h time is a mere 3,9 seconds. The new engine delivers 600 N.m, which is up dramatically from the old V8's 430 N.m, forcing the engineers to employ the eight-speed tiptronic (torque converter) transmission instead of a dual-clutch 'box.
How does it go?
We spent limited time in the vehicle and a full road test in the near future will reveal more. But first impressions are that the vehicle is rapid off the mark with little drama from the engine from an acoustic point of view. The wave of torque from low engine speeds is impressive, but I miss the crescendo of the naturally aspirated V8. Yes, it does burble and add the odd pop to the exhaust note, but it is not vastly different to what is offered in the S5. Obviously, the stopwatch will tell a different story, but in terms of subjective feel, the experience is not that different from behind the steering wheel.
Ride and handling?
The vehicle rides extremely well in comfort mode and comes across as an accomplished high-speed GT. Even in dynamic mode, the ride is smoother than expected. It may seem unfair to criticise a car for riding too well, but I expected the RS to have a stiffer set-up to enhance the handling prowess.
This was tested on a short gymkhana course where it was joined by two other RS siblings namely (the RS3 Sportback and TT RS). It was clear that the RS5 had more power, but it wasn't nearly as agile thanks to its size and mass. In short, the RS5 is far better suited to open roads and flowing corners. The fast Audi’s power delivery is rear biased with the centre differential sending 60% of the torque to the rear axle with (optional) sport differential.
Audi injected more aggression into the design by adding a fresh grille with a new honeycomb structure, LED headlamps with tinted bezels, lateral air inlets, a spoiler lip, an RS diffuser and those large oval exhaust pipes.
On the inside, there's a familiar feeling of opulence and craftsmanship. The brand’s current design elements are all present, from the horizontal air vents running across the entire facia and the standard 12,3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster to the 7-inch MMI screen with its controller in front of the broad gear lever and those beautiful, form-hugging seats trimmed in plush leather. It's a lovely place to be with an excellent driving position. The rear seats, though, are compromised and not suitable for carrying adults any significant distance.
Audi knows its clients and has created a comfortable luxury GT with enough fire power to blow away most pretenders. It's a safe approach that has resulted in a vehicle that can easily be used every day. But I cannot help but feel slightly disappointed that Audi did not widen the gap between the S5 and RS5 and give the latter a harder performance edge.
As it stands, there seems little risk that the RS5 Coupé will steal sales from a more performance-orientated competitor, such as the BMW M4. Only time will tell how the market reacts to this “softer” offering in the uber-performance coupé segment...