Audi’s RS models have really elevated the brand from being an also-ran among the performance elite to being a real contender. The previous-generation RS4 was brilliant and saw off the likes of Merc’s C63 and BMW’s M3 on several occasions, both locally and abroad. That RS4 was, and is, one of CAR’s favourite fast saloons.
Not keen to rest on its laurels, the firm followed with a flurry of fast models, from hot hatches (RS3) to proper, full-on supercars (R8). Audi is now a fully-fledged member of the fast club. The products from Neckarsulm (the home of Quattro GmbH, the firm responsible for producing high-performance Audis) impress us on a regular basis (see CAR’s road test of the new RS4 Avant, April 2013). Until now that is…
Arresting good looks
When the new RS5 Cabriolet arrived at our offices, it turned more than a few heads. That same reaction was recorded every time the car ventured into public. Usually, fast Audis are spotted by Audi fans first, that wasn’t the case with the RS5, which was clocked by all and sundry mostly followed by admiringly glances.
The bulging arches were filled with beautiful, V-spoke 20-inch alloys (a nearly R25 000 option) and that ground-hugging bodykit definitely sets the RS model apart from lower-powered drop-top siblings. The front end sports a chunky bumper with large air inlets to cool and feed the motor.
Perhaps the cabrio effect could have been highlighted if the soft-top, which is able to lower in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 50 km/h, was in a contrasting shade. As it stood, the black paint and matching roof didn’t give the game away too easily. With the roof in place, it feels like a regular hard-top car from the inside, with high levels of noise insulation.
The model-specific treatment continued inside where the test unit was smeared with a layer of carbon-fibre trim. The driver was greeted by a thick-rimmed, flat-bottomed steering wheel, with paddles mounted at three and nine o’clock positions – more on that later.
Behind the wheel lie the main instruments, a 9 000 r/min tacho and a 320 km/h speedometer – cool! The remainder of the layout is typically Audi in execution, that is to say, logically laid out and of a high quality.
This is supposed to be a genuine four-seater cabrio, one of very few in the SA market along with Merc’s E-Class cabrio and BMW’s 6 Series, but the rear-seat space is not suited for adults. The space can be used, but it just would not be ideal for anything other than a short trip.
A gem of a motor
Audi got the direct injection 4,2-litre V8 so fundamentally right the first time – developed for the previous-gen RS4 – that the engine has been carried over to a second generation of models. Slightly tweaked to crank out 330 kW and 430 N.m this high-revving unit is a real gem.
Almost better than those impressive outputs is the noise that the motor makes. The soundtrack starts off as a basso profundo at the low-end of the engine speed spectrum. As the revs rise the notes hardens and at the very high-end the RS5 does a reasonable impression of a racecar. While wringing every last rev out of the V8 it never comes across as strained or overworked.
Quick off the mark
RS5 models can only be had with a dual-clutch transmission. The gearbox boasts seven gears to let the driver fully exploit the engine’s abilities. One can use either automatic option, sport or regular auto, or take control of cog-swapping via the gear-lever or steering mounted paddles. Shifts are lightning quick with hardly any disruption to the power flow. An addictive little brraaarrpp noise emanates from the tail-pipes every time you shift gears at full throttle,
Thanks to the launch-control programme in the transmission’s ECU the hefty car scooted off the line to register a zero-to-100 km/h sprint time of 4,88 seconds, fractionally quicker than Audi’s claim of 4,9.
While fast Audis are accused of being uninvolving and lack driver interaction, they are extremely accomplished and capable. They go about their business of hauling a$$ with polish and a level of unflappability that is admirable.
The RS5 cabrio, however, is probably the most flawed RS model that we have come across. Lopping off the roof has left one with a car that doesn’t perform quite as it should. Adding bracing means the topless version weighs in at 2 006 kg, a full 174 kg more than the RS5 Coupe.
Unfortunately that added bracing doesn’t really help matters as the superstructure still shakes and wobbles. Encounter a set of mid-corner ripples and the platform starts to oscillate ever so slightly. Turning the adaptive dampers to the stiffest setting just makes things worse as more of the resultant forces are transmitted into the cabin.
This car has many endearing traits, including its quality interior, head-turning looks and that motor, which will surely go down as one of the finest V8s ever made. But it’s not a great performance car, and not in the same mould as other RS models. The wobbly platform means that it is far to compromised to be enjoyed by true enthusiasts.
Perhaps it’s a good indication of the high regard in which we hold RS models that we expect so much more and when the package is less than ideal we feel disappointed…
If you absolutely HAVE to have an Audi without a roof and four seats, there are several other good options, including the supercharged S5, which for R215 000 less will provide you with the same tan and (almost the same) turn of speed when you want to blow your hair back.
Model: Audi RS5 cabriolet
Engine: 4,2-litre V8
Power: 331 kW @ 8 250 r/min
Torque: 430 N.m @ 4 000 r/min
0-100 km/h: 4,88 seconds
Fuel consumption: 10,9 L/100 km
CO2: 249 g/km
Top speed: 250 km/h
Price: R988 500
Maintenance plan: 5 years/100 000 km
Service intervals: according to onboard computer
0-60 km/h: 2,51 seconds
0-100 km/h: 4,88 seconds
40-80 km/h: 1,93 seconds
80-120 km/h: 3,00 seconds
100-0 km/h: 2,87 seconds (average of 10 braking tests)
CAR fuel index: 13,08 L/100 km
CAR fuel run: 12,20 L/100 km