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Audi RS5 (2011) long-term test review

By the CAR road test team

Long Term Tests

27 June 2011 10:00

Converted to the RS5 cause – 27 June 2011

What on earth is Ben Pulman and the rest of the office on? Glance through the comments below and you'd think none of us like the Audi RS5. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fact is, the RS5 has rather split opinion. Those with the words 'road tester' somewhere on their CVs tend to prefer the BMW M3 but many of the rest of us actually have a big soft spot for the fast Audi.

In the real world, the extra clarity of the BMW's steering, the ability to slip-slide your way through rounadabouts, is rarely much use. In fact having just covered 500 miles in the RS5 this weekend, I think I prefer the more grown-up nature of the RS5. I'm not alone; managing ed Greg Fountain and I had a pow-wow on this very topic the other day.

The Audi RS5 is such a complete package. It helps that the Audi A5 donor car is one of the best-looking mainstream cars on sale today. Modded every so subtly by the Quattro Gmbh boys, it looks ever so svelte and purposeful. Inside – a killer blow this – it's miles better than the ageing M3's plasticky, dated cabin. It's well equipped, comfortable and I disagree with Ben's comments below about the switchgear being confusing. Spend some time in the RS5 and it all begins to click.

That 4.2 nat-asp engine is a belter, with a real character overload as the revs climb. Powerful brakes, rapid-shift twin-clutch S tronic 'box, and steering with meaty weighting add up to make this an entertaining package. The minority who indulge in tail-out antics on the public road may prefer the adjustability of the M3, but – trust me – most people, most of the time will benefit more from the peerless traction of the Quattro four-wheel drive. Both at this time of year when the roads are baking and especially come winter time when temperatures plunge.

It's that all-rounder spirit than I like. The boot's massive and it made very good weekend away transport. The only real fly in the ointment is the wanton thirst of that V8 and the adaptive damper settings which jiggle annoyingly in anything other than Comfort mode.

By Tim Pollard


The little things – 15 June 2011

I can deal with the lumpy ride and leaden steering, but it’s the little things that annoy me in the RS5.

Like the lack of ‘favourite’ buttons for the radio, so if you’re not in the memory menu of the radio, you have to click through to it, scroll to find your preferred station, and then click again. In the M3 you just press one solitary button.

And why are the air-con controls set low, while slap bang in the middle of the dash is huge blank fascia that hides a couple of memory stick slots? I’ve never ever used these in any Audi, yet I’m always fiddling with the temperature.

It’s not a problem unique to the RS5 (or even any Audi) but why must the passenger wing mirror fold down when you select reverse? It doesn’t show the back of the car, even the rear wheel, just the exterior door handle. A useless feature, I reckon, but I bet half of you disagree…

And where’s the oil temperature gauge? With a V8 redlined at over 8000rpm sometimes you (and the rest of the office) need a reminder not to rag it straight away. There’s a water temperature gauge, but nothing more; waiting for the orange upper echelons of the M3’s rev counter to disappear always built up the anticipation before extending it to 8300rpm.

It doesn’t feel special enough inside either. Don’t get me wrong, cabin quality is brilliant and it’s a lovely, luxurious place to be, but so is an S-line A5 or S5. The RS5's interior is leagues ahead of the M3, but it also lacks the little touches that make the BMW feel unique.

Always find the RS-spec door handles funny too: is the fillet of metal removed supposed to save weight, or is it just a designer’s flourish?

By Ben Pulman


A decent drive home – 2 June 2011

Decent drive home in the RS5 last night. Walked out to the big red Audi (approached it from behind, its best view with those two big oval pipes), pressed the boot button on the key fob (boot isn’t electronic, but still pops all the way open) and secured my laptop bag under the luggage net.

Then climbed inside, key still in pocket, and pressed the big silver starter button: cue lovely V8 woofle from those pipes. Into D, the auto handbrake disengages as you press the right pedal, then the light steering at low speeds makes slinking out of the car park easy. Put the panoramic sunroof’s blind back too, letting some evening light into the cabin.

An easy schlep down the Peterborough parkway to the nearest petrol station (someone left it on empty!) warmed everything through, so on the return leg (heading for the countryside) the V8 was ready to be revved. While the M3 needs big revs to really go, the RS5 is content to dispatch traffic with just a throttle twitch that takes advantage of its torque advantage.

It dispatches the roundabouts with ease, the four-wheel drive system allowing you to pin the throttle early. Then on the long straights it absolutely flies, jumping cars and trucks in long, easy strides, accompanied by an American-esque bellow and little booms on upshifts – and you can just see spoiler gliding into place as you pick up the pace. And all the while the DAB stereo and excellent B&O stereo was letting me listen to some noise on 1xtra.

My trip home was probably a compressed version of the average RS5 driver’s average daily drive, and it performed perfectly.

By Ben Pulman


Audi RS5: the inside – 16 May 2011

And so the spec proper…

Basic OTR price of an Audi RS5: £57,480

Misano Red paint: £600
(A decent colour, though I’d also recommend black or grey)

Storage Package: £175
(Nets on the back of the front seats, a storage compartment under the front passenger seat, cup holders between the rear seats, a lockable glovebox, and tie-down straps and a 12v socket in the boot – all sounds a bit S&M)

Audi hill-hold assist: £65
(Essentially an auto handbrake)

Garage door opener: £175
(a button to open your garage door)

Sound Package: £500
(includes B&O stereo and DAB) 

Technology pack (high): £1955
(3D sat-nav with 40GB hard drive, USB and MP3 connectivity and cruise control)

Dynamic steering: £710
(Full assessment coming soon)

Panoramic electric sunroof: £850
(Does what it says on the tin)

Electric rear window blind: £225
(Ditto)

Heated front seats: £275
(And again)

CD changer: £300
(…)

Advanced key: £495
(Keyless entry and go)

Convenience package: £600
(Electric front seats, driver’s seat with memory function, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, electric folding/dimming/memory mirrors – if only the price wasn’t inconvenient)

Leather armrests: £250
(Cow skin on the doors and rear side panels)

Audi parking system advanced: £400
(Parking sensors and reversing camera – but only available with the Technology Package)

Mobile telephone preparation (low): £375
(Bluetooth and phone cradle, plus integrated roof aerial)

Total: £65,430

There’s £7950 of extras in total – a hefty sum to add to the RS5’s near-£60k price tag – and unfortunately almost all the additions are a necessity, be it to make life with this 444bhp super coupe acceptable, or to ensure depreciation isn’t too painful.

By Ben Pulman


Audi RS5: the outside – 28 April 2011

So,

The RS5 we pitched against M3, C63 AMG and IS-F in the November 2010 issue of CAR sported huge 20-inch alloys, enormous ceramic brakes, and torso-clamping RS bucket seats. Result? It lost. So, CAR’s new long-term RS5 is a little less focused, and will hopefully be better for it. 

The ceramics (only at the front, mind) are a ridiculous £6250 – Porsche will sell you a set of the best ceramics in the business for under £6k, and you get them on all four corners too – so we’ve stuck with the standard stoppers. And as our RS5 will spend lots of time commuting and fast cruising, we’ve stuck with the regular seats as well – another £1380 saved. 

And OY60EPJ rides on the standard 19in ‘Aero’ alloys, with 265/35 R19 rubber all round – the same size as the back boots on our Competition Pack-spec M3! Hopefully the smaller wheels will help the ride, but their design isn’t particularly appealing; the inch-bigger ‘Rotor’ wheels are £1700 (or £1800 if you want them with titanium-look trimmings) so if our RS5 fidgets we might upgrade and at least look good while we’re feeling uncomfortable.

How does it look overall? Not quite as small and svelte as a regular A5 coupe, but there’s a white RS5 near CAR HQ too, and every time I get a glance or glimpse of it you know it’s something more imposing than an S5 – the front bumper is a little bigger, the shoulders a little fuller. The differences are subtle, perhaps too subtle: the RS5 has unique front and rear wings, but you can’t help think that they should be massively squared off.

I think I’ve discovered my ideal RS5 in Audi’s official brochure though. It’s got the Black Styling Package, which means you lose the chrome around the windows, and the silver grille and splitter are also swapped out for darker items. It’s £365, but the results are worth it. BMW charges a similar about for high-gloss shadowline trim on the M3, but as CAR reader and M3 owner Hu11y points out: ‘I saw one the other day without it and thought it looked a bit cheap, so perhaps it wasn't all that dear!’

Keeping with the de-chromed theme, £110 gets you body coloured mirrors. You’ve got to pay extra for folding and dimming doors mirrors anyway, so you may as well cough up a little more. And strangely, without the trademark S/RS silver mirrors, the RS5 is transformed. You could complete the look with the £870 sports exhaust (complete with matt black trims), but an Audi dealer friend informs me it doesn’t make much difference. 

And just to go off at a tangent, the noise the RS5 makes is very different in character to that of an M3. While the BMW sounds quite rough and gravely at low revs, the Audi woofles with a much more obvious, American-style V8 rumble. At higher rpm it’s sings a much deeper note than the highly strung M3, too.

Back to my ideal RS5, and although one part of me wants a carbon engine cover, it's a) not on display like an R8’s engine bay, b) I know every time it went in for a service the technicians would be laughing at me, and c) it’s £500. I would however spend £740 on trimming the wheel and gearstick in black suede – I’ve tried an RS3 with this option and it really lifts the cabin.

And now I'm going to stop living in a fantasy world.

By Ben Pulman


Audi RS5 hello – 11 April 2011

It’s probably fair to call the Audi RS5 controversial. Ever since Georg Kacher exclusively revealed the car’s enticing specifications way back in August 2008 the world has been excited by the prospect of a new RS Audi. The last-generation RS4 was an excellent, M3-scaring proposition that put Quattro GmbH on the radar of enthusiasts, and the R8 supercars that have followed are Audis with great steering, a supple but controlled ride, and a four-wheel drive system that still allows hooligan antics. Much promise for the RS5, then.

And the spec only got us more excited. Rather than switching to turbocharged power, the RS5 has stuck with the RS4’s naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8, but with tuning lifting power from an M3-matching 414bhp to an M3 GTS-equaling 444bhp. And there’s 317lb ft too, spread from 4000 to 6000rpm, rather than the M3’s 295lb ft at 3900rpm.

There’s no manual option, only a seven-speed S-tronic, but such big cars seem suited to autos and Audi has been making double-clutch gearboxes longer than anyone else. Power goes to all four-wheels, and although that negates the option of sideways antics, does that matter for the 95% majority? An M3 will take full throttle in the dry, an AMG product won’t, but both will flash their traction control lights and cut power in the wet – your average driver on your average road doesn’t want that worry. Obviously standing water and the state of your tyres will set the limit of grip and traction, but for many four driven wheels are better than two. So far, so good, right?

But the first drives left us cold, and a group test against the M3, C63 and IS-F left the RS5 out in the cold – it came last. Question is, does the RS5 deserve the three-star verdict that Jethro Bovingdon delivered, or will six months with this car uncover the same great day-to-day usability that has endeared us to most of our recent Audi long-termers?

The A6 Allroad, A5 Coupe, S4 Avant, A5 Sportback, and Greg’s wonderful A8 have been found to be really good cars after we’ve lived with them for extended periods of time – will we eventually be able to say the same of the RS5 or was the RS4 a fluke and is the R8 just a Lambo in drag? We’re about to find out.

In the next report, we’ll discuss why we’ve gone for a very different spec from the RS5 that lost our group test. 

By Ben Pulman