► 4.2-litre V8 replaced by 2.9-litre V6
► The same power but 60kg less
► Serious shove with total traction
Bow your head; it’s time for another minute’s silence. The naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 Audi RS5 is dead.
Instead, the ultimate version of the A5 Coupe now features a downsized eco-V6, complete with two turbos, but sadly none of the spine-tingling yowl of the old car. All in the name of fuel economy. Despite the shrunken mill, we saw as little as 11.1mpg heading up an Andorran Pyrenee – a little adrift of the 32.5mpg claimed.
Rapid but comfortable grand tourer
‘An athlete in a tailor-made suit’; that’s what the RS5 is, according to Audi Sport boss Stephan Winkelmann. We assume the athlete in question is Usain Bolt. The RS5 may be ludicrously fast out of the blocks – blasting past 62mph in 3.9 seconds – but threading it through tight corners is like asking Mr Bolt to pole vaunt; finesse is a little lacking.
Whatever the gear, whatever the revs, 443lb ft of muscle means that dispatching with the car/bus/line of HGVs in front is not an issue. Torque builds from less than 2000rpm and beyond this point the sensation starts to resemble that of an A380 firing along the runway at Heathrow.
Disappointingly little can be heard from the engine, though, with what sounds like digitised noise fed through to the cabin as the revs rise. The exhausts, meanwhile, are much more vocal, but there’s little music to the note. Anyone who’s experienced the previous model’s feral V8 will be sorely dissatisfied.
The quiet engine and low road noise make the RS5 a very capable long-distance cruiser. The seats could be more supportive on long journeys, but the rest of the car hides speed very effectively. Perhaps too effectively if you’ve got any points on your licence; it’s easy to end up travelling faster than you expect. Thankfully, the brakes – whether standard or ceramic – certainly slow the RS5 effectively.
Audi RS5 prioritises comfort over agility
Despite shedding 60kg, the latest RS5 is still nearing 1700kg – 70kg fatter than the BMW M4 Competition Pack DCT, though it’s 55kg lighter than the 4.0-litre V8 Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe.
Shod with 20-inch alloy wheels (19s are standard), the steering is weighty and accurate. It’s no Elise, but the RS5 steers well enough, though the front end doesn’t bite into the road as crisply as an M4.
Leave the ESP in its default mode and making use of the RS5’s hefty pony count sees the front of the car washing wide around hairpins if you’re heavy with the throttle. Select the ESP’s sport mode and things improve markedly; the front tyres seem more keyed into the road and the rear axle comes into play (60% of the 444bhp on tap normally gets fed to the back).
The real surprise is that even with 20 inches of metal and a smear of rubber separating car and road, the ride is impressively smooth. Spec the adaptive suspension and you can choose between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic modes (plus a configurable mode), with a distinct difference felt between each.
Comfort is cushy, causing the car to float a little over undulations, while Auto keeps the car pretty planted without pummelling occupants too much. Dynamic meanwhile, can magnify ripples in the road, but it’s still much more comfy than sporty Audis of old and firms things up further in the bends.
Auto ’box sharpened up for RS5
Audi may have some of the best automatic gearboxes in the business with its twin-clutch S tronic offerings, but the RS5 doesn’t get one. Instead it has a conventional eight-speed auto. It’s impressively smooth in normally driving, keeping up even if you’re not simply dawdling.
Up the ante and the gearbox feels a little out of its depth, though. Drive faster and it’ll work out which gear you’re looking for, but flatten the throttle when in a high gear and there’s a delay before getting the gear you want. Thankfully there’s a fully manual mode, which won’t shift up even if you’re headbutting the limiter. Make use of the steering wheel-mounted paddles and the RS5 is much more satisfying.
With a typically slick large-screen Audi media system, clear sat-nav display and a supremely high-quality feel to the cabin, the RS5 feels a step up inside over BMW and Mercedes rivals. There’s enough space for four adults, too; not always a given in a coupe this size.
Audi may describe the RS5 as a sprinter in a posh suit, but it feels more like an all-wheel drive muscle car without the full-bodied soundtrack. The RS5 boasts speed, comfort and luxury in spades, but this is not a car you’ll want to take out just for the hell of it.
If that’s what you’re after go for an M4, otherwise, the RS5 is perfect for those after a boldly styled, rapid and grippy four-seat express.