2011 Audi RS5
30th May 2011 7:00 am
We drive the super-hot RS5 coupe
It has the motor of a super car, enough grip to rip tarmac apart and sufficient ground clearance to be driven anywhere. Here is a super car, but without the tantrums you normally associate with the type. Here's one you can use anywhere and everyday. But what's it like to drive?
Small technical detour first. You need to know that beneath the all red, bulging wheel arches and muscle lies some rather serious technical hardware. Motive power comes from a 4.2-litre V8 that's closely related to both the V8 and V10 engines used in the mid-engine R8. It makes its maximum output – an impressive and BMW M3-eclipsing 444bhp, yet peak torque kicks in from 4000rpm, so it promises to be fast and flexible. More significant still, is that this an all-wheel drive system whose centre differential normally pushes 60 per cent (but can divert as much as 85 per cent) of the RS5's torque to the rear axle. Coupled to this is a torque vectoring for all four wheels that can actively divert power to other wheels to make the car corner faster.
Which means the RS5 uses a lot of electronic hardware. It sounds complicated, but what it essentially does is allow you to simply aim the car at a corner, feed in as much power as you dare, and the RS5 sinks its claws into tarmac and tears its way around the corner. It is huge fun, if lacking a little in finesse. Oh, and it does feel a tad nose heavy at times and if you don’t pick your line before feeding in the throttle, it’ll throw up a hint of understeer before the Quattro sorts it out and catapults you to the next corner. This car is all brawn, muscling, rather than dancing its way through. The performance of course is spectacular. use the launch control and all-wheel drive traction to the fullest and you’ll get to 100kph in 5 sec and 200kph in 18 sec. Power goes to all four wheels via a seven-speed twin-clutch box. It does a fantastic job of second guessing what you want to do – slow down on the brakes and it’ll downshift with a rather naughty blip on the throttle, mash the throttle and it’ll hold gear all the way to its creamy redline and grab the next ratio faster than you can snap your fingers. And, unlike other auto boxes that play it safer than Rahul Dravid, the RS5’s gearbox allows you to downshift even if it means spinning the engine to 8000rpm! It’s totally addictive especially when your brain is trying to keep pace with revs and the exhaust is drilling your ears with a whole lot of drum and bass. Audi offers an optional sports exhaust, but our car didn’t have it.
There are a few downsides though. There is not much steering feel, even in ‘dynamic’ and the thirst is prodigious – it’ll gulp down its 64-litre tank’s contents faster than a Bavarian at the Oktoberfest and there is no spare.
Despite its sportscar appeal, the RS5 manages to be practical too. It’s easy to drive in traffic, the ride is acceptable and if you are a bit careful, ground clearance isn’t much of an issue either. Then it has a spacious cabin (atleast up front) and the rear seats, though short on thigh support and headroom, are completely usable. There’s also a usefully big 455-litre boot for weekend blasts to the country house.
Drive an RS5 on your Monday morning commute to work, and you’ll see little to hint at its wild side. Barring a few bits of RS bright work in the cabin and a revcounter redlined at 8250rpm (!), you could fool yourself into thinking you’re in an A4 2.0 TDI. Set the drive select set in ‘comfort’ and the seven-speed DSG (Audi calls it S-Tronic) upshifts early, the engine is quiet and the ride is no stiffer than any other German saloon. The seats are comfortable; the steering is effortlessly light and the crisp Bang & Olufsen audio will get you to work relaxed. But, make no mistake, on any road and in any situation, when you’re in the mood for it, this Rs 76 lakh coupe can blow your socks off. And that's just what the doctor ordered.