2018 Audi RS5 coupé review, test drive
16th Apr 2018 2:44 pm
The final member of Audi’s A5 ‘Brat Pack’ range is the quickest and wildest of the lot, and is also arguably the best looking Audi on sale right now.
What is it?
It’s the second-generation Audi RS5 coupé, a 450hp AWD rival to the BMW M4 and, technically, the Mercedes-AMG C 63, albeit with two doors fewer. It’s also the third body style of the Audi A5 family (which the company’s marketing department refers to as the ‘Brat Pack’) to be offered in India, and, to these eyes at least, it’s the best-looking Audi currently on sale. It takes the aggressive add-ons typical of a modern Audi Sport ‘RS’ model and marries them to a beautiful two-door body shell. Those add-ons include black headlamp and tail-lamp shells, an inset gloss-black grille with ‘quattro’ emblazoned on the lip. There are also some incredible-looking 20-inch chromed alloy wheels, although they’re optional, and 19-inch wheels are standard. And, as ever, there is an accentuated diffuser, which seems more visual than functional but who cares, that houses two massive oval tailpipes.
What really makes this a good-looker is the A5’s inherent elegance, which is at its best in this coupé style. Sure, the Sportback and the Cabriolet are also really attractive, but this version, with its sharply raked roof is just sublime. And then you have the muscular wheel-arch extensions that only accentuate this coupé’s nuanced shape.
Inside, things are far less dramatic, and it’s all but identical to any of the other A5’s, or even the A4. Sure, you get a flat-bottom steering wheel and a racier layout for the Virtual Cockpit digital dials, but then you get that in the S5 Sportback too. What is new are the front seats, which are thicker and better bolstered than the S5’s. They also offer every possible adjustment, and even a massage function. With those chunky front seats, the rear buckets offer almost no legroom, even in my driving position; and I’m short. But if you did manage to squeeze a child or two in back there, it’s nice to know there’s a relatively large glass area for them to look out of. Quality is all but flawless everywhere, except perhaps the plastic arm that ‘offers’ you your seatbelt at the front, a great feature, but like in the Cabriolet, it feels a bit flimsy.
What’s it like to drive?
Here’s the dangerous thing about the RS5. If you have it in Comfort mode and are just bumbling along casually, you could quite easily be doing double the speed limit without ever realising. It’s so civilised and refined, building up speed so unassumingly (yet rapidly), that it might not occur to you until you look down at the speedometer. It’s comfortable too, despite the fact it’s riding on 20-inch wheels with 30-profile tyres, and the fact that there’s no adaptive suspension – which would have been a good differentiator for this top-dog variant. On a bumpy road, the low-profile tyres will register a bit of a thunk in the cabin, but I’m sure choosing the standard 19-inch wheels would sort that all out.
What really sets the RS5 apart from the S5, and indeed the previous-generation RS5, is the motor. It’s a new V6 – displacing 2.9 litres, with two turbochargers housed within the Vee of the cylinder banks. It’s actually the same engine Porsche uses in its Panamera S and Cayenne S models. The power output is 450hp, which is the same as the naturally aspirated V8 of the previous RS5, but torque is up by 170Nm to a rather serious 600Nm (50 more than an M4, but 100 less than an AMG C 63). As with most new RS cars, it uses the eight-speed torque converter auto, rather than one of the S-tronic dual-clutch units.
On paper, Audi claims it’ll do 0-100kph in 3.9sec, and the fact that we managed to achieve a 4.0sec time in testing means the claims are pretty spot on. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, when you’re ambling in Comfort mode, it’s very refined but can still be surprisingly quick. However, switch to Dynamic mode and things get far more urgent. You don’t mind flicking through the gears via the paddles either, because the gearbox is just so quick and responsive. And though not as characterful as an M4’s straight-six or as boisterous as a C 63’s V8, this 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 makes a nice enough sound on its own.
Quattro, of course, is what runs the show. The AWD system is great at allocating power where it’s needed quickly and on the fly, and the grip on offer is tremendous. It also has to be said that it feels a lot more playful and willing to change direction than the previous RS5 and indeed larger models like the RS6 and RS7, which grip hard, but sometimes feel like they’re on rails. That said, the steering could have been a lot better; it just doesn’t offer the kind of feedback you’d like in such a focused sportscar.
Should I buy one?
At Rs 1.10 crore (ex-showroom), the RS5 undercuts its two main rivals on price by about Rs 20-30 lakh, which is no small amount, and that too for a car which, in the real world, feels just as quick, if not quicker. It also has incredible usability, thanks to a powertrain that’s very docile when you want it to be, and ride comfort that’s more luxury than sport. It does lack a little bit in the white-knuckle thrills department, thanks to a less-than-stellar steering and a motor that sounds more refined than raucous. Still, the pace is all there, and the RS5 should be your choice if you want one car to do both – be a classy coupé on a Sunday and hit the track on a Monday.