Success is one thing. Repeat success… That’s a whole different ball game.
The first generation Audi RS 5 was widely acclaimed, blending aggressive looks with a sonorous 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 engine and Audi’s hallmark all-wheel drive resulting in Audi's interpretation of a modern German muscle car.
This second generation RS 5 doesn’t follow its predecessor’s lead though. Stricter emissions rules have seen the V8 dropped in favour of a more technologically proficient (and more efficient) twin turbo V6.
But while the muscle car appeal is gone, and the new RS 5 is a different beast, do the changes make it any less of a performance car?
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium performance coupe
Price: $159,900 (estimated) plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 331kW/600Nm 2.9-litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.7 l/100km
On paper the new 2.9-litre twin turbo V6 RS 5 doesn’t give anything away to its 4.2-litre V8 forbear with an identical 331kW of power and a stronger 600Nm of torque compared to the V8’s 430Nm.
The transmission also has a philosophical change, gone is the previous seven-speed dual clutch transmission and in its place is an eight-speed automatic, albeit a more traditional torque converter type auto.
Audi also promises that Australian-bound cars will arrive with a high level of standard equipment and a price below $160,000, putting it toe-to-toe with both the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S coupe.
Audi has yet to pin down final specifications for Australia, but all will be revealed ahead of the RS 5’s November arrival.
Expect standard features to include full leather trim, three-zone climate control, Virtual Cockpit digital instruments, LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels and 8.0-inch infotainment with smartphone mirroring, digital radio, satellite navigation and wifi capabilities.
By its own admission Audi sees the new RS 5 as more of a grand touring coupe than an outright performance car, and the more relaxed, less aggressively styled interior treatments of the cars at the RS 5’s launch in France reflected that.
Like the lesser members of the A5 range the cabin is lined with nothing but high quality materials that impart a prestigious look and feel, with high levels of comfort perfectly matched to the grand tourer claims.
Between the digital instrument cluster ahead of the driver, and the clear and concise infotainment system, Audi provides one of the most comprehensive yet simple to use driver interfaces in the industry.
ON THE ROAD
As an everyday performance car, the RS5 strikes an impressive balance between daily usability and on-tap performance.
The adaptive suspension is carefully calibrated to ensure sports car handling, without trading off compliance and control, allowing even the harshest of bumps to be blotted out.
Refinement is also impressive, with quiet running at freeway speeds despite wide 275mm wide tyres at each corner. As a means of saving fuel the transmission will run to the highest gear with imperceptible gear changes leaving occupants unruffled.
But all the touring comfort and excellent refinement in the world won’t make the RS 5 a bona fide performance coupe, and as the roads from Toulouse in southern France to the principality of Andorra began to climb the RS 5 had an opportunity to show its credentials.
Without the free-breathing and free-spinning characteristics of the naturally aspirated V8 the new RS 5 goes without its predecessors alert throttle response and misses out on its sinister soundtrack.
There’s still noise, and plenty of it, from the RS Sport Exhaust particularly in its wide-open state with a more natural soundtrack than the synthesised accompaniment of the BMW M4, but the whole experience is dulled by low down turbo lag.
Conversely, where the old RS 5 didn’t bulk out its mid range, the new twin turbo engine offers fat waves of torque, ultimately making it feel swifter from point to point.
Audi’s all wheel drive architecture also endows the RS 5 with serious levels of grip, but that security comes at the cost of the kind of playful agility that rear wheel drive rivals offer.
By its nature the addition of drive to the front axle can result in mid corner understeer and never allows open throttle corner exits as the nose pushes wide on enthusiastic attempts.
Electronic support systems attempt to counter some of the quattro setup’s bad habits, with an electronic rear differential featuring torque vectoring to trim the inside rear wheel and make the rear axle feel more lively but even then you’ll need to drive aggressively to optimise the effects.
In its second generation the Audi RS 5 has become faster, better-mannered on the road, and when it arrives in Australia is set to offer more standard equipment making it a better buy and aligning it more closely with its rivals.
Embedded technology that works with the grippy all wheel drive mechanical packages makes this new RS 5 easy to drive quickly, while the interior also takes a high tech approach but with a level of craftsmanship to keep everything feeling luxurious and contemporary rather than cold and technical.
Although the soul of the original has been diluted slightly, and pure aggression has been handed to the RS 5’s competitors, this new car has become easier to live with in the daily grind and becomes a less compromised alternative for enthusiasts forced to endure the daily grind.
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