Audi’s newest fast coupe has gone the way of many performance cars lately and it replaces the old high revving naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8 engine with a smaller 2.9-litre V6 twin turbo. It loses some of the drama given by the old motor but it promises a more powerful and lighter engine that provides even more go.
In performance car land, that seems to make sense, but the new engine doesn’t differ much from the 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo found in the almost $50,000 more affordable S5. So, what does the RS5 give you exactly?
Vehicle Style: Premium performance coupe
Price: $156,600 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 331kW/600Nm 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol | 8spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 8.8 l/100km
It’s the first Audi RS model to be built on Volkswagen Group’s new MLBevo platform that underpins everything from the Audi A4 to the upcoming Lamborghini Urus. Because of it, the new coupe gets a five-link front suspension arm over the previous trapezoidal setup with adaptive dampers that sit lower than other models and specially-tuned steering calibration.
The engine is a newly developed 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 331kW and 600Nm through an eight-speed automatic – not a dual-clutch like before – transmission to all four-wheels.
The car is also 15mm wider and 72mm longer but you wouldn’t pick it from sight alone. Despite being larger, it’s lighter than the previous RS5 by 60kg and the 170Nm more powerful force-fed V6 shoots it from a standstill to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds – 0.6 second faster than before.
The exterior design adds a bit more flair and separating it from the A5 line-up are various inlets, a wider honeycomb grille, 15mm wider blistered wheel arches and, for the first time, a carbon fibre roof. Audi says the RS5 aesthetic was inspired from the wild Audi 90 IMSA GTO but it seems a bit of a stretch given it doesn’t look much more aggressive than the S5.
Rounding out options for exterior bits is the choice of gloss black, carbon fibre or matt aluminium accents and rear diffuser, a variety of 20-inch alloy wheel designs and exclusive Sonoma green paintwork.
- Standard Equipment: Nappa leather seat trim, front sports seats, dual-zone climate control, electric driver’s seat adjustment, digital instrument cluster display, auto lights and wipers, LED headlights, cruise control, keyless entry and start, 20-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.2-inch colour display, satellite navigation, WiFi hotspot, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, USB input, AM/FM/DAB+ radio, CD player
- Cargo Volume: 465 litres to rear seats
Inside, the design doesn’t stray far from the current tried and tested layout, only adding some RS logos and diamond-stitched Nappa leather seats which are available as an option across the A5 range, though the RS5 adds pneumatic bolstering too.
Audi’s virtual cockpit instrument display is fitted as standard with a special RS mode that shows a centred tacho, tyre temp, torque gauges and track timer, and a Bang and Olufsen sound system hooked up to the user-friendly and intuitive 8.2-inch MMI infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The design of the interior is almost too clinical but it feels premium and most touchpoints are made with quality materials. The seating adjustment for the driver is wide and allows for a low-slung position with plenty of reach in the steering column. Both front seats are comfortable and have plenty of legroom but the rear isn't so lucky, with getting in and out a squeeze.
The materials are well finished and the technology included is comprehensive – including Audi’s latest safety assists such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking - though some need to be optioned.
Heads-up display and matrix headlights can be added with the Technik Package but it’s the RS Design pack that adds some character such as black and red stitching and Alcantara centre console, gear selector and steering wheel – the standard leather RS flat bottomed steering wheel is the same unit that comes with the S5.
Regardless of the parallels between the RS5 and the more affordable S5 it shouldn’t matter for Audi, which says one in five models it sells are RS variants, plus, the RS5 is undeniable faster and there’s further mechanical kit as standard such as a real limited-slip rear differential and six-piston front and four-piston rear disc brakes that can be replaced with 400mm carbon ceramic discs.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol, 331kW @ 5700-6700rpm, 600Nm @ 1900-5000rpm
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Multi-link front and rear
- Brakes: 375mm vented front discs, 330mm solid rear discs
- Steering: Electromechanical power steering
The engine is a technical triumph and its inside-vee turbo-mount design with dual-channel inlets provides instant throttle response without lag. Power output is equal to the old V8 at 331kW while torque has increased 170Nm to 600Nm total, and is provided in full from 1900-5000rpm through a re-jigged version of Audi’s eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission to all four wheels.
More important to shrinking emissions targets is a drop in fuel consumption by 16 per cent to 8.8L/100km, but that quickly rises once it starts to rev and the RS5 feels every bit as quick as it claims.
The lighter and more powerful engine is rapid in response and it was never short of power on Tasmania’s long winding Targa stages. The eight speed auto is rapid-fire too but being a gear to tall or short doesn’t upset the powerplant.
Australian RS5 models are also equipped with a sports exhaust that turns up the pop and crackle splutter from the small V6, and while it sounds nice down low, it lacks the depth of the old bent eight that added some drama on fast stretching roads.
But however fast the RS5 is, the retuned adaptive dampers and chassis tweaks have worked wonders to transform the RS5’s ride at the touch of a button. Like some rivals, the Audi in its dynamic sports mode is too firm for rough roads and can feel unsettled in corners. While it rides flatter, backing off to comfort mode adds compliance and though softer there’s still plenty of dynamic poise and a more predictable reaction to mid-corner bumps.
For outright pace, everything else benefits from the dynamic settings, such as steering feel, throttle response and transmission mapping, and the standard 375mm six-piston brakes remain tack sharp when stomped on regularly.
Where the Audi could use some further tweaking is in its steering that doesn’t communicate well and, although accurate, it feels detached from the road when slip and understeer creeps in. Turn-in is quick though and in combination with slacker dampers and the mechanical rear-diff, the coupe is willing to hold onto corners with plenty of pace.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It feels like the RS5 barely raised an eyebrow when thrown into some of the world’s more challenging roads but that’s what Audi is beginning to distil across many of its models – poise, grace and athletic ability. The trade-off is it removes some of the animal and excitement you’d expect to wrestle from 331kW of power and 600Nm of torque and when things do go awry, the car can change attitude unexpectedly. But for a comfortable daily driver that is willing for a weekend challenge either in the hills or on the track, the RS5 offers plenty.
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