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Driven: Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi RS 5
The Audi RS 5 has lots of presence and talent, but is it undone by one of its lesser siblings?

 



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Audi RS 5

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Good points: Has the boasting rights over the S5 Coupe lower down the Audi pay-grade scale

Not so good: Sorry, sorry, sorry... HOW much?!

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi RS 5
Price: A5 Coupe range starts from 31,535; RS 5 from 61,015, car as tested 91,775
Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed Tiptronic automatic
Body style: two-door coupe
CO2 emissions: 197g/km (1,200 VED first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 32.5mpg
Top speed: 174mph (limited; see copy)
0-62mph: 3.9 seconds
Power: 450hp at 5,700- to 6,700rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 1,900- to 5,000rpm

Our view:

Good lord, doesn't Audi know how to make a performance car look good? Not necessarily something overtly sporty, like the wondrous R8 and attractive TT models in its catalogue, but just the more pragmatic vehicles in the range. Witness the hulking magnificence of the RS 6 Avant or the three-box perfection of the RS 3 or the taut, rapid wagon visual genius that is the all-new RS 4 Avant. All corking. All guaranteed to pull in punters and relieve them of vast wads of cash in the merest blink of the metaphorical eye.

The RS 5 is no exception, pre-dating the aforementioned RS 4 - with which it shares so much - by a couple of months and giving the world its first look at Audi's outrageous boxy wheel arches, inspired (or so it is said) by the 90 quattro IMSA GTO... if you don't know what that is, Google it, and be prepared to go weak at the knees. On the RS 5, these extrusions are even more pronounced than on its RS 4 Avant cousin, leading to a mid-sized premium coupe that looks sensational. It puts the similarly wide-shouldered BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 Coupe into the shade, even if we have to deal with the stretched face of the current-gen A5 up front. View the RS 5 from the rear three-quarters for maximum 'phwooooaarr' factor, then.

We're not even going to talk about the interior, save for saying you should look at the pictures and imagine how beautifully tactile, how faultlessly solid and how ergonomically correct that passenger compartment will be. Unless you're a lofty basketball player and you have three 6ft 8in friends you need to transport around on a regular basis, you're going to find the square root of zero to complain about when it comes to the Audi's cabin.

What we are going to talk about, before we get onto the dynamic performance of the RS 5, is the price. Or, more specifically, the price of our test car. Now, there's a dangerous precedent that can be set if, as a critic, you start complaining about the cost of overtly specced-up press demonstrators. We all know why the manufacturers do this; it's to show the car off in its best possible light, to give over all the toys possible in order to wow the reviewer and hopefully impress to the highest level imaginable.

However, sometimes this tactic can backfire. And this RS 5 was a case in point. With a basic ticket of 61,015, which compares favourably with the regular M4 and C 63 competitors, our car was loaded with no less than a fearsome 30,760 of options and on-the-road costs; fully 51.7 per cent on top of its list price, resulting in a near-92,000 car. Wow. Oof. And other exclamations that might, if we were being terribly unkind, result in the oft-quoted internet shorthand of 'WTF'.

Look, we've not been on BMW or Merc's configurators to see what you could do if you went tick-box crazy with either the M4 or C 63; no doubt you could make them into cars hovering perilously close to six figures if you've got no self-control, or you could just go out and buy an M4 CS in the first place. But the RS 5 is supposed to be the pinnacle of the A5 breed. The flagship. Is it really right that an unsuspecting customer could wander into a dealership with a 65,000 RS 5 in their mind and leave having dropped the price of a bog-basic A5 Sportback on additional extras?

Because every option on this demo car is available to punters at ordering time. And you know a lot of people are going to choose many of them. Things such as 5,000 on a carbon black styling pack. Another 6,000 on carbon ceramic brakes. Add on 3,000 for the 20-inch optional wheels, 1,200 for the RS Sport exhaust system, 2,000 for RS Sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control and 3,250 for a carbon roof. Or a simply ludicrous 1,450 to have the top speed limiter raised from a highly illegal 155mph to an, um, even more highly illegal 174mph. All avoidable, of course, but 900 on a head-up display? Or 525 for a rear-view camera? Or 950 for Dynamic Steering? Come on, 200 for electrically adjustable front seats, 250 for tyre-pressure monitoring or 325 for wireless phone charging?! On an RS 5?!

Sorry, we know we're going on. But the 91,775 price tag and the RS 5's coupe bodywork all go to prejudicing the driving experience. Because this is another give-it-all-up-instantly super-fast Audi. It goes like holy hell, making a tremendous noise in the process. It feels so phenomenally sure-footed and balanced from the off that you feel like you could drive it as hard as you possibly dare within about five miles of getting behind the wheel. It telegraphs all relevant chassis information back to its driver in a clear, concise and cultured manner. And unfortunately it's somewhat dull as a result.

Yup, this is another classic case of an RS Audi that once again fails to live up to the pre-match hype. The advertising campaign for the RS 5 is 'Nothing To Prove' but, unfortunately, with no real storming direct antecedents to fall back upon (original Quattro, maybe?) and some really tough competition on sale right now, this is a model that has everything to prove - and it once again fails to engage at the upper dynamic limits. The steering is just too remote, the chassis too unwilling to go neutral when you want it to, the engine too distant from proceedings to make the RS 5 a real firecracker. It has oodles of kerb appeal and easily accessible, monster performance - but it'll probably never make you grin mischievously.

Proof of the pudding: we got 33.5mpg out of the RS 5 across 532 miles and 11 driving hours in its company, even seeing nearly 37mpg on one run down the M5. And that's because, after a few exploratory initial thrashes in the Audi on our favourite back roads, it yielded up no little glints of handling gold that made us yearn to go panning for greater driving treasures. We merely employed it as a long-distance GT after about 30 miles of uninvolving, if blisteringly rapid, cross-country usage.

What is most galling about this is that the cheaper RS 4 Avant, which will have no need for silly carbon fibre addenda on its roof or brakes, is everything we were hoping for from the RS 5, and a little bit more besides. It's a heavier car with revised suspension settings to account for its estate capabilities, but whether it's those incontrovertible alterations to the underpinnings or simply the different expectations you set in your mind when driving a wagon as opposed to a coupe, the RS 4 is so much more satisfying and engaging than the RS 5 on every single level.

And even if you argue against the RS 4 dilemma, saying your heart is set on an A5-derived performance car of some sort, rather than a chunky estate, then the S5 sibling makes a much stronger case for itself. Both it and the RS 5 are stupidly fast, possessed of creamy V6 soundtracks and as capable in the wet as they are in the dry, but ultimately aloof in the driving stakes. So why wouldn't you just pick the subtler, 17,000 less expensive S5 and enjoy an almost identical level of driver thrills in the process?

This is teeth-gnashingly frustrating stuff, because Audi Sport as a whole seems to be heading in the right direction. The revised 400hp RS 3, the RS 4 and the RS 6 Performance - an old car, mind, that's ready for replacement - all show that the exciting chassis know-how is there within the German company. Regrettably, the RS 5 is another in the long list of S and RS Audis that have to be filed in the 'Miss' column.

An RS 5 Performance, shorn of 30 grand of fripperies and given another 50hp and 70-100Nm, might well have us changing our mind on this Audi coupe. But, aside from its steroidal looks, this is a car that never once had us craving the ownership experience. And so it is a glaring, missed opportunity for Audi to finally stick it to the BMW M4, itself not at the top of its game. And that is a real annoyance that is totally at odds with the pumped-up appearance of the RS 5.

Alternatives:

BMW M4 CS: For the money of this optioned-up RS 5, you could have the semi-special-limited M4 CS. Or you could just have an M4 Competition Package and save 30 grand... your call.

Lexus RC F: Despite holding all the cards when it comes to displacement and noise, the RC F feels dynamically outclassed in this company. Strangely, we love it all the more, as a result...

Mercedes-AMG C 63 S Coupe Edition 1: If you like ostentatiousness, one of these Edition 1s with the lurid green stripes is well worth seeking out. Monster biturbo V8, too.


Matt Robinson - 23 Nov 2017









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2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.

2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.2017 Audi RS5 Coupe drive. Image by Audi.








 

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