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Week at the wheel: Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

Week at the wheel: Audi RS 5
Are huge power and a huge price a guarantee of awesomeness? Not quite.


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| Week at the Wheel | Audi RS 5 |

Overall rating: 4 4 4 4 4

This car has all the ingredients to be spectacular, and it sort of is: ferociously quick, beautifully made, spacious enough to act as family transport and a delight on the ears. But sadly it's missing the soul and purity that makes the BMW M3 great. It's a sledgehammer of a car, all engine and not much finesse, and almost ruined by the ride quality. We'd seriously consider the lesser (and £18,000 cheaper) Audi S5 before buying this. That statement tells you all you need to know.

Key Facts

Engine: 4.2-litre V8 petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: BMW M3, Lexus IS F, Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Coupé
CO2 emissions: 252g/km
Combined economy: 26.2mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Power: 450hp at 8,250rpm
Torque: 430Nm at 4,000rpm

Inside & Out: 3 3 3 3 3

The basic Audi A5 is a lovely looking thing - all low and wide and mean. The problem we have with the RS 5 is that it looks hardly any different to an A5 2.0-litre TDI in S line trim. It's a criticism we've leveled at the Audi S5 too, but in a £60,000 car it's even more difficult to take. It should be wider, basically. Check out the last RS 4 to see what we mean.

Inside it is, surprise surprise, the same story. Lovely and everything - solid, nice to touch, businesslike, intuitive - but hardly the dose of insanity expected of a car of such lineage and raw ferocity. We understand what Audi is trying to do - preserve the dignity of the generally more sober minded clientele that can afford a car like this - but for us it just misses the mark. We couldn't really get comfy for any length of time in the optional bucket seats (£1,800) of our test car, either.

Ride & Handling: 3 3 3 3 3

Where on Earth has the team that brought you the beautifully silken ride of the Audi R8 gone? The RS 5's credentials as a multipurpose executive rocket ship are categorically undone by the suspension setup. It's an active system, selectable three ways, but the sportiest setting (Dynamic) borders on unbearable, being harder than a tag team with Charles Bronson and Mr. T in it. Virtually all the give in the dampers is eliminated, resulting in the car juddering and bump steering on even moderately jittery roads - of which there are plenty on the UK. Comfort mode slackens things off noticeably, which at least makes the car moderately composed on the motorway, but it's still lacking in the sort of basic suppleness that most buyers would expect. You could forgive it this setup if it were pitched as a lunatic road racer, but, as mentioned earlier, it isn't.

One thing the Audi RS 5 does have plenty of, though, is grip, which is to be expected. A sports differential, apportioning power between front and rear, is standard. It works great, blessing the Audi with the feel of a rear-drive car at times (during sharp, second gear turns for example), but retaining the unflappability of four-wheel drive. The steering could do with more feel, but it's at least direct and meaty, more obviously so in its Dynamic setting.

Engine & Transmission: 4 4 4 4 4

The 4.2-litre V8 engine powering the Audi RS 5 is not, by anyone's standards, lacking in poke. It sounds absolutely wonderful and equally terrifying, no matter whether it's burbling at idle or approaching the rev limiter. It dominates the entire driving experience.

Somehow, though, bizarrely, the car never quite feels as rapid as 444bhp and 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds should. Maybe it's because of its bulk, or maybe it's because it only properly bursts into life from about 6,000rpm. It's a funny thing to say that such a glorious sounding and potent engine could feel disappointing, but, honestly, the supercharged 3.0-litre V6 in the S5 seems to suit this car much better.

The S-Tronic twin clutch gearbox, too, is a marvelous feat of engineering - the sheer speed of every gear change confirms it - but it suffers from a more obvious programming issue than Channel Five. It's fine in normal mode, but in its sportier Dynamic setting the changes are so aggressive that it feels and sounds like the car is physically coughing fire out of the tailpipes. But not in the cool way you might imagine that to be. More like how it feels when a ninja pokes you in the back, out of nowhere. But not as cool as that either.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 3 3 3 3 3

With a £60,000 starting price and a staggeringly 'high value' options list, the Audi RS 5 is a car upon which big, big money can be spent. Satellite navigation isn't standard, for shame, and metallic paint is pricey to. Add a set of nicer chairs, some bigger wheels and parking sensors and you've spent a good few thousand extra.

This car drinks through fuel, too, perhaps more so than anything we've had at Car Enthusiast in the recent past. Its official combined fuel economy is a moderately respectable 26.2mpg, but in reality you might want to order yourself a fuel truck and park it outside your house. Mercifully, it just squeezes into the penultimate VED band, which will cost you £750 for the first year then £425 thereafter. That's a £10 yearly saving on band M. Stop sniffing.

Mark Nichol - 11 Mar 2011    - Audi road tests
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2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.

2011 Audi RS 5. Image by Audi.


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