On paper, the Audi looks like a clear winner. Take the much-loved A5 coupe, throw in a big V8, give it some cool retro box-arches over the wheels, upgrade the handling: presto, M3 killer.
Parked on the sidewalk it’s a winner too. Those flared, squared wheel arches make it look just a little bit menacing. Like a rabid chipmunk with his cheeks full of acorns.
Fire up the engine though, and the jig’s up. Anybody on the block will know to start running. The 4.2-litre V8 fires up with a bombastic mechanical bark, but it sounds a bit Hollywood, a bit contrived. Or maybe I’m too cynical now that we live in an age of fake digitized engine noise, pumped into the cabin through loud-speakers.
After the theatrical start-up, you expect that car to be a bit of a circus. But the entertainment stops once you get going. The steering is light, and easy, the engine throttle response mediocre, and the seven-speed automatic gearbox not especially eager to downshift when you put your foot down…. But, oh, my mistake of course. I’ve left the car in its default setting. Audi Drive Select lets you set up the car as if you were an engineer back in Germany: shall ve haf Komfot mode? Automatik? Individual? Or Dynamik today for ze drive?
Yes, Dynamic mode today, I think, because I want to see what your new ubersportcoupe here can really do. At once the suspension stiffens up, the steering gets mighty heavy, and the gearbox snaps to attention. That’s more like it.
With 450 horsepower and 316 lb-ft of torque, it betters the aging M3 (414 hp) and is on par with the C63 AMG (451 hp). 0-100 km/h comes in 4.7 seconds, and top speed is 280 km/h. Curiously, the BMW takes only 4.5 seconds to 100 km/h, which makes me guess that the Audi is a bit of a porker. And, it is, with a curb weight of 1,820 kg.
Ergonomics / Comfort / Quality
That extra paunch isn’t doing the car any favours. It feels heavy—like it's pounding the road into submission. It's not quite soft enough to be a real tourer.
The excellent quattro AWD system will be a big selling point for many Canadian customers. But again that too dulls the driving experience. Even with all traction systems off, the car still feels like it has tons of grip and like it will never bite you.
It just doesn’t feel like it’s ready to really play. Come on Audi! Let your hair down and have some fun!
Functionality / Usability
Inside, it’s an A5 with extra carbon-fibre trim bits: so, the interior is excellent then. The seats know that we’re pudgy North Americans and so the side bolsters aren’t extreme, and the bottom of the seat is relatively flat. Very easy to get in an out of and live with every day—so long as you can find parking space with enough room to open those massive doors. I found it helpful to shout out, “WIDE LOAD!” or similar whenever opening the people-holes, so bystanders and cyclists knew to steer well clear.
The rear seats are big enough for consenting adults, but they’re quite cramped. Getting in and out is the real challenge. The trunk is highly usable, so it’s not like you couldn’t live with this car.
The RS5 is like a Jason Statham action movie: fast, entertaining, and very loud. But, also a little thin. The experience leaves you feeling a bit empty inside. You walk out going, ‘yeah, that was fun but what’s next.’ You don’t feel desperate for more Jason Statham movies, do you?
This is so predictable, you knew it was coming, but it must be said: The RS5 lacks that ultimate level of involvement—and therefore thrills—we look for in a great sports car. It drives heavy and with strangely weighted steering. It’s direct, and vague at the same time…is that even possible? It is now I guess. If the suspension were softer, it could be a bloody fast grand-tourer. Minty engine though.
The RS5 is on sale now, starting at $77,000.