Road tests / 14 December 2017, 11:51am / Denis Droppa
Johannesburg - The new RS5 quattro recently became the top dog of the A5 coupe range in South Africa, as Audi’s challenger to tar-shredders like the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe.
It flexes muscles with a 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo engine feeding 331kW and 600Nm to all four wheels via quattro drive. That’s the same power output as the normally aspirated 4.2 V8 used in the previous RS5, but there’s been a whopping torque boost from the previous 430Nm.
This gives it the claimed ability to blast the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in just 3.9 seconds at sea level and reach a top speed of 250km/h - which can be increased to 280km/h as an option.
With our Vbox attached, the RS5 swept the 0-100 in a best time of 4.2 seconds at our Gauteng test track. That’s with a standard torque-converter auto transmission and no launch control. At least, no official launch control; we did the left-foot braking thing to build up some revs before setting those 331kW loose into an unsuspecting horizon.
Audi’s charger is properly quick off the mark, and pushes you into the plush leather seat with gratifyingly chest-squeezing force. The car has almost identical acceleration to its obvious rivals, the BMW M4 Competition package and the Mercedes-AMG C63 S – all three cars hit the 100 mark in 4.2 seconds. The Audi’s notably slower in 60-120km/h overtaking acceleration however, posting 4.1 seconds versus the similarly-powered Beemer’s 3.3 and the much more powerful Merc’s 3.0.
Interestingly the RS5 is no faster than its cheaper stablemate, the RS3, which is just as fast to 100 and is in fact three-tenths quicker in overtaking. We attribute this slight hesitance on the RS5’s part to its torque converter eight-speed auto gearbox, which is a delightfully smooth-shifting thing but not quite as quick through its cogs as dual-clutchers like the RS3 and M4.
The RS5’s brawny pace is backed by some vocal bluster from the twin-turbo V6, though it’s not as aurally pleasing as the deliciously gruff normally-aspirated V8 of its predecessor. This new turbo engine also doesn’t call for high revs like that old V8. I’m all for mid-range flexibility – that’s what you need in the real world and 90 percent of driving and the new RS5 has plenty of it – but when you’re in that playful right-brain mood, there’s nothing like a lot of high-revving cylinders to stir your soul, with no turbocharger muting the noise.
Laying it down is a rear-biased quattro system that ensures a grippy but entertaining car. Long gone are the days of frustrating all-wheel-drive-generated understeer in the corners. The RS5’s quattro drive is by default split 40:60 front to rear, but can transfer up to 85 percent torque to the rear wheels when the car senses it’s being driven in balls-to-the-wall mode. It makes for a car that threads through turns with a crisp turn-in and a tail that can be enticed into playful (but very controllable) looseness.
For a not-particularly-light grand tourer this Audi displays exemplary cornering manners and the sports suspension is well balanced, preventing excessive body roll without getting jittery or unsettled on bumps like some sports cars with too-firm rides. The RS steering wheel felt great to grasp too; there’s something about the texture of perforated leather that sets off the pleasure sensors.
Switching the Audi Drive Select system from sport to comfort sees the RS5 retracting its fangs and becoming a civilised daily drive in real-world commuting, with lighter steering and less-sensitive throttle and gearshifting responses. It softens the suspension too if you spec the car with the optional RS Dynamic Package which also comes with dynamic steering, Matrix LED headlights, and a rear sports differential for even grippier cornering.
The A5 two-door coupe is probably Audi’s best looking car with the exception of the R8, and in RS5 guise those curves are appealingly sported-up with a honeycomb grille, an RS diffuser at the rear, rear spoiler, 20” wheels, and oval tailpipes.
The cabin, decked out in Audi’s typical high-quality trimmings, presents an athletic side with electrically-adjustable RS sport seats in honeycomb-stitched nappa leather.
Lighting plays a big part in this Audi’s sporting dazzle and there are illuminated door sills bearing the RS5 logo, and LED light guides that trace the contours of the doors and the centre console - in 30 different colours to select from.
For a brand that often reserves its best features for the options list the RS5 comes very well kitted out of the box, with items like navigation, parking assistance with rear view camera, and electrically adjustable front seats with massaging.
It also comes standard with Audi’s virtual cockpit, which is an all-digital instrument panel that can be personalised for various views including RS-specific digital instrument displays for speed and revs.
Perched atop the dash is a large 21cm screen for the infotainment system which is controlled by a knob between the front seats, and which I found fairly simple and straightforward to use.
In a highly-competitive market segment of luxury tar-shredders the RS5 doesn’t disappoint.
Ingolstadt’s contender straddles the executive-car/sports-car divide perhaps a little more tilted to the comfort side than its Munich and Stuttgart rivals, but it’s still an entertainingly capable high-performer in both the curves and a straight line.