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Audi RS 5

Click to view picture gallery“Sure the RS 5 is quick: 0-62mph
in 4.6 is fast in anyones book.
  But the
5 is not all about Cannonball
  high-speed jinks or testosterone
  one-upmanship — its forte is as an
  effortless ‘everyday

THAT'S NOT TO SAY that when it comes to playing Top Trumps Audi hasn't dealt the RS 5 a handful of aces. But what the RS 5 is most about is effortlessly quick and über-smooth, day-to-day driveability at any pace from crawl to carrera [as in a la carrera: at full speed Ed].

At first glance it doesn't look so tough. But that's precisely the point. It's quite the Q-car; and in more ways than one. You could say that the RS 5 is the spiritual successor to the original Audi 'Q' car the groundbreaking four-seat, two-door road/rally Quattro that in the early Eighties swept the board rally-wise. Which is why all subsequent Audis with quattro four-wheel drive have been badged 'quattro' with a lower case 'q' in deference to the original Quattro.

A casual first glance at the RS 5 says 'S5'. But almost immediately something in your head adds 'not'. Check again and you'll spot the subtle clues that tell you this is a cut above any S5: there's more thrust to the front-end; and the flared and delightfully creased wheelarches are larger, stretched over 19-inch '5-spoke Aero' design alloy wheels wearing wide 265/35 Continental 'rubber band' tyres. The RS 5 also sits 20mm lower while defining the tail are LED rear lights and howitzer-size tailpipes. There's also a discreet, speed-activated rear spoiler that, unless the driver wishes otherwise, deploys automatically.

“Once you’ve got the
RS 5’s key
in your pocket the best way to make the
introductions is to jump
right in. Snug yourself
into the cosseting
leather sports seat, press
the Start button,
select Drive and let your
right foot do some
Once you've got the RS 5's key in your pocket the best way to make the introductions is to jump right in. Snug yourself into the cosseting leather sports seat, press the Start button alongside the selector lever (keyless entry and start are standard), select Drive and… let your right foot do some talking.

And talk this RS 5 does. Power is turbine-like; near seamless. As are the S tronic gearshifts. And as too is the traction courtesy of the upgraded quattro all-wheel drive; not even the tiniest chirp of wheelspin. Just a full-bore, press-you-back-in-your-seat surge towards the horizon. Redlined at 8,250rpm, the RS 5's V8 is more than eager to hit the limiter whenever and wherever there's enough road ahead.

If slingshot takeoffs turn you on, turn to page 116 of the handbook because the RS 5 has a saucy secret not Victoria's; but Audi's very own Launch Control. It guarantees a perfect standing start; no transmission jerks, no weaving torque-steer, no smokin' rubber. Just an unadulterated, arrow-straight charge with a perfect 4.6 every time. Space permitting, the RS 5 will keep on accelerating all the way up to its electronically-governed 155mph.

There's no flattering to deceive here, though, because under the RS 5's shapely metal lurk all sorts of high-tech systems to ensure your Audi and the road don't part company in any weather.

Underpinning the RS 5's traction and stability is the latest generation of Audi's needs-no-intro quattro (with a small 'q') four-wheel drive system. Despite being all-wheel drive, the RS 5 runs a rear-drive biased configuration, with torque split 40:60 front to rear. If necessary, the self-locking centre differential will permit as much as seventy per cent of torque to be fed to the front wheels or even as much as 85 per cent to the rears.

There's oodles of grip and the pace can be boosted anytime regardless of the road or weather. Sweeping bends bring to life that cliched 'driving on rails' phrase so beloved of motoring hacks get the power on early and you'll literally catapult out the far side.

The RS 5 also comes equipped with a full complement of driver aids including a newly-developed centre diff for the quattro drivetrain, a sport differential on the rear axle, Dynamic Ride Control adaptive damping and Audi's Drive Select vehicle dynamics control system.

“There’s oodles of grip
and the pace can be
boosted anytime
regardless of the road or
weather — get the power
on early and you’ll
literally catapult out the
far side of bends
Drive Select allows the driver to switch between three modes of operation Comfort, Auto or Dynamic to adjust the steering weighting, the S tronic's shift points, the sport differential, Dynamic Ride Control, the engine and the exhaust system. Drive Select also controls the exhaust system's two throttle valves and the sound flaps, enabling the exhaust note to be varied at will from visceral to ground-shaking!

Comfort keeps everything turned down low; Dynamic does the opposite, priming the RS 5 for 'max attack'. And Auto does exactly that automatically adjusts the parameters in response to your driving style. Most of our test time was spent either in Drive Select's Auto with the S tronic left in D, or Dynamic in manual mode for some flappy-paddle adrenaline-fuelled action.

Drivers of cars equipped with the optional MMI navigation system eager to wring every last drop of performance out of their RS 5 will discover a new best friend in the RS 5's Individual mode. This 'mix 'n' match' setting allows the driver to create his or her own personal driving dish from the RS 5's dynamic ingredients. The fun part is trying all the different variations as this takes time and enjoyable miles behind the wheel traditionally round and not flat-bottomed as you might have been expecting, particularly as it was Audi who initiated the trend for 'cropped' steering wheels on road cars.

Like the insouciantly accomplished R8, the RS 5 rides as well as it handles with a supple but highly controlled ride. Bump absorption is best in Comfort but the beauty of Auto is how unerringly it picks out and applies the most appropriate of the RS 5's 'hard' and 'soft' driving modes to support your current driving style.

Ferraris aside, most modern engines aren't all that exciting to look at. The RS 5's 4.2-litre V8, however, is one that you will be happy to flash to your public. Pop the bonnet and you'll hear murmurs of approbation.

Far more enthralling is the tuneful V8's love affair with revs. Not that you need to spin the crank as whatever speed you're travelling at, a firmer push on the loud pedal (or more appropriately in the RS 5's case, the 'bass' pedal) will see you surge forward courtesy of 317lb ft of torque spread evenly from 4,000 to 6,000rpm.

“Ferraris aside, most
modern engines aren’t all
that exciting to look at.
The RS 5’s 4.2-litre V8,
however, is one that you
will be happy to flash
to your public
Even at low speeds there's a go-ahead-punk V8 rumble almost American muscle car. Only pulsatingly richer. Wind it up and the sound effects just keep getting better as the needle races round to meet its 8,250rpm electronic cut-out, at which point it sings with a deeper, more melodious voice than you'll hear from a wrung-out M3.

And along the way up and down the dual-clutch gearbox there's a purposeful shift-blip that will have red-blooded passers-by rubbernecking enviously. All of which is great news because this V8 simply lives to rev.

If that's not enough, the hand-built V8 FSI (developed from the V10 FSI that powers the 197mph R8 5.2 FSI quattro) is a match made in Heaven with the rapid-fire, seven-speed S tronic twin-clutch transmission: shifts at both extremes of the V8's broad range are superb and fast-paced. Which is fortuitous because there's no manual option.

Thankfully the RS 5 stops as eagerly as it goes. Massive drilled and ventilated discs at each corner along with 8-piston fixed callipers in the front wheels and single-piston sliding callipers in the rear provide G-force stopping via a sympathetically progressive pedal. If you demand even more stopping power there's the option of 19-inch ceramic brakes.

Let's be clear about one thing the RS 5 is not interested in being a straight M3 rival. Quite simply, it doesn't need to play that game; the RS 5 stands on its own merits. Which is good news for enthusiasts who want to drive a more indulgent but equally swift piece of high-tech road-going machinery.

All this focus on the driving and we haven't yet said a single word about the cabin. It's typical Audi: tastefully done and superb fit and finish with black Silk Nappa leather upholstery complemented by carbon-fibre and aluminium elements.

Fabulously supportive and comfortable every-which-way electrically-adjustable super sports seats with pronounced side sections and integrated head restraints are standard. Power lumbar support (up/down and in/out), extendable under-knee support, six-stage heating and a two-setting memory for the driver make them even better.

“You sit square-on to
the lovely perforated-
multifunction RS
steering wheel.
As on the Ferrari 430,
your right leg is dead
in line with the
large brake pedal so
maximum braking can be
easily applied using
minimum effort
You sit square-on to the lovely perforated-leather-rimmed multifunction RS steering wheel. As on the Ferrari 430, your right leg is dead in line with the large brake pedal so maximum braking can be easily applied using minimum effort. A by-now regular Audi feature the selectable digital mph readout in the driver's information display between the two major dials is always appreciated.

Nice touches abound to mention but a few: the separate on/off for the CD/radio is a boon as too is the hassle-free electromechanical parking brake and the first class, crystal clear picture on the reversing camera display; even the non-PC smoker's kit has a healthy alternative use as a coin box! Another like is aerodynamics that allow you to drive with both front windows open without buffeting all the better to hear that sports exhaust!

Unexpectedly, two adults can travel comfortably in the rear; it's cosy, not claustrophobic. Those no taller than 5' 11" will have no complaints about head or legroom or the large centre armrest keeping them apart from the other passenger sitting alongside them in the other individual seat. Back seat passengers also have their own AirCon controls. Access both in and out is easy, courtesy of power-slide front seats.

Also surprising is the RS 5's practicality: lightly tug the quick-release handles in the boot and the 50:50 split rear seatbacks drop forward, adding a further 30 inches lengthways to the 40 x 40 inch boot. While the extended loadbay is not completely flat, it's flat enough to be useful. Don't get carried away though cases and flatpacks are fine; washing machines won't go. With the rear seats raised, long slim items can still be carried thanks to a large ski-hatch. A stretchy luggage net, drop-down bag hooks and sturdy tie-down eyelets further boost the RS 5's practicality.

The RS 5's other core attribute is its exceptional refinement; that makes 110mph seem like 50mph (where legal!). Unlike some other super-coupes, the RS 5 is genuinely relaxing to live with the S tronic + quattro 4WD + free-revving V8 combo is very compelling.

Like its R8 stablemate, the RS 5 goes faster than most owners will ever really need yet what ultimately makes it so persuasive is that the RS 5 doesn't need entertaining roads to entertain you! MotorBar

Audi RS 5 | £58,725
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 4.6 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 22.8mpg
Power: 443bhp | Torque: 317lb ft | CO2 252g/km