Driven: Audi RS5

I have a bit of a soft spot for RS Audis - the V8-engined RS4 was the first properly fast car I ever drove.

There was a nagging worry in the back of my mind before I got into the RS5 the other day though, because every RS or S-badged Audi I've driven since that RS4 - including the RS6 but with the possible exception of the TTS - has been, to a greater or lesser extent, a bit of a disappointment.

But that original V8 RS4, with its gorgeous naturally aspirated V8, tenacious grip and terrier-like nature proves that Audi can produce a proper enthusiast's car when it puts its mind to it, so I remained optimistic.

The RS5's spec is - mostly - a cause for optimism too. Its 4.2-litre V8 is free of forced induction yet still produces a pleasing 444bhp at an encouragingly heady 8250rpm, while the A5-based chassis - already one of the nicest that Audi produces - is further helped by a 'proper' four-wheel-drive system with a crown-gear differential rather than a Haldex system.

There are warning signs, though, such as the fact that the RS5 is fitted with a 7-speed S tronic transmission, making it the first RS car to get a double-clutch gearbox. And while we admire the VW group's latest iterations of its twin-clutch tech, this is a type of transmission that lends itself more to a softer GT-style car than a proper RS ought to be.

On the road, the RS5 proves itself to be just what you hope it isn't - that little bit too soft-edged. Sure, the engine is pretty epic, but that S tronic gearbox makes it a little too smooth and refined and - dare we say it? - the otherwise fab engine note is too subdued. There is a satisfying crack-pop on flat-chat upchanges, but overall the experience of accelerating in the RS5 just isn't quite visceral enough.

It's much the same story in the bendy bits - the RS5 is clearly hugely capable, and able to cover a point-to-point run absurdly quickly, but you as a driver will feel a little separated from the experience. It's mostly down to steering that, while quick and direct, always feels somewhat artificial.

It's also partly to do with the suspension, which feels as though it treats the bump and flow of the road as an impolite intrusion to be smothered at the first opportunity - exactly the opposite of what the old RS4 and R8 do, which make a virtue out of flowing with the road, making the whole driving experience that bit more involving.

There's no doubt that the RS5 is a breathtakingly quick and competent car and, if it had a simple S badge, it could be a great one, too. But the RS label brings with it an expectation of satisfying the desires of a more committed type of enthusiast, and on that count I reckon it doesn't quite score highly enough.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (72) Join the discussion on the forum

  • jamespink 16 Jan 2014

    adycav said:
    Other than an old 'H' reg Audi 80 2.0 I had when I was poor and worked in a biscuit factory I have never driven an Audi that I have liked, and I've tried a few.

    I've yet to have a go in an RS4 or R8 though, and I suspect that I'd probably like them.
    I had an 80 Sport of the same vintage with the 1800 Golf GTI engine... Best balanced car I have ever driven.

  • Tankman 09 Nov 2010

    Riggers said:
    doesn't 'wir sind Opel' mean 'we are Opel'?

    I know the Germans do irony but they were never to know I bought my first Audi from the Vauxhall dealer I used to work at.

  • noblem14 09 Nov 2010

    well, nothing a straight through exhaust system and uprated suspension wont sort out.......

  • Riggers 09 Nov 2010

    Tankman said:
    Unfortunate juxtaposition of banner and cars there... doesn't 'wir sind Opel' mean 'we are Opel'?

    I rather suspect Opel would love a performance car line-up like that... hehe

  • Mermaid 08 Nov 2010

    Zod said:
    Mermaid said:
    Tankman said:
    ... On the Nordschliefe was where the extra weight showed. The bulk of the car causing slow transition during weight changes on faster corners like Pflanzgarten means that concentration and forward planning is needed to get the best out of the chassis. The long flowing corners from Bergwerk up the country were despatched with ease but slowing for Mütkurve and then the tightening Steilstrecke shows up just how heavy this car really is. I agree with the previous post about this car being perfect for a blat down to St. Tropez/Monaco. If I had one of these it would be the wifes car, she loves them.
    Has a 'Ring time been posted for the RS5?
    None available on my usual sources, SportAuto and geilekarre.
    Prior to launch, Audi had been leaking sub 8 minute figures. The RS4 was a whisker slower than the E92 M3 (8:05) but had the advantage of Ceramics & Cup Tyres (as the CSL did).

    The RS5 is slightly heavier than the RS4 and though does not have the Cups tyres does have the Ceramics, the trick differential & 30ps more. So 8 minutes give or take 5 seconds I suppose.

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