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 (73) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Escort Si-130 05 Nov 2010

    Looks nice, but not too sure on the red. Looks best in white I think.

  • 10 Pence Short 05 Nov 2010

    The effect has worn off and the value of the 'RS' branding for Audi seems to have runs its course.

  • FraserLFA 05 Nov 2010

    Could they not have put the Quattro into production instead of this? They said in a recent interview they're looking for a position in the market for it, surely this could have been it?

  • adycav 05 Nov 2010

    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.

  • Ed. 05 Nov 2010

    FraserLFA said:
    Could they not have put the Quattro into production instead of this? They said in a recent interview they're looking for a position in the market for it, surely this could have been it?
    Given Audi's niche filling tendencies it should still materialise.

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