Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

Road Test: 2018 Audi RS 5

Discontinued in 2015, the RS 5 badge is back with an all-new model – and it's quick, on paper at least.

2018 Audi RS 5. Courtesy Audi
2018 Audi RS 5. Courtesy Audi

Audi’s RS 5 has been an unsung hero since its 2010 debut. Although clothed in an elegantly muscular two-door body shell and stuffed with a pleasingly growly 4.2-litre V8, it has always lived in the shadow of its Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé and BMW M3/M4 rivals – not to mention its own TT RS and R8 stablemates.

Discontinued in 2015, the RS 5 badge has now been reprised on an all-new model (due to land in the UAE in November), derived from the latest A5 Coupé. The big news is under the bonnet, where the newbie loses a couple of cylinders and 1.3L of engine capacity, but gains a pair of turbos to redress this deficit.

The 2.9L twin-turbo V6 ­delivers a beefy 450hp and 600Nm, which means peak power is unchanged versus the Mk 1 model, but there’s an extra 170Nm of torque, which is more vital in real-world performance.

The other key stat is that the latest RS 5 is 60 kilograms lighter, at 1,655kg. Audi claims a 0-to-100kph split of 3.9 seconds and top whack of 280kph with the optional Dynamic Package – handy numbers for its segment.

2018 Audi RS 5. Courtesy Audi
2018 Audi RS 5. Courtesy Audi

Visually, the RS 5 stands apart from its more sedate A5 sibling via blistered front and rear wheel arches, a sharp-edged front fascia with gaping air intakes, a subtle lip spoiler on the boot lid, massive oval tailpipes and a purposeful-­looking rear diffuser. There are also gloss-black air vents at the outer edges of the head and taillights, but these are purely for show.



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There are lots of options, including a carbon-fibre roof that saves 3kg, various other carbon-­fibre bits on the bodywork, 20-inch rims (19-inchers are standard) and LED headlights.

My drive route at the international launch comprises a thrash from Toulouse to minuscule principality Andorra. The first section is freeway, where the RS 5 effortlessly eats up the miles. In the Pyrenees foothills, the roads become more interesting, with more twists than a Hitchcock whodunnit.

The Audi makes brisk progress across the sinuous stretch – even in damp conditions – but doesn’t feel as sledgehammer-­fast as the raw numbers suggest. It feels safe and sure-footed – the quattro all-wheel-drive system apportions torque to front and rear in a 40:60 ratio – yet doesn’t manage to serve up the thrills (and spine-tingling soundtrack) that you get in an M4 or C63. Its eight-speed auto is smooth and quick-shifting, but lacks the urgency of the M4’s dual-clutch transmission.

The other chink in the Audi’s armour is that ride quality gets distinctly choppy if you slot the DriveSelect system into ­Dynamic mode. It’s far better to leave it in Comfort, unless you’re on a billiard-table-­smooth racetrack.

On the plus side, the RS 5 serves up a healthy dollop of grunt once you get the engine spinning at more than 2,500rpm, and it’s more forgiving and less taxing than an M4 or C63. It’s more of a grand tourer, albeit a rapid one, and Audi says this is what it’s meant to be. It’s a handsome looker, too – especially in the eye-catching Sonoma Green paintwork that blends in so well with Andorra’s lush surrounds.

Updated: August 12, 2017 05:41 PM