The Audi RS5 is a car that will surprise you. In the images, it looks like just another Audi A5, subtly pumped out but not comprehensively overhauled. In the metal, though, it’s a completely different story. This car looks superb, every inch the wide-arched modern- day Quattro.
Even if you’re not aware of this, onlookers will be. Rare is the Audi that gets this much attention and turns so many heads on the road. People were crossing the road to get a closer look at the Car Dealer test car. It was one of those machines in which you feel a bit like a celebrity. This is the surprising added-extra for buyers.
They’ll be primarily drawn by its status as the latest RS Audi, though. Since the Porsche- developed RS2 of the early 90s, these Audis have been the most tuned-up and extreme cars from Ingolstadt you can buy. There’s never more than one RS version available at any one time: right now, it’s the turn of the A5.
The RS5 is particularly stand-out with flared wheelarches front and rear. These are complemented by matching side skirts, plenty of add-ons, a speed-operated rear spoiler and, of course, large alloys. Oval tailpipes and satin aluminium door mirrors add the final RS signature, while inside, it’s decked out in Nappa leather and (hard) sports seats.
It has tricks, from an advanced new Quattro differential that can divert more power rearwards, to a start-up sequence that blasts the exhaust loudly with pedestrian-startling menace. Luckily, it’s far from all just show.
Be in no doubt, it’s quick, courtesy of a stupendous engine. This was mighty in the RS4 and it’s no less stellar here. Despite being 4.2-litres, the 450bhp V8 will rev to 8,500rpm, making a lovely wail as it does so, yet it’s also rich and smooth in normal use too. Shame the seven-speed auto’s not as lively – downshifts can be lazy. Often necessary, too: 430Nm of torque is pretty average considering its size.
When worked hard, it’ll hit 60mph in 4.6 seconds and is (heavily) electronically limited to 155mph. It feels more than capable of adding another 20mph-plus to that…
Which makes the way the RS5 feels on the road all the more relatively disappointing. Remember, the RS4 was lovely, an Audi like few others, with a supple yet taut chassis and a really composed sporting feel on back roads. Has Audi turned the corner, we thought, from making the fast but sensation-lite cars it was renowned for?
Well, if it did, the RS5 suggests it has since turned back. There’s nothing wrong with the way it handles (well, apart from too much wandering about over uneven roads)… it’s just that there’s little sense of real involvement. The steering is distant, the Quattro drivetrain peerlessly efficient but not all that involving – it’s a ferociously, exceedingly fast and competent car. Just not one that feels so.
This may not matter to its target buyers (for them, a stiff ride may be more of a concern, though). Audi isn’t really targeting the BMW M3 that the RS4 challenged so well with this car. Instead, it’s something more grown up, more exclusive – and, judging by the admiring glances we got in it – something that beats even the M car for eye candy.
That will be enough. Even if you’ve driven it, you’ll forgive a lack of drama for the way it looks. Just don’t expect an RS4 coupe, for with the RS5, Audi’s reverted back to type. Given the plaudits we heaped on the RS4 (and given the heady £58k price tag!), that for us is yet another surprise.