The firm continued to develop the Quattro, but when it was dropped in the 1990s, there was nothing to take its place.
Oh, sure, the recent R8 has taken Audi straight to the heady heights of supercardom – but in the more affordable sector, fast Audis have been conspicuously absent.
But, no longer. Here, see, is the RS5: complete with 450bhp 4.2-litre V8 that will leave a BMW M3 trembling – for half the price of an R8.
In Audi hierarchy, S models such as the S5 are the discreetly rapid ones. RS versions are the hardcore performance sister cars to them – usually in a totally different league. This one is no different.
Engine? The RS5’s hand-built V8 motor is basically the V10 from the flagship R8 supercar with a couple of cylinders lopped off. That, right away, should give you an idea of where this car is coming from.
It’s a pleasure to use, offering the low-down shove of traditional V8s but matching the M3’s crazed high-rev madness too. The redline, for instance, does not cut in until 8,500rpm. And all the way there it sounds magnificent, a deep-chested V8 rumble erupting into a fierce bellow as the revs build.
As standard, it uses a seven-speed S-Tronic automatic gearbox. This has been tuned to produce relentless acceleration – 0-62mph takes just 4.6 seconds, while the ‘limited’ 155mph top speed can be raised to 174mph if you so wish.
This, note, is still limited… Befitting the Audi heritage, the company has treated the RS5 to a technical overload. There is a staggering amount of advanced-level hardware here, controlled by cutting-edge software.
This includes a centre differential that can send power to pretty much wherever it wants, and diagonally-linked dampers that lead to minimal body roll. There are also hi-tech adjustable dampers, which can be profiled using the Audi Drive Select system.
But it’s the way this power can be deployed that really impresses. On the UK’s oft-treacherous roads, this is a real advantage.
However, just be careful you don’t go too extreme on the suspension settings if you’re planning to travel on the worst of our roads – it’s pretty stiff when set up to the max…
Mind you, it fares better for economy: 252g/km CO2 and 26.2mpg will win no awards, but they’re not bad given the car’s pace.
But despite all this clout and ability, Audi still hasn’t forgotten one of the most important aspects: How a car looks. Hugely impressive behind the wheel, there’s no missing the RS5 on the road either.
It has squared-off wheelarches that reference the famed Quattro, while there are special spoilers, wheels and – of course – badges everywhere you look. RS Audis are cult Audis, and this one leaves onlookers in no doubt about it. S versions may be subtle, but these are anything but…
It can’t fail to impress us, the mighty RS5. For technical ability mated to Germanic precision and the now-familiar Audi ‘cool’ factor, it’s well up there. The noise is delicious and the looks spot-on. Thing is, do we love it like we do the original Quattro? That’s another matter. For, while it’s amazing, we can’t help but feel it’s just that bit too clinical.
Not that buyers will mind. Gene Hunt is the coolest man on TV right now: clinical he isn’t, making him the perfect sop to the original Quattro. The RS5 is our way of living a little of his life in real life…
by DAN TRENT