From £58,365
A super-coupe with outstanding all-round abilities

Our Verdict

Audi RS5 coupé
The hottest 444bhp version of the A5 coupé range closes in on the BMW M3

The Audi RS5 is a success not only as a premium sports coupé, but as a long-distance cruiser offering an engaging drive.

What is it?

Not only is the RS5 is the latest Audi to wear the RS badge, but it looks every bit the modern-day version of the original Ur-Quattro. And thirty years on, the concept of a fast four-seat, two-door Audi has matured into something very serious indeed.

Powering the RS5 is a new naturally aspirated 4.2-litre producing 444bhp mated to a seven speed dual-clutch gearbox, the first time a RS product has used such a system. The RS5 also has a revised version of the Audi’s four-wheel drive system, with a new centre differential and a new torque vectoring system (which brakes individual wheels), plus the option of a sport rear differential.

Naturally our test car has this fitted, along with the optional ceramic front brake discs, sports exhaust and crucially, Audi’s Dynamic Ride Control. In Germany this is an option, but in the UK it will be standard.

What’s it like?

At this point I could tell you how welcoming and downright easy to drive the RS5 is in mundane everyday traffic. But let’s skip all that and get straight to the point where you’re sat in an RS5 looking at a deserted, arrow-straight piece of road. Because one thing Audi’s dual-clutch ’box will do that a conventional automatic won’t is full-on launch control.

Select dynamic mode on the Drive Select system, switch the ESP off, stand on the brakes, floor the throttle, release the brakes. Cue a perfect standing start, with hardly any transmission shunt or wheelspin, just forward motion. Rest to 62mph takes 4.6sec, and after not much longer the RS5 will hit its limiter at 155mph (or 174mph, if you tick yet another option box).

Okay, you could argue that it’s irrelevant, but this one exercise does illustrate the RS5’s approach to performance: accessible, repeatable, controlled and brutally effective. But also, in its own way, emotional. There are other 400bhp-plus coupés and saloons that are more involving, chiefly because they demand more of their driver to extract maximum performance. But the RS5 is in no way short on entertainment.

How could it be with a V8 engine, one that mixes low-end warble with an 8500rpm redline? Left to its own devices, the gearbox uses both extremes of the engine’s range, but move the lever over to manual mode and the choice is yours. Apply full throttle from low revs in a high gear and there is no kickdown, only V8 bass.

The advantage of Audi’s Drive Select system is that it gives the option to ‘mix and match’ the car’s settings rather sticking to the preset groupings. Deciding on the perfect combination could take a lifetime, but I settled on dynamic for engine and ’box (for the faster gearshifts and downchange blips), comfort for the steering (dynamic doesn’t offer any more feel, just weight) and dynamic for the sport differential (through faster corners it feels more like a rear-driver).

And the suspension? Actually, left in automatic it does a pretty good job of balancing compliance with control, because – and here’s the surprise – the RS5 is a fast Audi that rides well. I’m going to throw in the old caveat that this is based on a German test, where the roads are super-smooth, but I did put the RS5 through a few potholes and it coped pretty well, even on optional 20in wheels. But perhaps this shouldn’t be such a surprise because the previous RS4, which used an earlier version of the hydraulically controlled Dynamic Ride Control, also rode well.

In the RS5 the comfort setting offers the best bump absorption, but the trade-off is a fraction too much body roll if you really throw it at a corner. Switching to dynamic solves this but robs the RS5 of the suppleness it will need in the UK. However, automatic shuffles between the settings, subtly enough that you’ll hardly notice, for the best of both worlds.

Is the RS5 a car you would drive with no destination in mind? Like almost every other Audi, it feels like a piece of heavy machinery, one with deep reserves of engineering capability, but it is also one of the rare Audis that also has a fluidity and delicacy to it. I’d stop short of saying it would be a car I would choose to take on a track day, but for a non-stop return trip from London to the top of Scotland, there are few cars I would be happier to be in.

Partly that’s because of the beautifully finished cabin, and partly it’s because the RS5’s gearbox is so well rounded. But the real reason why the RS5 is so compelling is that when the roads offer entertainment, the RS5 entertains in spades.

Should I buy one?

If you want a super-coupe with outstanding all-round abilities then yes absolutely. For the RS5 is a car with an exceptional breadth of abilities and the type of car that gets better and better with every journey.

Jamie Corstorphine

Join the debate

Comments
46

12 April 2010

[quote Autocar]

straight to the point where you’re sat in an RS5 looking at a deserted, arrow-straight piece of road.

[/quote]

Whatever happened to the word 'sitting'? Who sat you in the car exactly?

Also, will the car be available with a real manual gearbox?

R32

12 April 2010

"the RS5 will hit its limiter at 155mph (or 174mph, if you tick yet another option box)."

Yes well said Autocar - yet another option box. Audi must be one of the worst manufacturers in the world now for screwing their customers for every last penny they can extract out of them. If you are buying an RS5 and it can do 174mph, why don't Audi just sell you the car ready and able to do 174mph. Oh yes, because if they did they wouldn't be able to charge you for it! Another one to add to the growing list of reasons not to buy an Audi.

12 April 2010

[quote R32]If you are buying an RS5 and it can do 174mph, why don't Audi just sell you the car ready and able to do 174mph. Oh yes, because if they did they wouldn't be able to charge you for it! Another one to add to the growing list of reasons not to buy an Audi.[/quote]

I'm sure they'll manage without you. As to the raised Vmax option, I would guess like Mercedes and others the cost of the option comes with driving tuition, which is a sensible way of giving cars like this to some drivers, and is what you are really paying for, not an ECU tweak. Please cut out the blatant anti-Audi disinfo.

As to the write-up, Jamie Corstorphine's is excellent. Is he really the gem of Autocar? That rarest thing, an unbiased, competent driver and writer? Well done Jamie.

12 April 2010

[quote nicksheele]

I'm sure they'll manage without you. As to the raised Vmax option, I would guess like Mercedes and others the cost of the option comes with driving tuition, which is a sensible way of giving cars like this to some drivers, and is what you are really paying for, not an ECU tweak. Please cut out the blatant anti-Audi disinfo.

As to the write-up, Jamie Corstorphine's is excellent. Is he really the gem of Autocar? That rarest thing, an unbiased, competent driver and writer? Well done Jamie.

[/quote]

I agree - great review, about a car I had my doubts about.

With regards to the Vmax raising, usually there is some added value, but also there is that gentlemen's agreement on the 250 km/h top speed for standard models. As Nick rightly points out, Mercedes offer a 186 mph option on some AMG models, with some driving courses etc. I'm confident a serious buyer for this wouldn't be deterred and hopefully some of these will crop up for £25k with low mileages in 3-4 years.

12 April 2010

Finally an A5 that looks nice .... the box arches on the back wheels help to draw my eyes away from that stupid wavy swage line.

Like it.

12 April 2010

I see no reference is made to the RS5's main rival, the M3 coupe. I suspect the excellent M3 will be the better car but the RS5 is, in my mind, far more desirable.

12 April 2010

R8 excepted I have been a bit down on Audi recently, never really understood the early bath for the RS4 - which I still love. This however looks great, certainly gets my vote. And unlike 99.9999% of people I think it has exactly the right gearbox. If it sounds even half as good as the S5 local to me then it will certainly go on my future shortlist.

R32

12 April 2010

[quote nicksheele]I'm sure they'll manage without you.[/quote]

Yes I'm sure they will, but I doubt I'm the only person with the same view. Furthermore, I think you are wrong - the removal of the speed restrictor does not include any driving tuition according to Audi UK. Or maybe they've got it wrong.

12 April 2010

[quote R32] the removal of the speed restrictor does not include any driving tuition according to Audi UK. Or maybe they've got it wrong.[/quote]

it's academic really in UK. Do you want to lose your licence by a squillion mph or a squilllion-and-a-bit?

12 April 2010

[quote nicksheele]it's academic really in UK. Do you want to lose your licence by a squillion mph or a squilllion-and-a-bit?[/quote]


Really? You've never found yourself on a quiet bit of road and floored it?

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