Our really good road is the B4391 that joins Bala and Ffestiniog in north Wales. Cutting through the spectacular Snowdonia National Park, it’s one of the best stretches of tarmac for testing a quick car that I’ve ever come across.
Although our benchmark for the Audi is approaching its tenth year in production, if the RS5 comes away from this bout with anything other than a red face, we can be pretty sure it’s a very capable performance coupé indeed. A few years ago, I’d have laughed at this comparison, writing off the Audi before a wheel had even turned. But Audi Sport, as Ingolstadt’s go-faster division is now known, has been on good form of late: the R8 is as mighty as it’s ever been, while the new TT RS and RS3 are both far superior to the models they replaced. Audi Sport’s latest might just give the GT-R a fright.
With the two parked side-by-side for the first time in the hotel car park, it’s advantage Nissan. The Audi is more classically handsome and looks more mature but, alongside the snarling, winged-andvented brute, it just looks a tad anonymous. A bit of a soap bar, isn’t it? The flared box arches could be so appealing if they were just a bit more prominent.
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The scores are levelled once you open the door, though. The RS5’s slick, high-quality cabin makes the GT-R’s interior look like something you’d store your firewood in –and that’s after the 2017 model year refresh, which introduced a muchimproved dashboard design with more premium switchgear for the minor controls (a special mention for the metal heater controls, which are some of the nicest I’ve ever used).
So the GT-R has more presence and the RS5 the better cabin. Their specs sheets tell very different stories, for while the Nissan is faster and more powerful, the Audi is just so much more modern. Its twin-turbo V6 is an efficient, downsized 2.9-litre unit compared with the GT-R’s raucous, fuel-hungry 3.8. In fact, the RS5 is so much a super-coupé for the modern age that it even does without a dualclutch gearbox. Manufacturers are starting to move away from dualclutch technology because they’re increasingly able to extract ultraquick shift times from smoother, lighter and cheaper torque converter automatics, which is exactly the sort of transmission the RS5 employs.
The Nissan, meanwhile, was among the first to embrace what was a very modern dual-clutch technology a decade ago. Tellingly, as we’ll find out, the two gearboxes feel spookily similar out on the road.
The GT-R is rated at 562bhp, which gives it an advantage of 118bhp over the RS5. The Audi counters with a 1655kg kerb weight, which makes it almost 100kg lighter than the Nissan. Chubbier or not, the GT-R is the faster car, though; it fires from a standstill to 62mph in 2.8sec, more than one second quicker than the RS5.