Elsewhere you get Virtual Cockpit digital instruments as standard, which still set the standard for display clarity and configurability of layout. Most importantly, if you want to – let’s say you’ve got a long night drive ahead of you – Audi makes it easy to turn off the central display completely, and to switch the instrument screen into ‘minimal’ mode, in order to reduce that glare you can get from so many sources of artificial light. That can make a big difference to how quickly you tire on a long journey, and how easy it is to keep your eyes on the road – and other manufacturers would do well to follow Audi’s lead on it.
You can make up your own mind about the exterior styling changes. They’re pretty subtle – by far the easiest way to spot one of these new RS5s is likely to be via one of a pair of new paint colours, which are Turbo Blue and Tango Red. The radiator grille’s been made lower and wider, the precise shape and location of various frontal air intakes (both real and, yup, ‘implied’) have been tweaked, and there are new tail-lights and a diffuser panel at the rear. Quite why Audi bothers with so many styling references to the Ur-Quattro here, though – and yet doesn’t bother offering the iconic Nogaro Blue paint of the original RS2 – is somewhat puzzling (to me at least).
There’s a certain relative simplicity and predictability about the way the RS5 goes down the road, which is becoming rare among German performance metal. Unlike an RS6, for example, there is no active- or four-wheel steering here. There’s no height-adjustabile air suspension or active anti-roll bars either. That makes the RS5’s dynamic character a little bit more easy to process, and makes you more confident about what’s going to happen after you switch driving modes and turn in.
That said, it’s only relative simplicity; there are still three transmission modes to choose from, as well as three primary overarching drive modes and two new RS-branded, menu-configurable custom ones. Which all sounds like the opposite of simplicity, I’m sure – but in reality, you’ll probably experiment with individual system set-ups for a bit (for power steering weight, damper stiffness, gearbox and active rear differential calibration, and electronic stabilty control) until you find a combination you like, before ‘saving’ it as one of the ‘RS’ modes.
Do that and you’ll find that the RS5 can combine medium-heavy, moderately paced steering with first-rate handling precision, and good close body control with a firmish but reasonably supple ride. Outright agility isn’t this car’s thing, and neither’s bombastic combustive character or loutish rear-driven driftability. In an ordered list of the most engaging operators of its kind, the RS5 wouldn’t feature highly. But it does have great usability and luxurious habitability, as well as a buttoned-down, super-secure on-road character that makes it easy to drive – and to drive quickly, when the opportunity presents.
The word is that Audi tuned in a little additional exhaust noise to the V6’s audible repertoire for this facelifted car; and that may be so, but the RS5 still needs to be driven under lots of load to even begin to sound particularly interesting. The engine doesn’t have the accessible torque of the best of its rivals, with throttle response feeling a touch soft until you get 4000rpm wound into the crankshaft. At that point, however, the car takes off with a properly vigorous zeal through the lower ratios, and can close in on 7000rpm very rapidly indeed; albeit not that rabidly, funnily enough.