Over the next few weeks, I can guarantee that you’ll see the Audi RS5 go up against all sorts of rivals.

The BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 are the main competition, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the suave yet practical Italian choice, and you’ve also got less common selections such as the Lexus RC F.

These may be valid comparisons, but they’re all a bit, well, obvious. Instead, my mind was drawn to another four-seat coupé that shares a mechanical layout, price (sort of) and even badge. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Audi Quattro 20V.


This isn’t just a reason for me to drive a childhood idol, even though I’ll freely admit to that being part of my plan. According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, its list price was within £1000 of what a new RS5 costs in today’s money, and it filled a similar brief. Both are rapid ways to cross country whatever the weather, are packed full of technology and are even reasonably sensible.

A power output of 217bhp and 0-62mph time in the low six seconds may be hot hatch territory these days, but they were seriously impressive back in 1990. Even now, the Quattro gathers pace with ease while emitting an unmistakable five-cylinder growl from its 2.2-litre motor. It’s just a shame this fantastic noise is surprisingly muted, even if you push the engine to the top of its rev range. Not that you’ll need to that much, because it pulls strongly from just over 2000rpm yet is happy to rev higher than many modern turbo lumps.

The RS5’s V6 has an extra turbocharger, cylinder and 700cc. Add 27 years of engine development and it’s no great surprise that it’s more than twice as powerful, at 444bhp. It’s louder too; especially when our test car’s sports exhaust is switched to Dynamic mode. Even so, the contrived parps and slightly soulless six-cylinder note are less characterful than the old five-pot.