The first-generation A5 coupe had what was perceived to be an extraordinarily long life, resulting in an RS-fettled version that was also subject to the same incremental but appreciable semi-annual updates. It also helped that the base car aged very gracefully, meaning that it always seemed like a fresher machine than it necessarily was.
The all-new RS5, somewhat understandably, does not depart from the visual cues established by its predecessor. Rather, it introduces some new technology, a modern design inside and out, near-unbelievable build quality and materials, and doubles down on the car’s more GT-like tendencies while at the same time now being powered by a twin-turbocharged V6 with potentially crushing performance.
Those former points are all attributes applicable to the all-new A5 on which it’s based as well as the A4 sedan that forms the foundation of this coupe interpretation. While non-RS models can be described as austere, dignified, even a little dull, saying the same about the RS5 much more difficult
But is the RS5 a car that’s clearly being pulled a few different directions. It seems to be equally intent on being a rocket ship as it does being a mild-mannered cruiser, while also boasting about nimble dynamics that could be a little too ambitious. Given its size, weight, proportions, and the kind of image the Audi badge carries, a cosseting GT is certainly a better mould for it to fit into. Audi Sport, formerly known as quattro GmbH, has other ideas.
The new RS5 certainly looks the part, thanks to muscular styling that’s said to be influenced by the firm’s monstrous 90 quattro IMSA GTO race car, which dominated American sportscar racing in late eighties.” - EVO
Make an A5 really mad (call it fat a few dozen times, maybe) and the kind of scowl that you might imagine would result roughly matches the aggressive treatment that has been applied to the RS5. It’s not overt nor is it subtle, which is likely what Audi’s designers were trying hard to achieve. Overall, it's quite an object to behold.
The large gaping grille, broadened shoulders, lowered stance, and more pronounced character lines all work together to give the RS5 an altogether more menacing aura that can be appreciated more as it draws near.
If your interpretation of this RS5 is that it doesn’t look meaningfully different to the version it replaces, that’s a completely valid argument. However, should that be a deal breaker, it unfortunately seems that Audi is pretty happy with how their cars look - and have looked - for a few years now. By that token, it certainly is immediately recognisable, and you certainly won’t mistake it for anything but an RS Audi.
Engine and Drivetrain
“Where its predecessor dispensed progress in escalating staccato lunges at the redline, the V6 unfurls itself through the medium of the mid-range. Its surge is prodigious, unthreatening and seamless…” - Autocar
Audi and Porsche, cousins via the Volkswagen Group as they are, have been closely working together on this new engine - 331kW and 600Nm from a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 takes matters a few notches past the older car’s 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 output. It’s relatively economical too, believe it or not.
The numbers that the RS5 is now able to achieve - 3.9-seconds to 100km/h and flat out of 280km/h with the limiter removed - is mighty impressive. However, has this numerical one-upping come at the expense of character? It’s a shame that this V6 follows one of the most vocally beloved and characterful motors of modern times, where the deficiencies in eliciting an emotional response is an inescapable cloud that looms over.
There’s no denying how brutally effective it is, though. Power delivery is eye-widening with response being almost as good as an atmospheric if they’d workshop the throttle calibration a bit more, but with a pair of blowers forcing in fresh oxygen, the V6 send the car to its 7,200rpm redline at an alarmingly rate if one decides to floor it in 3rd gear or lower.
Speaking of which, Audi has ditched their in-house S tronic dual-clutch transmission in favour of an 8-speed automatic sourced from ZF. We’ve noticed that a number of European manufacturers doing likewise for their high performance wares, such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV and BMW M5, and the reasons are clear. Shifts are imperceptibly smooth at lower speeds but can be blisteringly instant, though a touch more noticeable, upon instruction.
Given the wider spread of ability afforded by a torque converter, the lower mechanical complexity, and the overall increased reliability due to it being a much more broadly understood and established technology, the shift away from the S tronic is not one we noticed and would argue that not many previous RS5 owners will find themselves missing.
But now that it has a V6, albeit one that’s newly developed and equipped with a dual turbos instead of a single twin-scroll, the ‘not-quite-RS’ Audi S5 now stands uncomfortably close. With the same quattro all-wheel drive, a 264kW/500Nm output, and an identical transmission, the S5 sure isn’t a slouch, able to reach the 100km/h mark in 4.0 seconds. Given the premium an RS model is sold at, you’d certainly get more performance per dollar with the less expensive S5, even if you add a few options.
It boils down to just how exotic can they engineer a this new 2.9-litre bi-turbo V6 to feel, and can it then be noticeably more exhilarating than a similar 3.0-litre V6 turbo by the same company? The answer will probably be a no for most people who have either experienced the newest S5 or the older 4.2-litre V8.
Contrasted with the previous car where the engine became a true source of multi-sensory stimulation even if it wasn't as quick, and the B9-generation S5 is probably quick enough for the majority of buyers that look to Audi for high performance.
“There’s no faulting the cabin, though. Everything feels crafted with an absolute attention to detail, and quality is second to none. But just as you feel from behind the wheel, there’s little to mark it out as an RS.” - AutoExpress
While we’re speaking about a sense of occasion, stepping into the RS5 elicits a feeling of familiarity. Apart from a few RS badges here and there, some red highlights here, and a dash of satin metal and Alcantara finishes there, there’s a surprising lack of elements to really differentiate this from an A5 coupe with all the sporty interior cosmetics fitted.
As ever with this generation of Audis, the cabin itself is somehow built from a granite core alchemically transformed into the shape that will ergonomically fit four humans - every piece of the fitments are constructed and assembled impeccably, though this can be said of the A5 and even the A4 for that matter.
However, for a car that delivers supercar levels of performance, the RS5 has to be one of the easiest to live with. There’s really is a lot of room in this cabin while still feeling snug and sporty to the driver, though we have to credit that to the excellent leather sport seats (which are also available on the S5).
Unlike cars like the Porsche 911 that it absolutely competes against (especially on price), the RS5 has far more usable rear seats that are much easier to access, being wide and quite comfortable. Not that it really matters in a car like this, but the boot is also ample enough to theoretically be as practical as a family saloon.
Behind The Wheel
“More broadly it feels at the moment like an enhancement of the S4 and S5's abilities, rather than a transformative overhaul to create a fantastic and rewarding driver's car.” - PistonHeads
'quattro GmbH' - now operating under their newest moniker, Audi Sport - have been noticeably more hit and miss with their high performance offerings, especially those derived from the existing line-up and excluding the mostly unassailable R8.
The RS5’s list of objectives isn’t as single-minded as some of its rivals. Rather, it was engineered to satisfy a broader set of needs: comfortable but quietly menacing grand tourer one minute and razor edged weapon the next. Most cars do tend to lean on one side of this coin to keep a sharp focus, but this car feels like its being pulled equally in both directions, and suffers a little for it.
Even on the largest 20-inch wheel options, the adaptive dampers do a remarkable job of skipping over the more unforgiving of road imperfections, creating a pleasant and easygoing balance when the transmission is allowed to settle the engine into a low RPM cruise on a steady current of turbocharged torque. In this discipline, the Audi is untouchable.
Play around with the sportier settings for engine, steering, transmission, and suspension, though, and it does indeed meaningfully grow some horns. The proceedings feel angrier, louder, and more aggressive. Compared with the previous RS5, this new model’s chassis is more playful in corners, and it’s a delight to feel the power being shuffled only slightly to keep that rotational rear-drive feel.
It certainly does help that the V6 is a good deal lighter than the older V8, lightening the load on the front axle and reducing the nose-heavy sensation brought about due to Audi’s propensity to mount their engines further frontward than normal, even in RS models.
In the right hands, there’s no doubt that this is a devastatingly quick car, perhaps even more so than the BMW M4 around a track. The caveat is that the driver would have to spend a lot of time in the RS5 to feel fully confident due to the somewhat disconnected feeling when pushing it near the edge of its abilities.
Because of how the differentials and transmission operate, the new RS5 just isn’t as analogue or instinctive as its rivals - but we knew it probably wouldn’t be. It often does know better about how to get around a corner the quickest, and it needs a driver who trusts it fully to work alongside it. All that said, it’s dynamically a huge improvement over the older RS5.
Safety and Technology
“…apart from the aforementioned RS dynamic package, standard kit will extend to LED headlights and Audi’s customisable Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster – in RS guise with power, torque, g-force and gearshift meters.” - Motoring.com.au
The structurally identical Audi A5 emerged from the ANCAP evaluation with a full 5-star rating, and we have no reason to believe the RS variant would prove any less safe. A total of 6 airbags surround the passenger cell, and more advanced pre-collision systems such as Autonomous Emergency Braking is available as standard.
Audi’s futuristic Virtual Cockpit makes an appearance here too and is even more effective at conveying a sense of frenetic urgency when you're pushing the car hard than perhaps one of Audi’s analogue gauge clusters. The screen, a 12.3-inch super wide unit filling the entire binnacle, is sharp and saturated with smooth graphics and an interface that’s quite intuitive once the past the initial learning curve.
It acts as a supplement to the Audi MMI infotainment suite that’s primarily operated via an 8.3-inch touchscreen in the top centre and manipulated via rotating pad just ahead of the gear shift lever. Via the optional Technik pack, a head-up display and wireless phone charging can be fitted, though we’d argue against the real world usefulness of either. Regardless, audio is piped through a 19-speaker 755W Bang & Olufsen speaker system.
Despite its ambitions to be the monstrous GT car and infinitely involving coupe simultaneously, the new RS5 is the most rounded among its peers. But that would mean not excelling past those same competitors in arenas that personify cars of this type.
It’s also a car that, in every measure, is one less flawed and more desirable than the version it replaces. The V6 might not offer the sonic thrills in volume or intensity, but has endowed the RS5 with a seamless ability to cover ground at both high and low speeds while freeing more engineering overhead for a more playful character to be coaxed from within what’s usually seen as the most dynamically nondescript of the three fast German coupes.
What is clear, though, is that the RS5 offers the best ride and best interior of the lot. Pair that with the all-weather grip, class-leading practicality, and rakish looks, then suddenly the RS5 package appears much more the logical buy than the M4 or the AMG C 63. Does that mean it’s also head and shoulders above the S5? No. Are the overall enhancements enough to forget the FSI V8? Maybe.
AutoExpress - 4/5 - “The new Audi RS5 is incredibly fast for a big two-door coupe. Its new turbocharged V6 doesn’t make or break the car’s character, but many potential buyers will be left wanting by the inert and predictable handling. Others might find solace in the RS5’s refinement, effortless pace and luxurious interior. Just be sure you know what you want before signing on the dotted line.”
Autocar - 4/5 - “Dig the monster GT vibe, and the car’s established gifts for interior splendour, technical prowess and sharp-edged looks start to make considerable sense – as does the generosity and seamlessness of the twin-turbo lump. Seen from this alternative vantage point, […] the RS5 simultaneously appears limited and perhaps more appealing than it ever has.”
EVO - 4/5 - You shouldn’t let these issues distract you from the fact that dynamically, the RS5 is a vast improvement over its predecessor. And as ever with quick Audis, its ability to safely and securely cover ground at an alarming rate in all weathers is unrivalled.
CarThrottle - The RS5 may have lost two cylinders and a scintillating sound track, but it’s gained so much more. It’s a likeable, entertaining car with depth, if one with a few flaws […], as an all-round package that’s good at pretty much everything, the RS5 is awfully appealing.
PistonHeads - “…on a wider, faster, better surfaced road, the RS5 is a dream: quiet, refined, and able to return more than 35mpg. Lovely. Though if that's your concern, wouldn't you be better served by an S5? Or a diesel perhaps? Talented though the RS5 most certainly is, on this experience, it seems to lack the edge required to mark out an RS product.”
Motoring.com.au - 82/100 - “Those in the market for a smooth, seductive, high-tech four-seat two-door that does all the numbers effortlessly should look no further than the RS 5.”
WheelsMag - “The Audi RS5 secures a niche as being the only all-wheel-drive offering in this segment, so outstanding all-weather traction is a given. It also delivers terrific day-to-day liveability thanks to its ride, equipment, and ergonomics. It’s not as ferocious as the real hard man of this class − that’s the C63 S coupe − but nor does it punish your pelvis the way that car’s unforgiving ride does.”
Drive.com.au - Technocratic driving enthusiasts will love that its mechanical wizardry makes it so easy to drive quickly. And trend setters will appreciate its gorgeously toned exterior and the fusion of industrial electronica with classical craftsmanship of its interior. It’s a brilliant follow-up that is technically better than before, and easier to live with every day. But the RS5 has lost some of its soul and it doesn't rock as hard as its German compatriots.