Audi RS5 review

Two sports coupes released within weeks of each other represent unprecedentedly polar extremes of two-door fun. One you see on this page. 

The other wouldn't normally be mentioned in a review of a prestige car. Having just returned from as legal a fang as it's possible to have on public roads, I'm wondering whether Audi - and its uber-sophisticated rivals - might not learn something from Subaru's BRZ?

Chalk and cheese, you say? Industrial beer to Dom Perignon? Ignoring the $130,000 disparity, the game-changing Soob shows us that less can be, if not more, then enough.

Autobahn-stormingstyle acceleration means little unless you've regular recourse to a track. Certainly I can't claim to have had any less fun in the much “lesser'” car. Rather more, actually.

That said, the RS5 is, of course, clinically excellent, a rousing muscle car with naturally aspirated V8 stonk and sound to deliver on its aggressive and now mildly enhanced lines. 

“Muscle car”' is the motif. In a sense, the A4/A5 range hero car doesn't have a direct competitor. Sure, it's always slapped up against BMW's M3, but lack of imagination doesn't make a comparison valid.

The Renn (Racing) Sport 5 is more an uber-HSV, more American in its visual and dynamic execution - a kilometre-crushing grand tourer and ballsy boulevard cruiser. Despite being a midlife remake rather than a new model per se, it is discernibly improved.

Purveyor of the least satisfying steering feel of any car maker to call itself "sporty", Audi's new electro-mechanical set-up flouts convention of bettering the old hydraulic system. But you will want to tick the $2400 dynamic steering option that imbues the tiller with a sense of feedback.

Our tester was optioned up to $176,140, with $6300 bucket seats and a package including 20-inch alloy wheels. Take these if you must, but don't whine about getting a numb bum from the unforgiving pews and the terse ride.

Also newish, despite the familiar 4.2-litre displacement, is the naturally aspirated V8 that revs to a sky-high 8500rpm, a bit more powerful and markedly cleaner than the previous motor. That's driven through a seven-speed twin-clutch auto that's been successfully recalibrated for smooth delivery at low speed. No DSG-like stuttering here.

Hard to complain of the newest quattro all-wheel-drive transmission, which can send 70 per cent of torque to the front wheels and 85 to the rear, enhanced by a sports diff. Again, it's clinically excellent but not the most visceral or engaging get-up.

Even ignoring the naughty launch control trick (one warning from the constabulary in a day is enough for me), the RS5 gets from zero to licence-shredding velocity in less than 5.0 seconds with the gear lever in Sport, triggering all the aural response you could want.

This is two distinct cars or three or even four, depending on what combination you dial up via the drive select modes, now selected via a dash button rather than by distracting knob-twiddling. Most are redundant. Auto leaves the various suspension, throttle, steering settings to the car's mighty brain; Dynamic engages sport and loosens the leash, but never to any eye-widening degree.

Traction is cat-on-curtain adhesive. The bulky two-door isn't easily shifted from any well-chosen line, carrying highly impressive speed with next to no body roll through the tightest bends with a wide open window before the stability control sticks its nose in. After years of absurdly touchy brakes, these mighty stoppers have real feel through the pedal.

VERDICT

The RS5 is an inherently well-balanced, hugely capable and deeply forgiving device. It's also one that - ignoring the scandalous Subaru comparison - doesn't offer much more than the $30K cheaper S5. Nor, for that matter does it crease the corners of the mouth in the same way as previous RS gambits. As we say, that's, well...clinically excellent.

Audi RS5 Coupe

Price: $161,400
Warranty: 3yr/unlimited km
Resale: 56 per cent
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Safety features: 6 airbags, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating: 5 stars
Engine: 4.2-litre V8 petrol, 331kW/430Nm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch auto; AWD
Thirst: 10.5L/100km, 270g/km COf2
Dimensions: 4.6m (L), 1.9m (W), 1.4m (H)
Weight: 1753kg

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