The Audi RS5 Sportback has a very take-no-prisoners approach to high-performance motoring
Audi is making a bunch of truly phenomenal cars these days. And that’s causing me some grief. No, not the cars themselves, of course. The problem is with the reviews I end up writing, which tend to go a bit overboard with praise for the cars’ performance. Take the last Audi I drove — the S5 — which made me fall deeply in love with its screaming, rasping, turbocharged V6, intense acceleration, and terrific handling. Predictably enough, I wrote a rather glowing review, which was subsequently accused by the editor of being ‘gushing’ and ‘breathless.’ Oh, the shame.
Suitably chastised, I made a mental note at that time to be more critical in the future. How the Gods must have laughed, though, because the very next Audi that I’ve ended up writing about is the new RS5 Sportback, which is considerably faster and much more powerful than the S5. Like the S5, the RS5 is powered by a 2.9-litre turbocharged V6, but instead of the former’s 354bhp and 500Nm of torque, the latter packs 450 horsepower and 600Nm of torque, making it one of the heaviest hitters in the Audi line-up. For those who might be wondering about the big difference in power output between the two cars, given that they have the same engine capacity, the S5’s V6 is a twin-scroll, single-turbo unit, while the RS5 has a twin-turbo V6.
Before we get into the specifics of the RS5’s performance, let’s first talk about its styling. The first adjective that comes to mind to describe the RS5’s design is aggressive. It’s a big, handsome, low-slung hunk of metal with loads of presence. Its assertive front grille and assortment of air vents, scoops, and spoilers complement the car’s squat stance, muscular haunches, flared wheel-arches, and massive alloy wheels. Right off the bat, the RS5 makes its sporting intent loud and clear. There’s nothing subtle or understated about this car’s underlying menace; the RS5 puts it out there for all to see, it threatens and intimidates. It’s a brute, a barroom brawler that’s not afraid to pick a fight.
In Audi-land, the show is always backed up by more-than-enough go, and that’s where the RS5 makes the strongest case for itself. With quattro permanent all-wheeldrive and self-locking centre differential, the aforementioned 450bhp gets divided between all four wheels, with a 40:60 power split between the front and rear ends in normal driving conditions. Find a long, empty stretch of road and the courage to floor the RS5’s throttle, and you’re rewarded with a deep, guttural roar as the car rockets away from standstill. Zero to 100kph comes up in 3.9 seconds, which is barely half a second slower than, say, a Ferrari Portofino. Impressive, right?
The RS5’s top speed is electronically limited to 250kph, which is the same as the S5’s top speed. A tiny bit disappointing, don’t you think, given that the RS5 costs about 20 per cent more? Admittedly, it’s tough to find a stretch of expressway in India where you actually can go faster than 250kph. But it’s not that you would, but that you could. It’s about bragging rights. Mine’s bigger than yours. So, yes, I wish Audi had given the RS5 a longer leash; 280kph would have been nice.
More useful than its top speed — and endlessly entertaining — is the way the RS5 accelerates through the gears. With an 8-speed automatic transmission serving as the perfect conduit for the twin-turbo V6’s furious power delivery, the RS5 loves to show off its athleticism at every opportunity. Push the go pedal and you get immediate, hard acceleration regardless of engine rpm and gear position; everything else on the road is well and truly blown into the weeds.
The RS5’s rocketry isn’t limited to straight-line acceleration and top speed runs, however. With quattro AWD, sticky low-profile 265/35 Continental tyres on 19-inch alloys, and independent multi-link suspension at both ends, the RS5 lives for high-speed corners. Find some traffic-free roads and a set of corners if you can (getting up really early in the morning helps), and the RS5 really struts its stuff, changing direction swiftly and decisively, always offering huge amounts of grip and stability. On public roads, even the best drivers aren’t likely to even begin to approach the RS5’s limits — exploring the outer limits of this car’s dynamic abilities is best left for the racetrack. Go ahead, book a track-day at the Buddh Circuit if you really want to have a proper go in the RS5.
For all its outwardly menace and hardedged performance, the RS5’s interiors are as plush and luxurious as you’d expect of an Audi that costs more than Rs 1 crore. The seats are upholstered in dark Alcantara and leather, and are nicely snug and supportive, in keeping with the car’s sporting intent. A chunky, flat-bottomed steering wheel, textured aluminium trim on the dashboard and Audi’s best-in-class infotainment system, which comprises a fully-digital ‘virtual cockpit’ instrument panel and centrally-placed touchscreen that allows the driver to control all of the car’s settings and functions, are some of the more interesting features of the RS5’s well-built cabin. It’s reasonably spacious, though bear in mind that this is quite a low-slung car, so getting in and out might be a bit of a challenge for some. That said, the RS5 is a comfortable car that can easily accommodate four adults and even the ride quality is okay, despite the firm, performance-oriented suspension.
To sum up, the Audi RS5 is a force to reckon with; those who love aggressive, high-performance German cars will love this one. With an ex-showroom price of Rs 1.04 crore, the RS5 certainly costs a lot of money, but the trade-off, in terms of the car’s sheer power and performance, should make it well worth the price. Interestingly enough, the RS5 doesn’t have much competition in India for now. The BMW M3 hasn’t arrived here yet and while the Mercedes-Benz E53 AMG 4Matic+ offers similar spec, the driving experience is quite different. So, yes, the RS5 is in a league of its own and if you love going very, very fast, now might be the time to pay a quiet visit to your banker friends.
However, here’s a pro tip: If you aren’t looking at setting any new lap records at BIC and also want to save money, you could also take a careful look at the Audi S5, which is every bit as much fun to drive as the RS5, in a package that looks just as good and, perhaps, sounds even better. Just don’t tell Audi we told you so.