Powered up Audi RS5 delivers absurd pace from its Porsche-derived engine, and is also wonderfully comfortable and complete with the classiest cabin in the class. It goes up against super-coupes like the BMW M4, Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe and Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Did you know? The twin-turbo V6 in the RS5 is just 2.9-litres in capacity, the S5 below it has a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6
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If Audi’s RS department is consistent in one thing it’s its inconsistency. It has the ability to create some sensational cars, and the on-paper promise of the RS5 looks promising. Lighter, more powerful, a sophisticated four-wheel drive system with standard Sports Differential, and pouting assertive looks wrapping up all that technology. Looks and fit and finish, are, as expected, exceptional. But to drive it’s just not thrilling enough compared to its two most obvious rivals in the shape of BMW’s M4 and Mercedes-AMG’s C63 coupes. Indeed, we’d struggle to justify spending the extra it commands over its S5 relation.
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Detailed looks, fine build
Monster all-round ability.
Cools virtual cockpit.
We Don’t Like
Fast, yes, but not engaging.
Fake exhaust pipes.
Tiny wheel paddle-shifters.
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On looks alone the RS5 is a winner. Take the already pleasing form of the A5 coupe and add some ur-Quattro and, says Audi, its 90 quattro IMSA GTO race car for inspiration and you’ve got the RS5. We’re not sure about that IMSA link, but there are definitely overtones of that original Quattro, thanks in no small part to the blistered wheel-arches. Standard 19-inch alloy wheels fill them, but with 20s on the options list it’s unlikely any will leave the showroom without the bigger wheel choice.
Audi does technical and detail design impeccably, the RS5 gaining the usual RS accoutrements to assert its top-dog status. There’s a honeycomb front grille in a large, brushed metal frame, each side of which nestle sizeable intakes to cool the RS5’s engine and brakes. Around the back it’s more of the same, a sizeable diffuser framed by a pair of huge exhaust finishers. Don’t look too closely at those pipes, as they’re rather apologetically filled by some rather less substantial real ones. Audi is not alone in its tailpipe subterfuge, but it’s disappointing regardless.
Elsewhere, the changes are more authentic, it’s impossible to miss the huge brakes behind the alloy wheels’ spokes. The front discs can optionally offered with ceramic discs if you’ve money to burn. There’s a Black Styling Pack if you want to remove the brushed metal exterior finishes, and, if you want to spend about lb13,000 more, the RS5 Carbon Edition. It brings exterior carbon fibre on the roof, wing mirrors, rear spoiler, front splitter and other exterior grille surrounds and trim styling elements (including the engine cover), as well as 20-inch wheels as standard.
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Like the exterior the interior builds on the already impressive base offered in lesser A5 models. Fit and finish is masterful, the material quality beautiful and the design blending pleasing visual and operational functionality to superb effect. Aluminium trim inlays are standard in the regular RS5, with carbon fibre interior elements in the Carbon Edition, with darker aluminium or piano black offered as cost options. Being the range-topping, sporting model the RS5 adds deep, figure-hugging seats covered in fine leather with contrasting stitching, it difficult to deny there’s a huge sense of occasion inside the RS5.
That is boosted further by the standard fitment of Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, with its sizeable configurable digital display where conventional instruments would usually reside. It allows displays of anything from sat nav to entertainment information, with any mix in-between, though selecting the more overt driving modes sees the instruments change to reflect them. To that there’s a second screen on top of the centre dash, it operated by Audi’s familiar, simple MMI dial situated on the transmission tunnel.
As a coupe there are some practicality compromises, but, really, they’re not quite as limiting as you might imagine. The rear seats are decently accommodating, allowing adults back there if they’re flexible enough to get past those sports front seats. They’re perfectly adequate for children, though there are only two seats in the back. The suspension’s focus does impact on the RS5’s comfort over its less performance-orientated relations, but, again, it’s not so bad as to rule out the RS5 as your daily-driving family car.
The boot is the same size as its A5 relations, so there’s a sizeable 465 litres of carrying capacity, that greater than both the Mercedes-AMG C63 and BMW M4 coupes. If that’s not enough, or you’re carrying a longer load, the rear seats split and fold in a 40/20/40 format. An RS5 Sportback, with a hatchback boot and rear doors, is rumoured to be in the works if you fancy this sleek Audi but need a more versatile body.
Technology & Connectivity
Take a deep breath, the list here includes an 8.3-inch MMi display operated by a touch sensitive control panel and rotary dial, sat nav with online updates traffic info, a 10gb jukebox, DVD drive for CDs and video DVDs, Audi Connect safety and Infotainment services, 10 loudpeskers, Smartphone interface, DAB radio, 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit with RS-specific display, LED interior lighting as standard on all.
Ultimately, while the latest Audi infotainment system takes some getting used to – particularly given how much of it is controlled via the steering wheel and is viewed on the spectacular digital driver’s dials – it’s about the best system going. Only BMW can match it for technical wizardry and user-friendliness.
To that, the Carbon Edition adds the Extended LED Interior Light Pack inside, and Audi’s RS Matrix LED headlights and LED rear lights with dynamic front and rear indicators.
Optionally there’s a sizeable selection of kit to add to that. Oddly, you’ll have to pay for auto-dimming folding exterior mirrors with memory function, as well as electrically adjusted front seats and seat heating. Audio choices include the Comfort and Sound pack, which brings a Bang & Olufson that adds a further 9 speakers for 3D sound. Also included in that pack is a rear-view camera and an electric hands-free boot operation. You can pay for wireless charging for your smartphone, and there’s the option of a head-up display, too. Driver and safety aids are also offered as packages, which are outlined below under Safety Features.
Performance & Handling
The RS5 has downsized, at least regarding its engine size and cylinder count. Where a 4.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 nestled under the bonnet of the old one there now resides a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6. What you lose in cylinders and capacity you gain in flexibility. There’s no more power, it still the same 443bhp of the V8, but the torque swells, not just in actual output, but its spread. There’s 442lb.ft of twist, that maximum offered from 1,900rpm and hanging around until 5,000rpm. It’s enough, combined with the quattro four-wheel drive system’s huge traction, to allow the RS5 to reach 62mph in 3.9 seconds, and, if you’ve paid a few pounds shy of lb1,500 for a raised speed limiter, up to 174mph (155mph as standard). To put that into perspective that’s quicker to 62mph than any standard 911 Carrera, and you’ll need a BMW M4 CS or Mercedes-AMG C63 S to match it – and then, only in the dry.
Brisk then, very, the RS5 a hugely rapid conveyance, the eight-speed automatic it now features gaining a ratio over the old car’s 7-speed unit, but losing a bunch of clutches in the process. It’s a torque convertor now, rather than a dual-clutch transmission, though its shifts are so swift you’d be doing well to spot the difference. There’s the ability to shift yourself, but the ‘paddles’ are so pathetically small, and, unusually for Audi, not particularly tactile, that you sense nobody who developed the RS5 ever actually used them. Telling, that. The torque rich turbo engine and that gearbox work together to be anywhere fast, the urgency the RS5 offers never wanting. That is quite a contrast to the old 4.2-litre V8’s delivery, which needed commitment and plenty of revs to produce its best.
For all its mighty pace there’s little real incentive to exploit it, yes, it sounds good – better if you choose the optional Sports Exhaust – but it lacks the singularity of purpose of its direct rivals. Where an AMG C63 S will delight and sometimes frighten, or a BMW M4 thrill and occasionally frustrate the RS5 just gets on with the job of going quickly. That competence, and the ease by which it’s generated is both impressive, as well as the RS5’s downfall. There’s a detachment, an aloofness to how it produces it power, that it’s lacking in the engagement and thrills that its competition dish out so much more comprehensively.
Handling and comfort
You might think at this level you’d be getting the best of everything, but Audi lets you spend some more to further the dynamic ability of the standard RS5. It is unlikely then that any will be bought without the RS Sport suspension with Dynamic Ride Control and Dynamic Steering, that pair of options adding around lb3,000 to the RS5’s list price. It’s probably worth it too, as with that suspension choice it rides with remarkable civility, being supple enough to not be brittle on broken surfaces, but offering the sort of body and wheel control you want with something packing so much grunt. That’s true even on the optional 20-inch wheels, which you’ll need if you go all-in and choose the Ceramic brake option.
Audi’s Sport Differential does, mercifully, come as standard equipment, it instrumental in other fast Audis in delivering more appealing dynamics. With it, and the quattro system’s 40/60 standard torque split the RS5 can, at times, do a relatively convincing job of feeling rear-driven. We’re not talking the indulgent, constant corrective steering intimacy of its genuinely rear-driven competition, more the feeling that the rear-axle is the more dominant of the pair. There’s the option to use the various differing drive modes, or set up an individual choice, which is the preferable option. Do that and you can enjoy the speedier response of gearshifts and the engine, without having to diminish the ride quality with more taut suspension settings. Choosing anything other than Comfort for the steering only adds weight, without any actual increase in feel – which is lacking anyway – or accuracy.
Set it up how it suits you though and there’s no denying it’s ruthlessly capable, particularly if the conditions are, well, British. Here, the RS5 will keep putting down its power where its rivals will be skittish handfuls, but then that’s arguably part of their appeal. The RS5 in comparison has such high limits, of both grip and traction, that you can pretty much chuck it around any given corner at the speed you choose, confident that it’ll go around it. Impressive, no question, but for all its ability if you’re after thrills you’ll have a lot more of them in its competition.
Recommended engine: RS5
Euro NCAP lists the A5, which the RS5 is based on, alongside its A4 saloon relation. With their structures, lack of rear doors notwithstanding, so similar the scores are transferrable. Extra tests were conducted on the A5 to confirm this. Adult, child and pedestrian scores are all impressive, with the safety assist score of 75%.
Standard safety equipment includes Multi Collision Brake assist, a pop-up bonnet for pedestrian protection, six airbags, Audi Side Assist and Pre-sense City autonomous braking. Somewhat disappointingly at this price point is the need to tick options boxes to get the most advanced safety-related kit.
Two optional packs are offered, a Driver Assistance Pack – Tour, which brings Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop&Go Traffic Jam Assist, Pre-Sense Front which raises the Pre-Sense City’s automatic braking function right up to 155mph, traffic sign recognition, Collision Avoidance Assistant, Turn Assist and Active Lane Assist. To that you can add Parking Pack Advance, which in addition to finding parking spaces and helping get in them, adds a 360 degree camera, Audi Pre-sense Basic and Rear, Audi Side Assist, Cross-traffic Assist rear and Exit warning. You have to pay for Tyre pressure monitoring, which is just plain mean.
Spec & Trim Levels
Nardo Grey solid is standard on the RS5, the Carbon Edition offered with that, but also available with all the metallic choices that are cost options on the standard RS5. They include Mythos Black, Glacier White, Floret Silver, Daytona Grey Pearl, Navarra Blue, Misano Red and Sonoma Green. If they’re not bold enough there’s Audi Exclusive paint, which ups the wildness of the palette through Viper Green, Solar Orange, Nogaro Blue, Dark red mica, Palace Blue pearl and Vegas Yellow Pearl. Outlandish as some of them are, they’ll never satisfy everyone, so there’s also the option to have customised paint – for the same price as the exclusive range.
Nappa leather covers the interior, with a choice of black with red stitching, black with grey stitching or a ‘silver’, more grey in reality, leather with grey stitching. Metal trim is standard, Carbon with the Carbon Edition. If you choose the Carbon Edition the only leather option is the black with red stitching inside.
Two choices, standard RS5 or the Carbon Edition. There’s a sizeable jump in price between the two, making the already expensive RS5 eye-wateringly so. We’d avoid the Carbon Edition and instead spend the extra it commands on some choice options, like 20-inch wheels, RS Sport Suspension with Dynamic Ride Control, Sport exhaust system.
Standard equipment is comprehensively listed in the sections above, but if you’re buying the Carbon Edition in addition to the carbon styling, you gain 20-inch wheels, red brake callipers, RS sport exhaust system, Matrix LED headlights and extended interior LED multi-coloured lighting.
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked – braked
n/a not rated for towing
Nobody looks at the RS5 brochure and thinks how much is this going to cost to run, because in short, it’ll be expensive. It’s not only pricey to buy, but with economy quoted at 32.5mpg on the official combined cycle, and a lot less in reality, then you’ll be a regular at the fuel station. That economy, nor the 197g/km CO2 it emits, is the same for 20-inch wheels over the standard 19-inch ones, so there’s no penalty for being vain. If you want to lease and RS5 then you’ll pay around lb650-lb700 a month on a business or personal lease, that leaping to about lb1000 if you go for the pricier Carbon Edition.
Reliability and servicing
A three-year warranty is standard, with unlimited miles in the first two years and 60,000 miles in the third. There’s a 12-year anti corrosion warranty, 3 year paint warranty and 3 years of roadside assistance and recovery. To that you can extend your warranty to 4 or 5 years as a cost option. Servicing is variable, based on use, the car letting you know when it needs checking. Audi scores well, if not amazingly, on reliability indexes, and there’s plenty of dealers who’ll look after you should you have a fault.
Variable – condition based
Variable – condition based
Pound-for-pound the RS5 competes well with its intended rivals, being a bit more expensive than a standard BMW M4, but sitting almost exactly level with an AMG C63 and the M4 Competition Pack. The Carbon Series is priced alongside a C63 S and less than an M4 CS, so Audi has pitched it about right – even if it looks like strong money. In truth though, while on paper it’s up there with those rivals, the reality is it just doesn’t feel as special to drive as either, indeed, if we’re being honest we’d struggle to recommend the RS5 over its significantly cheaper S5 relation.
A Carbon Edition model with all the options will satisfy those tech-minded, but it won’t come cheap.
It’s the range-topper in the A5 line-up, but if luxury is your thing we’d go with the standard car with bespoke paint and the grey interior leather choice.
Forget the Carbon Edition and instead have an RS5 with the Sports Exhaust, 20-inch wheels and RS Sport suspension options.
Not perfect, but in CS guise or with the Competition Pack the M4 will thrill far more than the Audi RS5.
Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe
AMG is playing its a-game presently, and the C63 S Coupe underlines that. Hilarious, the RS5 trails it significantly on the fun factor.
Alpina B4 S Bi-Turbo
Alpina does understated speed beautifully, the B4 S Biturbo Coupe underlining that. The swift connoisseur’s choice.
Porsche 911 Carrera 4
A 911 Carrera 4 might not be as quick, but with four-seats and four-wheel drive it’ll thrill so much more than the RS5.
A 5.0-litre naturally-aspirated V8, the Lexus is fun, but not as polished and rounded as its German rivals.