Audi RS5 review

Open gallery Close by Nic Cackett 22 June 2017 Follow @@autocar Share

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The new Audi RS5: larger, lighter, quicker, cleaner and cleverer than the six-year-old model it replaces.

It is most of these things because alongside the latest MLB platform, Audi has finally swapped out the old naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 for the cutting-edge 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 it has spent the last few years co-developing with Porsche.

Seen from an alternative vantage point, the RS5 simultaneously appears limited and perhaps more appealing than it ever hasNic CackettRoad tester

Naturally, its superior numbers in almost every facet count as reasons to be cheerful – but history dictates caution here, and no little regret.

The previous unit was far more than just a tightly wound bundle of numbers; it was arguably one of the last great atmospheric engines, with a throttle response to die for and the kind of lean, caterwauling soundtrack that effectively had your vein spiked at 8250rpm.

We’d therefore be remiss not to sound a rhetoric last post at its departure and neon signpost the fact that it was easily the best thing about the last model, which fit Ingolstadt’s starchy stereotype about as accurately as a Paulaner brewer fits into lederhosen.

Broadly speaking, the old RS5 was too heavy, too anti-engagement and, over time, too obviously overawed by its rear-driven rivals from BMW and Mercedes.

The differences between new and old Audi RS5

A couple of the new car’s modifications, then, are notable out of the gate. It’s lighter by 60kg in its regular format (thanks mostly to the 31kg-lighter V6), and UK examples get the mechanical rear Sport differential as standard to better compliment the quattro all-wheel-drive system and wheel-selective torque control.

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The chassis is new, too, with a five-link arrangement at the front and back, paired with adaptive dampers (RS Sport suspension with Dynamic Ride Control is an additional option; ditto the RS exhaust system and the traditionally undesirable dynamic steering set-up).

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There’s also a transmission change, with the V8’s dual-clutch seven-speed automatic making way for a ZF eight-speed torque converter.

That means the car shares an engine with the second-generation Porsche Panamera 4S, but not an entire driveline – Audi the auto is a tweaked version of the S5’s automatic.

The V6’s output is different, too: Audi has eked out 10bhp more so it can claim to match the outgoing V8’s 444bhp. Peak torque, predictably, is dramatically superior, with the V6 summoning up 442lb ft from 1900rpm. At the same time, CO2 emissions have been slashed by 17 percent. 

This being Audi Sport, and an RS model to boot, it naturally looks the business. It signals a mild overhaul of the brand’s styling approach – although with its blistered arches, lacerated air intakes and porthole-big oval exhaust pipes, it establishes a familiar scene. The proportions feel about the same, too, despite the 74mm of additional length, which is predominately donated by the MLB’s larger wheelbase.

The RS5’s interior also conforms to type: it’s immaculate and brilliantly made and utterly endearing to touch and look at. UK models get Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel as standard, and the test car we drove in Andorra had enough Alcantara on the door cards, steering wheel and gear shifter to neatly distinguish the RS5 from the closely related Audi S5.

Other standard fitments on the RS5 include 19in alloy wheels, LED head and rear lights, an acoustically glazed windscreen and a wealth of Audi’s latest safety technology. Inside there is a pair of Super Sport electrically adjustable and heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, ambient interior LED lighting, and Audi’s MMI infotainment system with an 8.3in display, sat nav, DVD player, 10GB hard drive storage, DAB radio, smartphone integration and a 10-speaker audio system.

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