Our world is full of rivalries: dogs vs. cats, Coke and Pepsi, Donald Trump bickering with Rosie O’Donnell. These famous faceoffs are often highly entertaining and sometimes even give us unique perspectives on certain issues.
In the automotive sphere, there are all kinds of binary tussles, like Ford vs. Chevrolet, WRX STI vs. Lancer Evolution and Ferrari vs. Lamborghini. How boring would our world be without these vitriolic rivalries? Probably as bland as daytime TV.
The Audi RS 5 and the Lexus RC F may not have a rich history of head-to-head opposition like other vehicular feuds, but they are pretty much a perfect pairing. Each one has two doors, eight-cylinders, suitably luxurious trimmings and, most importantly, offers the promise of all-out performance. But is there a clear-cut winner? Does one provide more smiles per gallon?
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The components that give each of these fine automobiles their striking vigor, the mechanical heartbeats that provide rivers of thrust, are two alluring powerplants that are as similar on paper as they are different feeling while in motion.
Starting alphabetically, the Audi RS 5 features an old friend, a 4.2-liter V8. Two-by-fours of this displacement have been in the four-ring family for decades, it seems, and each year, they just keep getting better.
This iteration of the powerplant puts out a gallant 450 horses, spinning like a hummingbird to an enthralling 8,250 rpm. Taking it to the max, time and time again is an exhilarating experience, as redline comes up quickly in lower gears and is accompanied by a mechanical noise akin to the music trumpeted by an F1 car’s exhaust pipes.
Despite its high-strung nature, this Audi V8 is still surprisingly flexible at less-than-crazy revolutions. Appropriate gearing keeps it on the boil; direct injection, variable valve timing and other goodies bolster basement-level torque.
But if you want more than the 316 lb-ft of twist provided by this engine, you should consider what the mechanical wizards at Lexus have conjured up. The RC F has a sizeable 800-cc displacement advantage, with a total piston-swept area of 5.0-liters. Not surprisingly, that gives it a generous torque advantage as well, 73 additional lb-ft to be precise, every one of which you feel in the back-rise of your britches.
Beyond that, the Lexus V8 also produces a few extra horsepower, with 467 on tap, a number it delivers without the frantic wail of the Audi.
The RC F’s 5.0-liter engine sings a different tune, one that’s more Woodward Avenue than Watkins Glen. Judging by the throaty rumble, it should have a build date sometime around 1963, because it thunders like an American muscle car.
Aft of the Engines
If you were hoping for a proper three-pedal arrangement with either of these cars, you’re going to be sorely disappointed; both of them are automatic only, which is a real shame. Sure, today’s self-shifting gearboxes are faster, smoother and more efficient than the manuals they’ve all but replaced, though ultimately, they still lack the satisfaction provided by their forebears.
The Audi’s engine is matched to a seven-ratio, dual-clutch automatic that can shift in the blink of an eye, though its Japanese rival does one-up it. The Lexus RC F has an eight-speed slushbox. It doesn’t change gears quite as quickly, though it is more refined.
At times, the Audi transmission can get confused. If you nail the accelerator on occasion, there will be awkward delay before real acceleration starts, probably because the clutches have to sort out what they’re doing. Also, at times shifts can feel pretty shabby, especially at low speeds.
However, one advantage to the Audi’s dual-clutch gearbox is responsiveness. It’s speedy and has absolutely no qualms about giving you first gear at 30 miles an hour and revving up to seven grand or more. The Lexus won’t do that; with downshifts, it shies away from redline – by thousands of rpm. Can you say wet blanket? Also, when using the paddles, shifts can often be delayed by an uncomfortably long half-second or more.
Following their transmissions, the drivetrain layouts of these two automobiles are different as well. Predictably, the RS 5 features Audi’s industry-leading quattro all-wheel-drive system; the RC F is straight up rear-drive with a Torsen limited-slip differential, though you can get an electronically controlled torque-vectoring diff, which is included in the optional $5,500 Performance Package.
Inside, the Audi’s cabin is as clean and elegant as ever, but it’s been around for so long, parts are starting to fossilize. Contrast that to the Lexus cockpit, which has more going on than a Hieronymus Bosch painting, with various terraces and incongruous shapes. They’re both impeccably assembled of high-quality materials, but I’m not totally in love with either.
|Vehicle||2015 Audi RS 5||Advantage||2015 Lexus RC F|
|Engine||4.2-liter V8||-||5.0-liter V8|
|Horsepower||450 HP||RC F||467 HP|
|Torque||316 lb-ft||RC F||389 lb-ft|
|Weight||4,009 lbs||RC F||3,958 lbs|
|Cargo Space||12.4 cubic feet||RS 5||10.1 cubic feet|
|Fuel Economy||16 MPG city, 23 MPG hwy||RC F||16 MPG city, 25 MPG hwy|
|As-Tested Price||$78,525||RC F||$73,760|
Infotainment technology is also worth mentioning. Audi’s MMI system is friendly and familiar. Contrast that with Lexus’ Remote Touchpad, which brings a laptop pointing surface to the automobile. This interface is catastrophically challenging even with clever haptic feedback. Really, it shouldn’t be this hard.
SEE ALSO: 2015 Audi RS5 Cabriolet Review
Nobody buys a luxury coupe for backseat room or trunk space. The aft accommodations in each model here are inhospitable for children and downright hostile to adults. Likewise, storage space is at a premium, though the Audi does have a slight advantage, with 12.4 cubic feet of trunk space; the Lexus make do with just 10.1 cubes.
Performance to Spare
With mega-power, each of these coupes is a rocket in its own right, though the Lexus does have a slight edge. Tipping the scales at 3,958 pounds, each of its 467 horses is saddled with about 8.48 pounds of mass. In comparison, the Audi’s weight-to-power ratio is less favorable at 8.9 pounds per pony (it weighs a claimed 4,009 pounds).
With more horses, extra torque and a lighter body, the RC F should be a bit quicker to 60 miles an hour, doing the deed in around 4.4 seconds; the RS 5 is only one-tenth slower.
As these numbers suggest, in real-world use, the Lexus feels a little bit faster, though just barely. Each of these cars is blazingly quick; power is never lacking.
Driving them back to back is an intriguing – and highly entertaining – proposition. In the ride and handling departments, Lexus’ RC F feels a bit more compliant than the Audi, though not much. Also, I’d rate their steering as pretty much equal, tight, but not telepathic. Curiously, the Lexus requires more course corrections to keep going straight and it feels a lot bigger. Figure that one out; it’s lighter, narrower and has a shorter wheelbase.
Another thing about driving the RC F is how confined it seems compared to the RS 5, in fact, it’s nearly four inches narrower inside. Additionally, outward visibility is more restrictive, and that’s never a good thing.
Unfortunately, both of these coupes weigh more than two tons, so they’re really not all that involving; as vehicles go, they’re more of the point-and-shoot variety. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both a lot of fun and will put a smile on your face, but it’s the engines that do that, not lightness or tossability. Ultimately, a Miata probably delivers more satisfaction for a lot less dough.
The Verdict: 2015 Audi RS 5 vs. 2015 Lexus RC F
Both of these machines are intoxicatingly speedy, super stylish and reasonably satisfying. Yes, they can make you grin like Chuckles the Clown but dynamically, they could both be more involving. With so much technology, they seem to do most of the work themselves, which makes them great daily drivers if less-than-ideal canyon carvers.
When it comes to pricing, the Lexus has a sizable advantage. As tested, it cost $73,760 including destination fees. The Audi here cost nearly five grand more, though to be fair, part of that delta is because of quattro.
Picking a winner is tough, as they’re both extremely enjoyable cars. But at the end of the day, it’s the Audi’s key I keep reaching for.
2015 Audi RS 5
2015 Lexus RC F