Ferocious yet refined. Aggressive, but subtle. Like Bob Dole’s infamous Viagra commercial, there’s immense joy lurking just beneath the surface.
As with Dole’s candid television discussion, most of what’s important about the Audi RS 5 is out of sight – thankfully in the case of the former.
|1. The Audi RS 5 uses a naturally-aspirated 4.2L V8 to make 450 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque.
2. A seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission delivers revs to 8,250 rpm.
3. A unique Quattro AWD system can put up to 85 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels.
4. RS 5 models start at $68,900.
Only a few ripples of enhanced performance show from beneath the surface. (For the sake of clarity, we are speaking of the RS 5). That said, this metaphor has now reached an uncomfortable level. Consider it dead.
Small touches set the car apart while sticking to its maker’s stereotypical understated styling. Wide ducts sit on the lower front fascia, gulping air to help cool optional carbon ceramic brakes. The grille glints a glossy black and there’s a little RS badge nestled therein.
The standard wheels measure 19-inches, although it’s a shame not to choose the optional 20-inch five-spoke alternatives. They look that much better.
A small spoiler rises from the deck lid automatically at 75 mph and lies flat if the car slows below 50 mph — although the driver can manually override the automatic function.
It also gets massive dual oval exhaust ports built into the rear bumper that are exclusive to the RS 5.
In typical Audi fashion, that’s only a whisper of what’s really going on. It’s difficult to truly appreciate that without understanding how mechanically different the RS5 is from its four- and six-cylinder A5 and S5 siblings.
Pop the hood open and you’ll notice something is different. Rather than a four or six-cylinder, there’s a 4.2-liter V8 mounted by a lovely carbon fiber cover.
What about the forced induction? You’ll be pleased to know that Audi put its obsession with the automotive equivalent to making foie gras on hold this time. Neither a turbo nor a supercharger have scuttled the last remaining RS car’s naturally aspirated ambition for fun.
This responsive and spectacular sounding engine delivers 450 hp and 317 lb-ft of torque and let’s just say there might be something wrong with you if that isn’t exciting.
Between the powerful engine, complex all-wheel drive system and seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission, you’ll reach 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Although you might be more preoccupied with how the dual overhead cam V8 sounds while nearing the 8,250-rpm redline. We certainly were.
There’s nothing funny about the RS5, but you still might start laughing from behind the wheel. That’s because there’s something intoxicating about the car’s power delivery and how it can swallow stretches of pavement.
Tipping the scales at 4,009 lbs., making a car this heavy feel nimble is harder than convincing Kim Jong-un that he isn’t, in fact, a pudgy deity. Somehow, Audi managed.
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You could do without them if push came to shove, but thankfully the car’s crown-gear differential is standard equipment.
The special sauce on this German beefcake, it can send up to 70 percent of the torque to your front wheels or an impressive 85 percent to the rear. The result? You get a car that claws and rotates its way through corners with ease; even for a track novice.
Its capabilities far exceeded its performance on paper. We managed a 1:20.367 at our test track, nearly as fast as the 580 hp Camaro ZL1!
The RS5 proved especially enjoyable to hustle around in “dynamic” mode. So assigned, the car’s variable steering ratio, throttle response and suspension all stiffen up. It handles track driving well, though can be a touch stiff for the street.
Thankfully, Audi engineers thought of that. Switch into “comfort” mode, and the suspension relaxes. The wheel loosens and feels light to turn. Throttle stabs return a more subdued result. There’s also a normal mode and an “individual” setting where drivers can designate a preset mix of favorite adjustments.
If you’re like most people, comfort mode will be the setting of choice for daily travel… assuming you plan to make this a daily commuter. Some might think better of that given the EPA’s ratings. It’s said to get 16 mpg in the city, 23 on the highway and a combined 18 mpg, but that assumes consistent good behavior. And it’s more fun to be bad here than it was in kindergarten, high school and college combined.
Think of it this way: you’re getting horsepower like an American muscle car while maintaining mature poise and prestige.
With a $68,900 starting price, this is no Mustang. Ticking the boxes for larger wheels, the navigation and infotainment package and the other options brings you to $80,025.
That price gives you quite a cabin to enjoy, although (somewhat disappointingly) it isn’t really much different than the S5. Stitching in the seats changes, but the carbon fiber inlays, sport seats and steering wheel all seem the same. Still, it’s tough to complain.
The thick, flat-bottomed steering wheel is fun to throw around and the seats are supportive in hard corners or on long highway stretches.
Audi’s in-cabin controls are easy to navigate and the aluminum buttons are particularly pleasing to press. What’s not to like?
Some might say the missing manual transmission is the only major flaw, and from an entertainment perspective that’s probably true. Seeking to improve performance, that story changes dramatically. The seven-speed dual clutch delivers quick shifts and a magnificent feeling of acceleration.
Don’t stop to think if you have the money and feel inclined, even for a moment, to arrange a test drive. Just find the nearest dealer… and do it!
Automakers are turning quickly to turbochargers to offer power and efficiency, but they don’t deliver the soul (or sound) of an engine like this high-strung V8. Any future RS5s are likely to go this route, but this one hasn’t… yet. Don’t miss the chance to drive one if you can help it.