Audi has been offering a wide selection of RS models in Europe for some time, including the RS 3 hatch, (we do get the sedan), the RS 4 Avant and the ballistically fast RS 6 wagon. Unfortunately the last 2 have been so far unavailable Stateside, but this could change soon. The Audi S models have always tried hard but could never match the pace of offerings like the BMW M3/M4 and the C63 AMG from Mercedes.
Back in 2010 Audi introduced us to the RS 5 with a rev happy 4.2 liter V8 that made 450 hp, but only 317 lb-ft, available between 4000 and 6000 rpm. The C63 AMG at that time had 451 hp but a whopping 443 ft-lbs, some 126 ft-lbs more. The BMW had less power and torque than the Audi but weighed 400 lbs less so as with the C63, it was quicker than the Audi.
Fast forward to today and Audi has unleashed a new version and our tester arrived with dashing Sonoma Green paint and 20 inch trapezoid forged wheels with 275/30 section Hankook tires. Our 2018 Audi RS 5 came with the Dynamic plus package which includes carbon ceramic brakes and a top speed limited to 174 mph instead of the usual 155 mph. Add to that the Navigation package, the Dynamic package that includes the Sports suspension and sports exhaust, the aforementioned wheels, Nappa leather and a black optic package helps send the base price from $69,900 to $91,000.
Under the hood Audi has placed a 2.9 liter twin turbocharged V6 which puts out 444 hp @ 6,700 rpm…..oh no, less than its predecessor…..but wait, this one has 443 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm that’s 126 lb ft more and at way fewer rpm. Given this extra thrust there is no doubt that RS 5 is quicker, in fact with traction control off and using launch control we got it from 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds, quicker by 2 ticks than the BMW M4 and 3 ticks faster than the C63 AMG. Job done.
From the outside the new RS5 looks very striking with bulging fenders and mirrors and grille surrounded by matte aluminum trim. The front bumper gets larger air intakes gloss black side sills to the doors and widened the grille which gets a black honeycomb mesh. At the rear there’s a diffuser, large oval exhaust pipes and a black lip spoiler. It certainly looks the part.
How does it go?
Progress in the RS 5 can be fast or serene, you can choose. Toggle the Drive Mode into Comfort and it’s fast but quiet and the suspension is surprisingly smooth even on San Diego’s uneven, potholed roads. Switch to Dynamic, however, and things firm up a lot, the exhaust starts to sound more like the outgoing V8, it burbles and has an urgency to it though not as raucous as the Alfa Stelvio QV, which is downright loud.
Point to point pace is very rapid and with little or no turbo lag the power is always available, with the quattro AWD system providing surefooted cornering at higher speeds. The standard sport differential can torque-vector power side to side as needed, which controls any lurking over-steer if you get a lead footed in the turns.
Our tester was fitted with Hankook Ventus Evo2 tires and to be honest I wasn’t a fan. In tight turns they felt soft in the sidewalls and grip seemed to be lacking or at least that’s how they felt. I would have much preferred it to have Michelin pilot Sport 4S or Pilot Super Sport tires.
The 8 speed Tiptronic transmission is a gem with sharp, precise up-shifts and down-shifts, making for very rapid progress. The RS 5 will tackle tight twisty roads but you get the feeling fast sweepers are its forte, as it feels more like a GT than an out and out sports car like the RS 3. This is not a bad thing since nobody wants to drive at ten tenths all the time so the Audi provides just that.
If Denzel Washington had these brakes in that “Unstoppable “movie it would have been only 10 minutes long, there is seriously enough braking capacity on this Audi to slow a locomotive. Steering is precise and provides good feel, in fact it’s one of the better-tuned variable-ratio setups I have used. You can set it up in the Individual setting for Comfort and Auto modes, and also as I did, switch it over to Dynamic it locks into a fixed which is a joy to use.
As is usual with Audi’s, the interior is beautifully executed and a very lovely place to spend time. The optional Nappa leather front seats are superb and have adjustable side bolsters to hold you in that bit firmer and offer a quick massage on that road trip to Las Vegas. The diamond pattern leather with contrasting stitching looks fantastic, they are the modern equivalent of ruched leather from the early 1990’s. Since this one is a coupe I would suggest 2 occupants is best since trying to shoehorn the mom in law into the back for Thanksgiving dinner was a chore to say the least.
Audi’s MMI interface works well, this one still has the wheel controller instead of the 2 screens as in the all new A8. It works well and offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto as standard and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The center screen is easy to read, it’s fast to react to inputs and the voice and handwriting recognition functions work as well as can be expected.
My wife always tests the heated seats and is a harsh critic since she is almost always cold, and her seats are always on in her car. The Audi’s seats get a solid 5/5, speedy to heat up and they stay toasty. This is high praise indeed.
If you are looking for a highly desirable, very quick grand touring coupe, then RS5 might be just what you need; it’s super luxurious, can devour the miles and be fairly economical doing it and when you need to go on the attack, provide some serious fun. Personally I would wait for the 4 door Sportback since I occasionally need to carry actual people in the back but whichever one you choose you won’t be disappointed.
2018 Audi RS 5 Numbers
BASE PRICE: – $69,900
PRICE AS TESTED: – $91,000
VEHICLE LAYOUT: – Front-engine,all-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door coupe
ENGINE: – 2.9 liter, twin-turbocharged and inter-cooled DOHC 24-valve V-6
POWER: –444 hp @ 6,700 rpm
TORQUE:-443 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm
TRANSMISSION:- 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
CURB WEIGHT: – 3,990 lbs (mfr)
0-60 MPH: – 3.5 seconds
TOP SPEED: 174 mph
EPA CITY/HWY/COMBINED: – 21/18/26 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: – 19.5 mpg
CARGO SPACE: –16.4 ft³
PROS: – Very quick, beautiful interior, exhaust sounds like a burbling V8
CONS: – Pricey options