Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
Audi’s ultra high-performance RS sub-brand does not date back nearly as far as BMW’s M Division or AMG’s relationship with Mercedes, so it’s testament to the quality of the company’s output that it is just as highly regarded. A large part of that can be traced to the origin of the species, the RS2 Avant of 1994. Co-developed with Porsche, this was an estate car capable of getting from 0-30mph faster than a McLaren F1.
So the formula was set for what would in time become a range of hugely powerful RS models based on Audi’s core product range. By 2010 this included the first RS 5 coupe, complete with a V8 that was good for 444bhp (450PS) and 317lb ft (430NM) of torque. The car you see here is the follow-up and one of eight RS Audis currently on sale.
At first, it’s the Sonoma green metallic paint that stands out, capturing your attention long before the fat oval exhausts or gently swollen arches. It all adds up to a tremendously handsome car that successfully treads the fine line between subtle aggression and smart sophistication.
The interior too is a gorgeous mixture of classy materials, faultless technology (Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, standard in the RS 5, continues to show others how digital instruments should be done) and purposeful RS upgrades that include some of the best sports seats in the business.
Under the bonnet meanwhile, the old V8 has made way for a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 which drives all four wheels through an eight-speed torque converter automatic.
Not that the V6 doesn’t sound good in its own way, but if we are brutally honest you might miss the V8 snarl and uncompromising throttle response of the original RS 5. Until, that is, you feel what it’s like to be propelled from 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, or the relentless rush to the horizon that follows. Wow, this engine is effective. Its 444bhp output might not exceed that of the old V8, but its 443lb ft of torque certainly does.
What’s more, because it’s smaller than the V8 it’s also lighter to the tune of 31kg. Along with the RS 5’s new platform (shared with everything from the Audi A4 to the Porsche Macan) the result is an overall weight saving of 60kg, benefiting not only performance but fuel economy too.
So capable as a daily driver and so comfortable over long distances is the RS 5 there’s almost a risk it could be regarded as a touch clinical. Then you learn that, just like Audi’s first RS road car, the RS 5 has an engine co-developed with Porsche, and that in the UK all cars are equipped as standard with a mechanical limited-slip differential on the rear axle to complement the quattro all-wheel-drive system.
It is such details that mark this latest RS 5 out as something a bit special, all the while ensuring its performance in almost any conditions is quite simply breathtaking.