THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: Hot performance, sharp styling, impressive tech
- What’s Worst: Tight back seat access, tricky rearward visibility
- What’s Interesting: A North America-specific Sportback version arrives later this year
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how closely Audi’s League of Performance marketing campaign would reflect the company’s product line, but nearly two years after it began, Audi dealer showrooms are bursting with all manner of exciting performance cars with more on the way.
From the 400-horsepower RS 3 compact sedan, to the sub-four second TT RS coupe, to the iconic, mid-engine R8 coupe and spyder (convertible), Audi Sport (the brand’s high-performance arm) has been on quite a roll.
Submitted for consideration here is the latest entry in the lineup, the mid-size RS 5 coupe which is all-new for 2018.
For this review, Audi Canada furnished me with a tester finished in nardo grey that comes outfitted with a staggering amount ($30,100) of optional kit. Among the notable extras are carbon ceramic front brakes ($6,000), and a carbon optics package ($5,600) that adds 20-inch wheels, carbon fibre front and rear spoilers, black optics exterior trim pieces and carbon fibre mirror covers.
Listing each option would take up far too much time and effort but suffice to say this car has a lot of stuff. Personally, I think these add-ons look great, but they push the RS 5’s price before taxes past six figures ($112,600) so one should consider them carefully.
These add-ons complement the RS 5’s long list of standard equipment which includes LED headlights and taillights, a leather interior with RS sport seats, 7-inch MMI (multimedia interface) colour screen with embedded navigation, SiriusXM satellite radio and Bluetooth smartphone integration. Another notable feature is Audi’s gorgeous virtual cockpit display, a 12.3-inch TFT (thin film transistor) screen that serves as the car’s instrument cluster.
When it comes to Audi Sport models, big power is the name of the game and the RS 5 is no exception.
As one might imagine, power output is prodigious (444 hp / 443 lb-ft.), and the car is blindingly fast: 0-100 km/h in 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 280 km/h. More on that later.
Audi Sport 101
In most instances, it’s hard to design an unattractive coupe and that’s certainly the case with the RS 5. From all angles, this car is a looker, with its large Singleframe honeycomb grille, angular LED headlights, large front air intakes and slippery profile.
Its steeply raked windshield, short front and rear overhangs, combined with prominent hood creases and bodywork that bulges at the corners gives the car an almost concept-sketch look. The presence of optional 20-inch wheels and loads of black and carbon fibre accents only drive the impression home further.
In short, as the pictures make clear, the RS 5 is a handsome car.
The same is true for a cabin that is loaded with so many clever touches I could probably spend much of this review just talking about its many features.
In the interest of time, I’ll cut to the chase.
The RS 5’s cabin is comfortable and very driver-oriented thanks to optional red diamond-stitched RS sport seats, Alcantara D-shaped steering wheel and Audi’s virtual cockpit, which is a dazzling thing to behold with its deep configurability and pin-sharp graphical fidelity.
Overall, as is the case with other Audi Sport cars I’ve driven of late, the RS 5 has a very distinctive driver’s car aesthetic. Lots of black, brushed metallic and carbon fibre trim accents that are both pleasing to the touch and nice to look at. This is especially true at night, as the cabin is filled with a mix of brilliant HD graphics from its info screens and optional red ambient lighting.
Serious performance kit
As attractive as the RS 5 on the outside, its appeal is far from skin deep.
The chassis features a five-link front and rear suspension setup designed to improve agility and comfort. The base suspension has a lower ride height (by 7 mm) than the garden variety A5 coupe which is also designed to improve the car’s handling and cornering ability.
My tester comes equipped with the optional Audi Sport Package ($4,800) which comes with, among other items, RS sport suspension plus with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC). This setup utilizes steel springs and three-stage adjustable dampers designed to reduce body roll and pitch for flatter, more predictable cornering.
The Sport Package also comes with the RS sport exhaust system (with flaps), dynamic steering, direct tire pressure monitoring system, and a speed limiter increase to 280 km/h.
The 2.9-litre biturbo V6 is a derivative of the 3.0-litre TFSI V6 found in the S5. Weighing in at 182 kg, it is 31 kg lighter than the naturally aspirated 4.2-litre V8 from the previous RS 5 and while it produces less horsepower (450 versus 444), it generates significantly more torque (443 versus 317).
Like Mercedes-AMG with its 4.0-litre biturbo V8, Audi has located the twin turbochargers for the 2.9-litre V6 within the 90-degree angle of the cylinder banks for a more compact design and reduced energy loss for improved throttle response.
Also contributing to the RS 5’s improved performance are weight-saving measures which include a liberal use of high-strength steel and aluminum in the construction of the car’s body panels and skeletal structure. Overall, the new RS 5 tips the scales at 1,655 kg, which is 60 kg lighter than its predecessor.
The RS 5 creates a sense of anticipation as soon as you lay eyes on it.
Its aggressive stance, massive 20-inch wheels, and flexing bodywork adorned in bits of carbon fibre practically scream MASH THE GAS, DUDE.
And after sliding behind the Alcantara steering wheel, strapping myself into the form-fitting quilted leather seats and firing up the rumbly biturbo V6, I did just that.
And oh man – does the RS 5 go like stink. I was a bit surprised by how fast it is because it looks like a normal car. Back seat – check, useable trunk – check, comfortable interior – check.
0-100 km/h in less than four seconds – check.
The RS 5 is stealthily fast because, while it is quite attractive, Audi hasn’t gussied it up with too much telltale badging. If you don’t look closely you might mistake it for a fancy A5 or S5.
And how wrong you’d be!
The RS 5 is indeed very fast (and one of the fastest cars under $100,000 as I noted here), especially when the drive select is toggled to dynamic and the 8-speed autobox is in sport mode.
In this state, acceleration becomes hair trigger, the steering weights up nicely, the revs climb steadily before upshifts, and the exhaust bap-bap-bapping becomes more pronounced, especially off-throttle. It’s on rails through corners and responds to steering inputs with precision.
As I mentioned before, the Audi Sport aesthetic suits the RS 5’s performance character quite well. Not only does it look powerful on the outside, but the slick, high-tech feel of the cabin also gives it a commanding presence on the inside.
There are a couple of minor nitpicky things to make note of, however.
The large C-pillars can make rearward visibility a bit tricky, and back seat entry is quite tight for normal-sized adults. In fact, I couldn’t get back there. That said, it should be fine for smaller humans – like kids, for instance.
But you, potential RS 5 coupe owner, will never have to worry about getting into the back seat.
You’ll be firmly planted behind a grippy D-shaped Alcantara steering wheel, gazing upon a gorgeous virtual cockpit display with 444 horses resting under your right foot, ready to be unleashed in an instant.
2018 Audi RS 5 coupe
BODY STYLE: high-performance 2+2 coupe
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-wheel drive
ENGINE: 2.9L biturbo V6 Power: 444 hp @5700 – 6700 rpm; Torque: 443 lb-ft @1900 – 5000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 329 L
FUEL ECONOMY: (premium 91+) 12.9/8.9/11.1 L/100 km city/highway/combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 13.5 L/100 km
PRICE: $82,500 (base) as tested $112,600
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