Audi's new RS 5 is a sure-footed 450 bhp road-munching machine. But is it more than a well-built super-coupÃ©? Or does it lack the X-factor. We drive it to find out.
Photos: Joel Tam
As I steer away from the Audi showroom in this pristine white RS 5 test car, an Audi trait makes itself apparent to me. Audis are clinical (nothing to do with the colour though). From the flawless design lines to the delivery of every german horse in that 4.2-litre V8, everything has a pin-sharp precision to it.
Which is not a bad thing. Especially if you're a surgeon. Or an architect. Or a computer programmer. I for one, have always appreciated the surgical precision of Audis, and sitting here in the cockpit of an RS 5, surrounded by a generous blend of leather and carbon fibre, it is truly a lovely place.
But today more than any other day, I'm looking beyond that teutonic meticulousness. I am hoping to find something more. I've been told it's not easy, but in the Audi RS 5, I'm hoping to find some soul.
When it comes to cars (or anything for that matter), having a soul is fundamentally an emotional thing. So what better way to strike your admirer's heart than with some dashing good looks? On that note, the RS 5 scores. Having a wider track and beefier fenders to house those chunky 19" wheels ensure that the RS 5 will not be easily mistaken for a regular A5.
The aggressive front and rear bumpers unique to the RS 5 lend well to give the car a meaner stance. I'd spec one in black though, that way, the sports grill and satin silver wing mirrors will pop! 20" wheels are an option, but these 19" ones do just fine.
After pleasing the eyes, the ears are next, so it has to sound good. In the default "Auto" setting of Audi's Drive Select, you'll be hard-pressed to hear the engine at all. Depress the "Dynamic" button however, and exhaust valves open and an immediate boom of the offbeat warble fills the cabin. Load the engine with some revs and electronics allow a spot of fuel into the exhaust when you shift up, giving a pleasing reverb as you change. Downshifts are equally pleasurable with a lavish blip of the throttle to match the revs to your chosen gear. The result is a sequence of throaty growls from the V8 everytime you come to a stop. It's addictive!
So it's looks menacing and sounds angry, but how does it drive? Well, it is very rapid. 0 to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds? Feels every bit of it. You can exploit it too, the seven-speed S-Tronic twin-clutch transmission handles the power brilliantly, allowing easy access to the massive torque. Just make sure you grip the perfectly sized leather-wrapped steering wheel hard, then simply point and shoot. Coming to a stop is reassuringly easy too with powerful 8-pot calipers in front and internally ventilated discs which measure 365 mm. Ceramic carbon-fiber brake discs measuring 380 mm are a yummy but costly option.
Need more downforce? The rear spoiler can be raised by prodding a button on the left of the gear console. This will keep the rear in place when traveling at ridiculous speeds - which are a cinch with this car. But rest assured that all that speed is well contained, because the car grips too. Clever differentials split torque all around - up to 70 percent to the front wheels and up to 85 percent to the rear. Now with electronic torque vectoring, the diff is able to affect all four wheels to ensure every single wheel has an optimum amount of power to reduce wheelspin and enable maximum grip. Again, very clinical stuff.
While all the action is happening, the driver is kept snug in typical Audi hospitality. Loads of leather, stylish materials, which include an unsparing amount of carbon fibre, all fitted in a robust and teutonic fashion. It's all very lovely, but those in search of a hard-edged track machine will find that this cushy cabin has a tendency to separate the driver from the drive. A car this purposeful could do with grippier seats (a $12,000 option) for one. After all, if I wanted something more relaxed, the S5 would suffice.
Let's recap, the RS 5 is svelte, sounds awesome, goes like stink, has adhesion like UHU and unlike some of its stripped-out competitors, seats four adults in comfort. But does it have soul? Well, the engine for one, is a gem, all 450 bhp and 430 NM of it. I'd vouch for this car simply for the orgasmic sound it makes too. But yet when I look at all the electronic ingenuity and technical brilliance, I'm left a little cold.
Then it hits me, an Audi isn't about being a raw racing machine. It is about having a high precision daily driver with a touch of class. With an Audi, you're telling the world you care about quality time, not just lap times. So my answer is a resounding yes. The RS 5 has soul. In fact, it embodies the best of everything Audi has to offer.