What is it?
Why I would buy it:
Everyday usability, stonking engine, beautiful exterior, ego warmer
Why I would avoid it:
Not as exciting as its rear-wheel drive rivals
A few days ago, a spanking red Audi RS5 waited for me in our CarWale parking, longing to be reviewed. Despite sitting down to write this review a week later, my excitement post driving hasn’t really fizzled out yet. The whole aura around the Audi RS5 Coupe revolves around one single characteristic - an intoxicating drive.
Now, if you didn’t know already, Audi launched the 2018 RS5 Coupe last month. It now rides on the MLB platform (also used in A4/A5/Q7) and even gets a new 2.9-litre V6 motor, unlike the earlier naturally-aspirated 4.2-litre V8. I know what’s going on in your head, but don’t discount it just yet. Although it makes the same power, torque is up by 171Nm!
Sure it looks sporty, but all I can say is that the ‘sleeper’ appearance hides its true demon within. It just has to be one of the best looking Audis. The exterior lines flow seamlessly from nose to tail with the prominent shoulder crease giving it immense character. I mean, look at those sexy five-arm forged alloys with an Anthracite black finish! In profile, it fondly reminded me of the 1990s Ford Thunderbird – a two-door design with a raked C-pillar that still holds a special place in my heart.
That said, the face is particularly eye-catching, with slim angry headlamps split apart by the large black honey-comb grille which also holds that distinctive RS logo. Plus, Audi has done a brilliant job with the mean-looking angular air-dams, and the purposeful splitter. Even the rear is tastefully done with the subtle boot-lip spoiler, wide-but-slim tail lamps with snazzy LED graphics, and those twin exhausts popping out from underneath.
How is it on the inside?
Being a two-door Coupe, the RS5 has a charm that’s emphasised by those long rimless doors. You feel particularly special when the seat belt mechanism pops out and offers your belt with a flourish. And if this weren’t enough, you can relish the fine quality levels with premium fit and finish which the RS5 generously proposes. The dash layout is similar to the A4/A5 which gets slim air-con vents that run across the width of the dash, making it look wider than it actually is.
Apart from the thoroughly modern cabin that we have all come to expect from Audi, quality levels are flawless. Everything from the extravagant Nappa leather to the carbon fibre trim and brushed steel pedals lend a good balance of premium and sporty appeal. Plus, we just love the fabulous Virtual Cockpit (instrument cluster) which is so user friendly, and grasps your senses with all those striking graphics.
Let’s talk about the seats now. The front ones have firm cushioning with good contours, lots of lateral support, and the added benefit of the massage function. This, coupled with ample legroom and a manually adjustable thigh support makes for a thoroughly comfortable drive. Even at the rear, there’s the comfort of a 3-zone air-con with vents, along with storage options like the front seatback nets, slim side panel pockets, and a centre cubby space where the middle seat should have been.
But the biggest drawback with this car are its rear seats. We found the knee room to be tight, there’s very little thigh support, foot room is confined, and the headroom can get cramped for tall occupants. Plus, it can get claustrophobic due to the compact window area. This ultimately brings us to the boot space, which at 465-litres, is large enough to swallow four medium-sized suitcases and some soft bags at the most. And when the need comes, the rear 40:20:40 seats can fall flat by yanking at the levers situated on either side of the boot.
When it comes to features, you get a sunroof, electric front seats with massage function, cruise control, push button start, and a sweet sounding Bang & Olufsen music system. Although MMI now gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, functionality isn’t that great since it does not get a touch screen. Safety features include six airbags, electronic stabilisation control (ESC), ABS, ASR, electronic differential lock (EDL), and parking sensors with a rear view camera.
How does it drive?
Considering I’m behind the wheel of a coupe that comes from Audi’s RS division, it’s a given to sample the power output first, right? So I obviously slotted into ‘Dynamic’ mode in manual and well, just floored it. But what happened next was simply inexplicable. The RS5 simply stunned me by rocketing onto the tarmac ahead. There’s this neck-grabbing gain-in-momentum, along with you getting shoved into the seat with some scintillating exhaust drama, and the shattering graphics from the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ instrumentation glaring into my face. I almost felt possessed!
But before I knew it, the eight-speed transmission upshifted into second, and amidst all the adrenaline-spiked fun, I didn’t back off the throttle. In a snap, we hit the 6700rpm red-line where the system held the second gear at the limit and paused. This is when I was able to gather my senses and comprehend the sheer sense of speed that I was hurled through. Sure we’ve driven fast cars, but we didn’t expect this to be such a bomb.
All this liveliness is thanks to the 450bhp 2.9-litre V6 bi-turbo TFSI motor which Audi developed from the ground up and dishes out a prodigious 600Nm (more than R8’s 560Nm) of torque! With just 1770kg to haul about, the RS5 unleashes its power onto the tarmac in an uninterrupted fashion without any lag all the way up to its 6700rpm. Whenever needed, just lightly dab the accelerator and the quick-shifting eight-speed gearbox downshifts in a wink to propel you instantaneously. Audi claims to have clocked 0-100kmph in 3.9 seconds! To give you an idea, it is quicker than both the C63 AMG (4.0-litre/503bhp/700Nm/1730kg) and the BMW M3 (3.0-litre/444bhp/550Nm/1595kg).
By and large, the RS5’s performance is gingerly split up into a few more modes other than ‘Dynamic’. So, there’s Comfort, Auto and Individual as well. ‘Comfort’ mode, like you guessed, is the most relaxed among the three, with a sedate performance output. It is optimised to offer more than enough grunt for regular driving situations, and the transmission upshifts as soon as you go easy/off the throttle. Even the exhaust note isn’t quite catchy. On the other hand, ‘Auto’ smartly gauges the user’s driving style and instantly alters the engine/gearbox response, exhaust note, and steering feedback.
For those who’d like to choose their own settings, ‘Individual’ allows for manual toggling between Comfort, Dynamic and Auto, for tailor-made steering, exhaust note and engine/gearbox response. On the whole, we felt that the steering was a bit slow off the centre in ‘Comfort’ mode, which we believe fits the relaxed feel intended for this driving mode. But that said, shifting to ‘Dynamic’ gives the feeling of a car possessed – it becomes fiercely quicker and is, unquestionably, the preferred setting if you’re looking to do some high speeds and corners.
Plus, the tenacious grip offered by the 20-inch 275-section rubber, superior braking, along with Audi’s Quattro AWD which features drive force being distributed between front and rear axles (40:60 ratio), is substantial enough to boost your confidence. On the flipside, if we had to be picky (and we are!), there is a wee-bit of roll around tight bends. But the RS5 feels hunkered down. It might not have the finesse or the adrenaline-rush that a pure rear-wheel drive chassis offers, like say a BMW M3 or a Merc C63 AMG. But on our roads, you will end up going faster since one can use all of the power every time without thinking twice.
After witnessing the RS5’s power-act, we expected it to have a stiffly-set suspension. But that wasn’t the case. Of course, it is definitely on the firmer side, but the ride quality at slow speeds isn't harsh by any standards. However, when you do encounter a big bump, you will be able to hear the suspension in the background and also feel a jolt getting transmitted into the cabin. As the momentum picks up, bump absorption gets better and the RS5 remains composed at most speeds. Having said that, despite the low stance of the car, we never had to be vigilant while clearing tall obstacles since the RS5 cleared them easily.
Should I buy one?
You might think that the RS5 is really expensive at Rs 1.37 crore (on-road Mumbai). But if you check out its rivals such as the Mercedes C63 AMG and BMW’s M3, it is a whopping 27 lakhs cheaper than the C63, and is 17 lakhs cheaper than the M3. And what’s more, the RS5 feels more usable in many ways than the other the two. Add to this an attractive cabin with great quality/ fit and finish, front seats that are comfy, and if all this weren’t enough – the looks which will just win you over.
In fact, I wish we could have borrowed this rocket for our 2018 CarWale TrackDay, held recently.
Where does it fit in?
As things stand today, the RS5 locks horns with BMW’s M3 and the Mercedes C63 AMG.
Pictures: Kapil Angane