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2018 Audi RS5 quick review

By Daniel Gardner, 14 Dec 2017 Car Reviews

2018 Audi RS5 quick review

Audi’s second-gen RS5 rights the wrongs of the original

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR

If you’re simply after an elegant coupe that wears the four-ringed badge, one of the 2.0-litre four-cylinder A5 models will probably suffice. The new range that arrived earlier this year brought significant updates to technology, efficiency and performance, while maintaining the head-turning two-door looks.

For those looking for a bigger punch, the Audi S5 offers a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 with mountains of Quattro all-wheel drive grip and more muscle. But if that’s still not enough, the new Audi RS5 takes performance to an entirely different level.

Its engine is downsized to 2.9-litres but a pair of turbos boost power to a fizzy 331kW, while torque is up to 600Nm.

Pricing starts at $156,600 and it’s no coincidence that figure is within striking distance of the RS5’s arch rivals – the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe.

STRENGTHS

  • A downsized engine has not robbed the RS5 of performance. The previous-generation packed a 4.2-litre V8 with 331kW and 430Nm of torque, but despite dropping to a 2.9-litre V6 the new version maintains the same power but gained 170Nm of torque.
  • Fuel efficiency has also benefitted. While the previous version would use 10.5 litres of fuel on a good day, the 2018 RS5 asks for 8.8L for the same range. With more usable torque, it is also easier to drive in a more economical fashion.
  • Acceleration is visceral. Audi claims an official zero to 100km/h dash of 3.9 seconds and the grippy Quattro all-wheel drive system makes that milestone possible with  ease and not just on a bone-dry perfect asphalt surface.

  • The athletic performance doesn’t relent at the benchmark acceleration speed and the RS5 has enormous pace beyond 100km/h.  
  • The excellent Quattro system also translates into unstoppable pace in corners too. Even in unpredictable and changing conditions, the RS5 allows a rapid pace to be maintained through winding roads with confidence.
  • Handling defies the 1730kg kerb weight for a majority of driving. Steering feel is light but lively and the RS5 turns into corners with willingness and near perfect front-to-rear balance. When the limit is found either through changing conditions or overzealous driving, the chassis favours controllable oversteer rather than frightening understeer.

  • A move to an eight-speed torque converter automatic can’t match the speed of the outgoing dual-clutch box, but the smoother cog-swaps and tighter ratios are a net benefit for the RS5.
  • Drive mode revisions have softened the most comfortable setting and the new RS5 offers a far more liveable nature for day-to-day driving without compromising the sharper end of the spectrum when on more involving roads.
  • Interior quality and design picks up from Audi’s usual very high standard and adds a dose of RS magic. Plush quilted seats are supportive and comfortable. Adjusting the correct seating position requires a few goes and second-row occupants are kept just as happy with genuinely usable accommodation.

WEAKNESSES

  • Standard iron brakes have a little too much pedal travel and feel as though they will take only so much punishment. For serious track use or hot days on your favourite roads, the optional $11,900 carbon-ceramic front brakes would be a good addition to the extras list if you can stretch to it.
  • The RS5’s V6 certainly has a report that will get you noticed and is a satisfying soundtrack you’re unlikely to get bored of, but it can’t compare to the banshee high-revving V8 noise that ended in the previous generation.
  • The RS5 Coupe styling will make people stop for an extended look, especially in the new Sonoma Green paint option, but there is something slightly more respectable about the mechanically-identical Audi RS4 Avant, which will offer almost all of the performance but wrapped up in a more practical wagon body. The choice is yours.

ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER

BMW’s M4 starts at $139,900 for the more Spartan Pure. It has the same amount of power, fuel economy and is only a 10th of a second slower to 100km/h, but sacrifices some creature comforts and is rear-drive. The more comparably equipped M4 Competition has almost the same price at $156,710.

Mercedes-AMG weighs into the hyper-coupe market with its C63 S Coupe with a turbocharged V8 and 375kW/700Nm. Despite the extra power over the Audi, it has 1800kg to haul around and rear-drive so can only match the Audi’s acceleration to 100km/h.