Audi RS5 review
The Audi RS5 offers masses of performance and four-wheel drive, but a BMW M3 is more fun in the corners
The Audi RS5 was launched out to mark the 30th anniversary of the original Audi Quattro – and it builds on that car's reputation by offering even more power and technical sophistication. It rivals the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 AMG, and has a 444bhp 4.2-litre V8 which drives all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It's incredibly capable in all weather conditions, but it's not the driver's car that Audi would have you believe.
Our choice: RS5
The Audi RS5 shouts performance from every angle. It has muscular, widened wheelarches filled with 19-inch alloys and backed up by huge brakes. Stiffened and lowered suspension drops the car by 20mm compared to the Audi S5. Up front, a huge mesh grille dominates, while at the back are quad exhaust pipes. Inside are thickly bolstered sports seats covered in Silk Nappa leather upholstery, while the dashboard adds additional oil temperature gauges, carbon fibre trim and even a lap timer to remind you that you're driving something very serious indeed.
The mighty 444bhp V8 has tremendous shove – it revs to 8,250rpm and rockets the RS5 from 0-62mph in just 4.6 seconds, and is backed up by a thunderous bark and rumble from the exhausts. Yet it can also be remarkably quiet and docile. That's in part down to Drive Select, which allows you to tune the steering, throttle, gearbox and adaptive dampers to your tastes. Put it in Comfort, and it's a big pussy cat, for instance. Put it in Dynamic mode and it generates so much grip in corners, it almost takes the tarmac with it. That's thanks to a rear sport differential and a new centre diff that can send up to 85 per cent of torque to the back wheels. For all that technology, though, the steering never has that much feel and the brakes – while incredibly powerful – are numb at the top of the pedal's travel. A BMW M3 is simpler and more exciting to drive.
With four-wheel drive and enormous tyres and brakes, the Audi RS5 can be driven in all conditions – that's not something you could say of its rear-wheel-drive rivals. What's more, there are lots of airbags, Isofix points in the front and the back for child seats and sophisticated traction and stability control systems. Options include adaptive xenon headlights as well as lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems. Reliability has always been an Audi strong point, and we reckon the RS5, complicated though it is, should be pretty painless to own.
The Audi RS5 is based on the A5 Coupe, so there's only room for four and space in the back is tight, even by the standards of other coupes. However, there's a big boot with 455 litres with the seats up and 829 litres with them folded down. Inside, there are lots of cubby holes too. It's also very comfortable – we tested a model with 20-inch optional wheels and the adaptive dampers did a fine job of smoothing off bumps. With a smooth automatic gearbox, you really could do decent distances in this car and not feel tired.
With claimed economy of 26.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 246g/km, the Audi RS5 will cost a lot in fuel and tax. Insurance and servicing should be quite steep too – but then the same can be said of the M3 and a C63 AMG. Residual values should be quite strong - the RS5 is relatively rare, keeping second hand prices high.