Over the next year, Audi will release four new RS models. The first to arrive is the RS5 Cabriolet, and Audi claims the drop-top is the most emotive way to experience its high-revving 4.2-litre V8 engine. But is it really? To find out, we took one for a test drive up the demanding Col de Vence pass in the south of France.
As with the normal A5 Cabriolet, the RS5’s roof can be retracted at up to 31mph in under 20 seconds. And like the humbler models, when stowed the roof only takes up 60 litres of the 380-litres boot. But the range-topper is distinguished by its 19-inch 10-spoke alloys, RS bodykit and oval tail pipes.
Under the more muscular skin lies Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system. It can send 70 per cent of the engine’s power to the front wheels, or 85 per cent to the rear. It also gets a rear sport differential to vary the torque sent to each back wheel. The result is excellent traction out of corners, allowing you to make the most of the smooth, potent V8.
The RS5 Cabriolet also features Audi’s Drive Select. This lets the driver shuffle throttle response, steering weight and shift speeds of the dual-clutch gearbox between three different modes: Comfort, Automatic and Dynamic.
Go for the optional sports suspension with Dynamic Ride Control fitted to our test car, and you can also change the stiffness of the dampers. In Comfort, the ride is just compliant enough to take the sting out of bumps, but it’s too floaty over undulations at high speeds. So if it’s serious driving you’ve in mind, the jarring Dynamic mode must be endured.
The adjustable suspension is part of a Sport option pack. It’s good value by Audi standards, because for £2,250 it includes 20-inch alloys, a sports exhaust and variable-ratio steering, which complements the impressive electrically assisted set-up. The only issue with the steering is that the whole column shakes a bit in your hands over bumps.
Audi has tried to minimise the effects of body flex by fitting extra chassis bracing, but that brings extra weight. The RS5 Cabriolet tips the scales at 1,920kg, making it 205kg heavier than the Coupe. And, boy, do you feel the extra bulk on the tight twisty roads of the Col de Vence, because under heavy braking and rapid changes of direction the extra inertia means the RS5 Cabriolet is less planted than the lighter Coupe.
Admittedly, being able to drive with the wind in your hair is some compensation. But oddly enough, although the V8 is a little louder with the roof down, you can actually hear it better with the top up, because the acoustic hood filters out other road noise. So is the RS5 Cabriolet the most emotive way to experience Audi’s 4.2 V8? No, that’s still the R8.